Come to the Table

“Though we can respond to His invitation with but a fraction of what He deserves, every moment we spend time with Him, no doubt, He is wholly pleased.” Bonnie Shaw invites us to just come.

Don’t you find invitations exciting?  I love when my exuberant ten-year old bounces in the house, delighting in the treasure she has uncovered in the daily mail delivery.  An embossed wedding invitation leads to a dozen questions about when we last saw that cousin and consultations with the family calendar to determine our acceptance. Solemn graduation announcements lead me to marvel at how quickly said little boy has become a young man or baby girl has blossomed into young womanhood. I long to accept each invite with a firm resolve for our family to participate in the festivities and celebrate the occasion.

My younger children often receive birthday party invitations by text, teenagers arranging details and seeking permission to go or moms connecting with a group thread as they wait in carpool lines around the metro. Anticipation is existent, nevertheless, and the invitations are accepted with joyful outcomes. Other times, they must be declined, to the chagrin of those who would really like to be there.  

My husband’s family decided to honor his grandmother with a birthday party this August as she turned 88, our invitation arriving by text. This dear woman is one I pray for often and love fiercely, though our physical addresses keep us miles apart. She has claimed me as one of her family from the beginning; and with no living grandparents, she is a veritable treasure to this granddaughter. Though rather last minute, we decided to make the trip to Oklahoma for a whirlwind weekend.

College kid moving schedules were penciled on the family calendar, but we thought it could work out for part of our whole: 5/6 or at least 2/3 of us to go. Upon consultation with my older daughter, that move-in schedule should have been inked. Serving as a Community Advisor at Iowa State University, her move-in time was a predetermined hour on a specified day rather than a large window. I convinced my husband to take the younger kids and go celebrate his grandmother’s special day with his extended family, while I would stay behind and handle our first college move of the season.

That August morning dawned, and between moving dollies and storage containers, the phone would ding as electronic messages and images arrived. Darbi and I would take a break, the phone’s screen between us. Thoughtful family members allowed us to glimpse the fun Grandma was having, as the honored guest.  My favorite image shows Grandma seated at a festive table, decorated with beautiful flowers and a birthday cake. Gathered with her at this table of love, she is surrounded by a sea of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all those able to accept the invitation. Emanating from the faces in the photograph is a proud knowing, that each is there because a loving relationship with this one woman is tenderly felt.   

Recently our church offered a parish Mission, and each night following the message, adoration was offered. The monstrance was reverently displayed in the dimly lit sanctuary. The Mission speaker led a guided meditation ripe with needs to bring before the Father and opening hearts to receive His gifts. Between songs of praise, the message was very clear to feel welcome in the Father’s house. The invitation was extended to raise hands in praise, to come up on the altar and pray with the Savior. All were welcome to come. No need to remain in the pews.

During the next hour, there were ample opportunities to adore the Lord in praise and worship, partake in the sacrament of reconciliation, or to receive healing and intercessory prayer. It was apparent, though, that the Eucharistic Lord upon the altar was the main event. Two spotlights brought the exposition into greater focus from their humble gaze on the floor.  

During the ensuing sixty minutes, my gaze might have wandered from inward prayer to the quiet comings and goings of those in attendance. Before moving to a prayer station, I noticed a young mother kneeling on the tile floor, steps below the altar; an exuberant yet peaceful baby was cradled in her arms, reverent in her prayer. The monstrance held her captivated. Later in the evening, I saw her middle son closer still, a foot away from Jesus, up on the altar, his gaze directed by his mother’s hand to their Lord. The beauty of her motherhood was dazzling to behold. She accepted the invitation, and her son led her closer still to the table of the Lord.

The evening continued, great in peace and pregnant with praise and expectation of answered prayer. The atmosphere was one that stills my soul, life-giving in so many ways, and energized by the Holy Spirit’s presence in that place. Just prior to Benediction, my attention was once more drawn to the Lord on the altar. Before him was a four-year-old girl, her countenance gently framed by the day’s wearing of a ponytail, standing expectantly. A slightly older brother was beside her on his knees. Their attention was raptly held by Jesus before them. The Mission speaker was beside me, and I directed his gaze to this precious sight. 

We had a perfect line of vision from the far side of the church, though my eyes were blurred with tears.  He asked if I knew the family as the mother and another child ascended the steps to the altar. My heart cried yes before I even spoke. Then I told him the fraction, that those were but 3 of the family’s 5 beautiful children. The unassuming mother’s dimple was humble in its radiance, backlit as was the holy vignette of the family before the Lord, their prayers shining like the sun in worship of the King.

These families spoke volumes to my heart by their response to the invitation to come to the table and pray on the Lord’s altar right before Him. Like my Grandma’s heart was full of love for those who chose to come be with her and celebrate her 88th birthday, I can only imagine the Savior’s delight when we come. Though not physically at Grandma’s birthday table, in our hearts, we knew we were welcome. After all, we had been invited.

Though we can respond to His invitation with but a fraction of what He deserves, every moment we spend time with Him, no doubt, He is wholly pleased. Just come.

Copyright 2019 Bonnie Shaw

Bonnie Shaw is wife to Chris, mother of four perpetually hungry offspring, and in continual anticipation of summer and hot weather. An educator by degree and lifelong learner by habit, she consumes stacks of books, inhabiting both her imagination and contemplation as she seeks connection with truth, ideas, and the laughter of friends traveling the same road. In relentless pursuit of more perfectly trusting in the Lord’s divine mercy, she is so very thankful for His grace and the peace and shelter of His presence as well as the example of others who love Him.