This is a tale of two tables. A friend of mine has a unique dining table. It’s round with raised stools and has an interesting pattern etched into its surface. Another friend liked it so much she ordered the same table.
When my friend recently visited her table-admiring friend, she noted that her friend’s table was still in pristine condition. There weren’t scratches from where the two youngest left fork gouges during a scuffle over a roll. No cup rings marred the surface, and no dents showed along the sides.
At first my friend felt like a failure. How could she let such a pretty table fall into disrepair? What kind of mom was she to let her table get so beaten by constant use?
But then she realized that was the whole point. Her friend’s family usually ate in the car on the way to some activity. Their table was in perfect condition because it was rarely used.
My friend’s table was dented and scratched from countless family meals. Each nick and imperfection was another memory her family had forged together. She decided her table wasn’t marred or ruined. It was actually a scrapbook of cherished family moments.
What’s the big deal about family meals?
Aside from creating good memories, are family meals important? According to a Cornell University study, there may be true benefits to eating family meals together without the distraction of cell phones and TV. Their findings indicate that with as little as three or more meals as a family per week, a child can be:
- Less likely to engage in disordered eating
- Less likely to be overweight
- Less likely to experience depression symptoms
- More likely to eat healthier foods
- More likely to have greater academic achievement
- More likely to have improved psychological well-being
- More likely to experience positive family interactions
The Cornell study concludes, “While research on family meals is still evolving, and scholars face challenges in identifying the ‘true’ effects of family meals, evidence to date suggests that family meals do provide benefits for children and youth.”
The Family Dinner Project (FDP) says family meals can provide:
- Higher grade point averages
- Increased resilience and self-esteem
- Lower rates of substance abuse
- Lower instances of teen pregnancy
- Lower rates of eating disorders
- Lower rates of depression
- The FDP also believes “in the power of family dinners to nourish ethical thinking.”
Mealtimes and the Bible:
In his book Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper, author Markus Barth states meals play a “conspicuous role” in about 20% of the books of Luke and Acts. During these meals, Jesus performed miracles (Luke 9:10-17), corrected wrong thinking (Luke 5:27-31), taught deep spiritual lessons (Luke 7:36-50), and more.
Meals are a time we can connect with our families and friends, deepen relationships, and mentor others. Although I don’t foresee ever having my own cooking show (seriously, some days I can barely find my dining table under all the paperwork of life), I have come to see the importance of carving out time for family meals. And I don’t get too bogged down in the food or decorating details. It’s more about the fellowship than it is about the fancy.
May we all cherish the scratches in our dining tables.