"How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God's kingdom!"
-- Luke 14:15 (MSG)
Memories are funny things, some seem vague while others stick like glue. Recently, my husband and I decided to eat out at a local restaurant we had not been to in a long time.
We love the great food, and the freshness and variety on the salad bar. The restaurant was our "go to" place for date night when our children were younger and still in our home. With our children grown and out of the house, every night seems like date night, and our restaurant excursions are not as frequent.
As soon as we exited our car at the restaurant the sweet aroma surrounded us and stirred free some memories. We were so regular in our visits, waiters and waitresses knew our menu choices and our names.
One waiter and I had a running joke about one item which needed to be added to the restaurant menu, and we would laugh about it, and I would order my regular dish.
Even though I could not make my own menu, as parents to seven children, the short time away on date night brought a certain normalcy to our relationship. This was the one night a week that I actually showered, changed out of my fitness clothes into a dress, and set my ponytail free. Some couples have a favorite song, or poetic verse, but we had a two-person table in the back room of our favorite restaurant.
Things change, and with our visits less frequent, the waiters and waitresses were new and did not know us by name. As we sat visiting and enjoying the same great food, I began to contemplate the reasons for making the restaurant our choice for date night.
It occurred to me that my father would bring me to the Kentucky Rib-Eye when I was a child. It was a very special thing to go out and eat. We all dressed in our Sunday best, demonstrating manners and proper decorum. We felt so special as the restaurant staff brought fresh cuts of meat by the table for our selection. Those dinners with my father are special memories, nestled fondly in my heart.
Times were different then. In was a rare thing for a family to eat out. All the meals at home were practice for the main event, at the restaurant. My mother would train us where to place the napkin as we sat down, where to place each piece of silverware, what utensil to use and when, and where to place the napkin at the end of a meal.
She also instilled "the respect factor" which included, "never interrupting an adult talking, and answering a question by looking directly at the person." These practices became habits, and I could not wait to use my good manners when it really mattered.
What kind of habits are we teaching our children today?
One summer our parents took us out of town to an amusement park. My mother packed lunch, peanut butter crackers and an apple, which we ate in the car while in the parking lot. This was just fine with us, as it allowed more time for rides and fun-filled adventure.
But time kind of got away from us, and suddenly the park was about to close, and we had not had dinner. As my parents considered their options, it was decided to eat at the fancy-smancy restaurant near our hotel. There were not nearly as many fast food spots in those days, so, this would be one of those testing our training moments.
My mother walked us through a litany of warnings, including keeping a low profile, while drawing little attention to our amusement park apparel. Walking single file, with eyes straight ahead, we made our way into the restaurant. Following directly behind my mother I couldn't help but see a perfectly flattened piece of bubble gum stuck to the back of her white nylon shorts.
The long day had taken my hair to a place beyond the brush, but I no longer worried about my hair as my mother's dilemma was my new focus. She would have been mortified, but I followed her lead and drew as little attention to our parade as possible.
In Luke 14:10-14 (MSG) we read the parable of the Great Banquet Table. "When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, 'Friend, come up to the front.' That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."
Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be -- and experience -- a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned -- oh, how it will be returned! -at the resurrection of God's people."
As my husband scanned the menu, he noticed my favorite dish had been added. I had not noticed because the pages of my menu were stuck together. We laughed out loud.
Is there something stuck in your memory which impacts your relationship with God and others? Isn't it time to turn the page on the guilt and shame? Perhaps you should take a look at God from a new perspective, who you are now and not who you were then. God's got the right menu for a hungry heart; love, grace, healing and forgiveness!
Theresa Rowe is the founder of Shaped by Faith, an author, health coach, motivational speaker and radio host. Visit her at shapedbyfaith.com.