Spiritual lessons are learned through setbacks, heart breaks and failings; a heavy toll paid to create a conviction, and lived out by the grace of God. Here’s one I can’t get out of my system. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”
Jesus invites me to sit down with Him every day, and across a small table, we talk about everything that tumbles out of my heart. We whisper, a lot like lovers would at a dark corner table, with candle lit, giving relief to two faces locked upon one another. And here’s my conviction: the table is set only for two. That is the image I carry with me to start my day. It’s what tucks me in at night. But like any spiritual lesson, it comes under attack. Three battles have taught me the value of the table set for two, battles that I still fight to gain the foothold of faith to enter in.
The battle to find the table, because it’s illusive. I have often sought in good places what the Psalmist described in Psalm 44, “the light of your face.” I have gone to music and let it lift me in a kind of transcendence I would call worship, but in the end it felt more like entertainment. I have used the Word with diligence pouring over its pages gobbling up volumes of its precious pages, and yet left it without being sated. I have also gleaned wisdom from many books, and know now why the wise Solomon said that ‘in many pages read, there is a weariness that settles in the soul.’ All of these are good means, and I was earnest about sitting at table, I just didn’t know I wasn’t sitting down. To sit means to ask the Holy Spirit to do what he promised in Romans 8:26, “to help us in our weakness.” As Henry Nouwen put it, “prayer is letting the Holy Spirit do his work in and through us.” That work is calling us, comforting us, leading us, and finally filling us, as we sit before perfect love.
The battle to keep the table intimate. How close do you feel to God during those times when it’s just the two of you? You’ve worked out the time issue; an hour perhaps more stretches before you. He’s whispered your name, and you blush, for His overtures are never comfortable to accept. But someone else is there, no, there are many others. They line what begins to feel like a last-supper length table on both sides. They are imps, devils trained in deception and half-truths. They are chattering loud enough to distract you, and every syllable they utter has a lie perfectly fashioned to disrobe you, and put shame squarely into your deepest feelings. The table that felt so intimate moments before, now feels like it’s growing, and with every lie you hear, your Lover gets further and further away. The devils shout mistakes, misjudgments, careless words, critical feelings, all with your name on them. But they are wrong, your name is no longer attached to those accusations. Only one name is, the name above all names, stamped upon each the moment from the cross, God uttered the words,“It is finished.” The better we know our own spiritual identity and worth, the closer we will be to the whispers, the overtures of pure love, and the clearer we will see ‘the light of His face.’
The battle to slow down, because the table can feel hurried. At the table set for two, my heart and God’s meld together, set like flint against the clock that demands I hurry, or suggests more important, more urgent things are looming. Imagine, is there anything else more important than unhurried time with Jesus Christ? My greatest mistake has come in bringing my day into the hour I have planned to sit at table, and letting it push me around during my attempts to connect with God’s heart. My concerns, appointments, complex conversations and hard decisions need to sit outside the room I enter where God and I sit together. Just a couple minutes of pre-prayer, handing over all the weight of my anxiety, breathes life into me, and calms my heart enough to be all present. No looking at the watch, no nervous arch of a backward glance; just face to alighted Face at the table set for two.
Listen, He’s whispering your name, ‘come, I’ve saved this seat just for you. I fight for you; I have given all of myself for you, would you please my heart in giving back the same?’