by Justin Hancock with Lisa Hancock
Growing up in a medium-sized, almost rural, West Texas town, the kitchen table played a prominent role. It doesn’t matter if it was sitting down for Sunday dinner at my great-grandparents’ house, with what felt like a billion relatives to my 5-year-old sensibilities, or rolling up to the table as the smell of homemade Chex Mix that my mother had just taken out of the oven filtered through the house during the Christmas holidays. The kitchen, and more specifically the kitchen table, has exerted an almost primal hold on the most tender part of my heart for as long as I can remember.
It wasn’t until I began living in intentional Christian community and companioning* others in the process of spiritual formation within the context of community that I began to understand the profound connection between coming to the kitchen table with my family and coming to the communal table with God and neighbor. As I journey with more and more people through spiritual life, I am convinced that Rublev’s Trinitarian icon, which portrays the Three Persons of the Trinity sitting around a table together, displays a fundamental truth about who God is and who we are in relationship with God.
I invite you to imagine the Trinity around a kitchen table, delighting in joyful conversation and hospitality with one another. This conversation never grows tired, tedious, or boring, but is always lively and full of energy with boundless surprises around every corner. Even as their meal takes on the gentle rhythms of rest, the Trinity’s life-giving, life-renewing, and life-restoring pulse echoes throughout the divine kitchen. As amazing as it would be to stand in the doorway and just watch this Triune Family interact, it is all the more incredible because there is a seat at the table for us too. We are created by our Creator to join in. Our chair is pulled out for us by our Redeemer. The smell of God’s kitchen entices us to come in as the Spirit wafts around us, welcoming us with the divine aroma.
I find this image of the Triune Family Dinner to be absolutely critical to spiritual formation within our current context. As I work and live with community members, I am increasingly convinced that slowing down and taking time to notice where we are and who we are in relation to God, neighbor, and self is fundamental to life in the Spirit. When we are confronted on a daily basis with a world that offers us a plethora of stories, issues, and enemies to choose from and respond to—often at the loudest volume possible—stopping to take notice is an achievement; much less being aware that God is pulling out a chair and inviting us to sit a spell.
Often, when I am companioning another or recognizing my own need to stop and take notice, I ask these questions:
When you look around the space you are in right now, what is the first thing that stands out to you?
As you pause and take a breath, what do you become aware of in your body?
As you take another breath, what do you notice God doing or saying—or not doing, or not saying?
Sometimes, we need to ask these questions over and over during an extended period of time before we are ready to accept God’s invitation. And sometimes we can ask them once and find ourselves ready to walk through the doorway and sit down to dinner with God. Wherever we are in our journeys, God always has a seat pulled out at the table, ready and waiting for us. May we be a people who notice the gentle persistence of God’s invitation, take our seat, eat our fill, and conversate with God and neighbor at the Triune Family Dinner.
*Companioning is the art of being with someone. It is the difference between walking beside and giving directions.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
How do you view meal time? Is it a chore, a means to an end, or an invitation to community?
How do the centering questions listed above give you insight into what might be hindering your acceptance of God’s invitation?