BY: LAINIE STUBBLEFIELD
I look around in our world and see polarization that seems impossible to be bridged without God’s help. Our government in this nation has said that we don’t want His help. So, sometimes it seems hopeless. But, I still believe what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” But, what does that look like in our practical life?
We take time to humble ourselves before the Lord, ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and show us the places we need to be cleansed and we repent and ask for forgiveness. We pray for our leaders, even the ones we don’t agree with. We pray for our family members, neighbors and friends, even the ones we don’t agree with. But, then what? Do we continue to go about life on a day by day basis, only in relationship with those who think the same as we do? I think that is how we got to this place. We no longer hear each other. We no longer interact with each other. Maybe unification will come from gathering around tables to eat good food together and hear each other and love each other, even if we never see things exactly the same.
The Steel Magnolias Podcast that I co-host with my sister, Laura Beth Peters, has looked at many aspects of the beauty of gathering around a table to break bread together and hear each other. We all live busy lifestyles and find it difficult to find time for all the things we long to do. But, the truth is, we all have to eat. We discussed Sunday Dinners in the South on one of our episodes. I believe one of the reasons that became a popular meal for families and friends was because the day was a bit slower and more open, as well as many had just been together at church and left hungry for food. This can still be a time of the generations interacting and including newcomers or those you want to get to know better.
In the South, we have many restaurants that are known as Meat and 3s. This is a casual style of dining where you typically get in line, pick up a cafeteria style tray and pick out your meat and three sides. Besides the food being tasty, one of my favorite things about these type restaurants is that you see all walks of life coming together. The politicians eating right next to the construction workers. Sadly, this is unique in our day and age. There seems to be such a divide of class, race and political persuasions. I love any opportunity to participate in coming together with people who are different than me. I especially love ecumenical gatherings, as I believe Jesus’ gospel is the only way we can truly be one!
Psychologist Jerome Burt, PhD says that when we eat delicious food, it changes our biochemistry. Your cortisol levels will drop for about 20 minutes when you eat sugar, salt and fat. That is why we crave comfort food when we are sad. We had a wonderful interview with Dr. Burt on the podcast to discuss this subject. He did a Ted Talk entitled, “How a Dinner Party Can Save Your Life.” He says that we are born wanting food and belonging. Both of these needs are met when we have meals together. When we feel safe and loved, we can even discuss difficult subjects in a more healthy way. That relationship building can take an investment in time though.
I have heard that United States Congresspeople used to move their families to Washington D.C. and they would have many opportunities to interact as families. Apparently, that has changed and most of them fly to D.C. for when they have meetings or sessions. Their spouses and children rarely even meet to become friends. It is almost like they simply fly in to “do battle” with the opposing party. I still remember as a young girl seeing clips of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill having lunch together etc. Does that still happen today? It is much easier to see someone as the enemy if you don’t get to know them personally.
So, while we may not be able to change what we see happening in Washington D.C., we can gather a few people together around our own tables. Investing time in those who are on your heart and feeding them, hearing them and loving them. That is an expression of worship to God! Loving those who are created in His image and seeing them as such. Making sure that we spend time talking to God about our neighbors before we spend time talking to them about God. We discuss these kind of topics often on our Steel Magnolias Podcast, but there are several episodes that come to mind: For the full interview with Dr. Burt: Steel Magnolias – Uplifting Conversations About Life in the South: How a Dinner Party Can Save Your Life on Apple Podcasts; For more on Southern Hospitality: Steel Magnolias – Uplifting Conversations About Life in the South: Southern Hospitality on Apple Podcasts. For more on Meat and 3s :Steel Magnolias – Uplifting Conversations About Life in the South: Meat & 3’s and Cobblers on Apple Podcasts; For more on Sunday Dinner in the South: Steel Magnolias – Uplifting Conversations About Life in the South: Sunday Dinner in the South on Apple Podcasts