Surrounded by Children at the Table

Surrounded by Children at the Table

Surrounded by Children at the Table.

How fortunate, how happy are you who fear the Lord, you who are filled with reverence for Him. All of us who follow His ways are to be envied, because God Himself will bless us! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor and be fulfilled in your work. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous newly planted olive trees as they sit all around you at the family table. This is all the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him, for those who are filled with awe and reverence for Him.” (Psalm 128:1-3).

In God’s Word, we can read His mind… Children are a blessing, they are a gift of God. Children are a source of happiness, a sign of God’s favor. God has designed the world to be family centered. Psalm 128 describes the happy home, in which a supreme blessing of God is to enjoy the fulfillment of being surrounded with family, with a wife and children around the table.

Unhealthy societies, on the other hand, view the family as unimportant and the children as a curse. The anti-family culture in which we live now in Ameria is bound to fall flat on its face. Marriage is just an afterthought, and children are seen more as a curse, not a blessing. Societies that don’t honor and value children will sooner or later not honor any stage of human life. When unborn babies, the most vulnerable of our children, are seen as a nuisance, an inconvenience, an added expense, the death warrant of that culture has been signed, sealed and delivered.

Children. For those who read the Gospels, one can’t help but notice that Jesus valued children highly. He didn’t overlook them, He didn’t underestimate them. Jesus honored children, not only for who they were as human beings but also for what they symbolized. There is one gospel scene in particular where He makes His feelings known about the importance of receiving children. What did Jesus mean when, after taking up a child into his arms, He said that whoever welcomes, whoever receives, one of these little children in His name in fact welcomes Him? (Mark 9:36-37). It would take a lifetime to plumb the depths of Christ’s statement, but it’s almost as if Jesus might be saying:

Here’s the bottom line, people… I love children. I knit every one of them together, strung together their DNA, wired each nervous system. I gave the first breath of life to each and every one! I invented each personality, fashioned each child from scratch, and then danced a jig to celebrate every birth. And so I designed each child to represent much of what is true of my Kingdom: simple and transparent, playful and straightforward, relational and curious, zealous and dynamic, dependent and vulnerable.

Children, all of them in general and each one in particular, are my pride and joy. Unfortunately, each prize package is also vulnerable in this fallen world of mine. So they have my heart, and I have their back.

I’m like any good parent, only more so. I take personally whatever happens to them, as if it happens to me. I’m like the mom who screeches “ouch” when her child falls on the sidewalk. I’m like the dad who basks in the moment when his child succeeds at something after hard work and sacrifice. So when a little ragamuffin kid is received with kindness and respect, I take it personally, and I feel like I’m being received that way too.

When parents graciously open their home to be blessed with a child – as an act of faith and trust – they had better set an extra plate at the table for me. When schools welcome students into their classrooms as honored guests made in my image, they’d better get an extra desk for me. Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes me, the Lord of children.

Yahweh becomes a household name whenever love for children is a natural outgrowth of love for me, be they sick or healthy, athletic or awkward, academic or imaginative, passive or exuberant, a rock star or someone who is easily lost in the shuffle. I’m like this with anyone who is vulnerable, with a person of any age who is overlooked or undervalued. Whenever the underdogs are welcomed for my sake, I take it personally.

You know what? I know what if feels like. I was once an unknown child. I was once considered a fool and a misfit. I was misjudged and marginalized, criticized and belittled. So by all means, by every means, welcome my children into your hearts in my Name of Love, and you will find that you’d better open your arms a little wider, because I’m right there with you. Make room for me, too.

The Table. Sharing a meal together is a sacred time of family fellowship. It is a way, maybe the best way, to bond with family members, to bother to take the time to enjoy each other’s company. Family meals are the best way to be present to each other, and affirm everyone’s worth and value. Around the family table, the children and parents do not experience criticism or rejection. It is a time to deepen friendships in the family, to build a secure sense of trust. Family meals are a time to accept each other into the life of the family. The table is a sacred time, and not to simply engage in business as usual. The family meal is not a time to review a list of domestic details, daily minutia, homework accountability, or stern lectures. The family meals will prove to be memorable when lively discussions are held over interesting topics, where the family can do some problem solving as a group, where the day’s happy moment can be relived, or the unhappy moments can be shared as each trusts the other. The sanctity of the family meal can be easily compromised by modern technology. The family table should be free from cell phones, computers, television, or texting friends. The goal for parents is to have the family meals so enjoyable that children invite friends to the meal, that the meal becomes a way to show hospitality to friends and acquaintances. The family table is like an altar in the domestic church, a place where God’s love is the centerpiece of the home.

Olive Trees. Children are like newly planted olive trees? That is not a surprising metaphor when one considers that the olive tree in Israel was the centerpiece of their daily life, a valuable aspect of their culture. Olive trees came to symbolize many interesting things down through history in Israel… reconciliation and peace, since the olive tree was the first tree to bud after the Flood; beauty and splendor, because this evergreen has such a  gorgeous grain of wood, interesting shapes to the adult tree, and the beautiful shade of silvery green in every leaf; joy and gladness, because one who has an olive tree with its olive oil is considered prosperous, as well as the fact that when one rubs olive oil onto the face one looks radiant with a shining, happy face; fruitfulness and flourishing, because the olive tree was so necessary to the livelihood of Israel, and a fruitful olive tree was considered such a huge blessing from God. So to compare children to olive trees was actually meaningful, and it evoked images of a happy home and a fruitful home. Olive trees are a huge blessing to Israel, and children are likewise in the home.

Ambition. Psalm 128 totally ignores ambition of any kind. Instead, we are called to “enjoy the fruit of our labors,” and not seek our primary fulfillment in getting ahead, acquiring wealth, collecting possessions, becoming powerful, or any other earthly measures of success. Instead we are presented with a heavenly view of what constitutes success. The ideal of enjoying the modest blessings of a productive job and happy home are held high. There is no room in Scripture for human sacrifice in the form of sacrificing the life of spouse and children for fulfillment outside the home. The Judeo-Christian tradition is that home life comes first in cooperation with the Lord. God has designed each of us to find our greatest achievement in establishing a happy home. If God blesses a married couple with children, there is no greater responsibility and sacred trust.