You find yourself in a room with an exquisitely set banqueting table. It takes up most of the space which appears to be empty. Standing at the head it looks like it could span a couple of football fields with chairs on either side. The table runner is adorned with flickering candlesticks and cascading floral arrangements, oh and there is violin music playing in the background, the kind that makes you cry at the end of movies. Each chair is covered in stunning fabric that matches the napkins folded neatly onto the place sittings. Something very special must be going on, someone has went to a lot of effort in making this room beautiful. Elegant doesn’t even begin to describe what the rest of this room looks like—any way you turn your head your eyes would rest on successive, alluring features. You begin to head down a row of chairs and they’re screaming at you to feel its fabric, soft and perfect. What is all of this for? A reception? A congratulatory dinner? A fancy dinner party just because? The atmosphere is perfect—you know there will be great food, great conversation. As you continue down the length of the table you notice that there are place cards at each place setting, everyone has an assigned place to sit. How cool! You read the first name, then the second. You know those people. The third and fourth name, you know them too. At each step and each setting you recognize all of the names. People you work with, some are your friends, there are even members of your family. As you round the corner to the other side of the table, sure enough, more people you know. Now you feel less awkward busting into this room and gawking at it all, you must belong here too. You’re looking and looking, place card after place card, waiting to see your name, hoping to find where you will be. You hope they knew you well enough to put you in between people you really enjoy. Oh, and you desperately hope they have something that you can eat, not like a duck or anything. You’ve reached the end of the table, and have looked at every, single card. Your name is not on any of them.
So maybe a fancy dinner party isn’t your thing, you get the picture. Imagine something you’d be into—Sunday dinner out on the town? A super bowl party? Summer cook out? Maybe it’s just a simple night in with pizza and a movie. Of course none of this has to do food or a specific function that you’d like to be invited to—it’s about people making room in their life for you. It’s also about the people you make space for. Flashback to high school at lunch time with a tray in my hand searching for a table to sit. Ok, I never had a tray in my hand, I’m the pickiest eater thats ever walked the face of this earth and would never touch that cafeteria food. My mom would pack me lunch, but I would sometimes be embarrassed about what was packed (no one else ate this, so it’s not cool), what was I thinking, teenagers are so weird. So now I’m down to chips and a soda in my hand, but I’m still searching for a place to sit. I eventually made a really good set group of friends who would remain with me until the end of senior year. But there were days the lunch room was intimidating. In the class room who cares where you sit, most of the time they told you where to go anyway. Lunch time was different, it was social. People were in their little groups laughing and talking and sharing. How did they get to that spot—did they all just naturally fall in together? Sure, most groups consisted of people who looked alike, dressed alike, and all did the same things. So thats the only way to make friends? I didn’t look at friendship that way, I wanted to experience everyone, but it’s hard to fit in with that frame of mind, even today. I just wanted to find a place to sit, somewhere I would feel welcome.
I’ll never forget the day this very loud, pretty girl shouted my name across the cafeteria floor. BRIAN BENNETT! BRIAN BENNETT! There she was standing on her chair waving her hands—BRIAN BENNETT I saved you a seat. At first I was like OMG, she’s saying my name SO loud, everyone has stopped to look at me, this is so embarrassing. But that feeling quickly faded away. It felt nice, I now had a definite place to sit. Her name was Tracy and we had a couple of classes together, somehow we just clicked. She was so fun to be around, one day I should write a book on all of the crazy, wonderful things that we got into. She was the one who put forth the effort to invite me into her life and her circle. Of course for a while I looked for and expected that grand invitation for lunch in the cafeteria, and sure enough, for a little bit of time, she screamed BRIAN BENNETT we’re over here. It always felt nice, walking to that spot. I have a place over there, someone is waiting for me. Someone wants me over there. Just because. In time, that overture wasn’t needed for me to know that I had a space to sit a lunch. I knew that she was my friend, I had made new friends and there was a place for me there. (BTW, my friend Tracy never just called me Brian it was always BRIAN BENNETT, she sadly passed away several years ago. There are quite a few people in my life now that call me Brian Bennett in one single breath. When they do I can’t help but think of her and the impact she had on my life.)
One of my most favorite stories, if not my favorite is about a man named Mephibosheth. You’ve probably heard of David and Goliath, but here is a little back story. David was a young shepherd boy who had just been anointed the future King of Israel. Upon completing his defeat of Goliath, he stood before the King with the giants head still in his hands. The current and first King of Israel was named Saul, who had a son named Jonathan. Scripture says that after David had finished talking with Saul, that Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. Just like that! That was fast. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a promise with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
At first Saul was impressed with David and liked having him around. David also played music and would often calm the King in moments of distress. Soon Saul’s use for David became weak and he began to feel very insecure and threatened by his presence in the court. But Jonathan took a great liking to David and would later warn him that his father wished to take his new friends life. David went on the run, but was aided by Jonathan. Who would have guessed? These two should not have been friends. They had completely different backgrounds and there was a huge conflict of interest surrounding the crown of Israel. If anything, it was Jonathan who should have felt insecure and threatened by David. But for some reason the affection between these two was instant and genuine. David was afraid for his life and Jonathan was torn between his friend and his father. Jonathan told David he would do whatever he needed him to do. He made room for David in his life and put actions to his words. During this time Jonathan asked David to remember him and their friendship. He asked him to show unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as he lived so that he may not be killed, and for David to never cut off kindness to his family. Jonathan practically begged his father the King to spare his friends life but without success. Jonathan ran off to a field to tell David of his certain fate. Scripture says that they kissed each other and wept together, but David wept the most. David loved Jonathan, and Jonathan loved David. They were extremely close just because. They instantly “clicked” and made a place for one another in their lives. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t just like, don’t hang out with him because he doesn’t fit in (you can’t sit with us, he doesn’t even go here). It’s not everyday a dad threatens to hunt down and kill someone in your life (well I hope not anyway). I was always fascinated and admired the relationship between these two. It was a bond that no one could explain.
This part of the saga ends when David learns that Jonathan died in battle and his father King Saul then fell on his sword. David lamented and mourned deeply. We know that soon after David would become the next King of Israel and would one day ask if there was anyone left in the house of Saul he could show kindness for Jonathan sake. He remembered his promise and found out that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth. It is customary that whenever a ruler was defeated that all his family be taken out so there would be no lineage left to reclaim the throne. However Mephibosheth survived. David’s men found him in a place called LoDebar, translated to - land of nothing. When news of Saul and Jonathan’s death came, the nurse hurriedly lifted a five year old Mephibosheth to flee to safety, but accidentally dropped him leaving him crippled for the rest of his life. He was crippled, lost his heritage and lived in a place called nothing. II Samuel 9 describes the meeting of Mephibosheth and King David. The young man humbly bowed and David told him to not be afraid. “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul and you will always eat at my table." Mephibosheth bowed and asked why David would “notice a dead dog like me?” Mephibosheth was made the promise that he would be honored with restoration of profits from his grandfather’s wealth and would always eat at the King’s table. This was despite Mephibosheth’s low self-worth, physical handicap, and shame brought to him by his grandfather’s sins, defeat and resulting suicide.
You will always eat at my table. What? What did he say? I am nothing, I come from nothing, look at me, I don’t belong here. Have you ever felt like that? I think we all have. But lets taker a deeper look at what the King’s table looks like. Throughout the course of his life, David had several marriages and many children. This is King David’s table. King freakin’ David! His little boy self defeated the Giant Goliath. He’s got a tough side, he’s strong and he’s a mighty warrior. He has a sensitive side too, he’s creative, he writes and plays music, he’s a poet, he writes the Psalms. Oh yeah, and he’s King. Not too shabby huh? So here the King sits in the dining room at the head of his table and waits for his family to arrive. Here comes his son Absalom coming though the front door, in all of Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his feet there was no blemish on him. He’s charming and captivating and drives an awesome chariot. No pressure there. Now parading down the steps is his extraordinary beautiful sister, the Princess Tamar, whose good looks really is a burden. They wait and they have to call for another son, he’s the smart one studying in the library. His name is Solomon, you may have heard of him? He is mega rich, like we’re talking big bucks and he is also the wisest man in the whole world. None was like him before and no one will ever be like him again. Geez. Then down the long hallway you can hear the most horrendous noise. Thump, thump, thump, oh it’s just Mephibosheth, making his way to the table. The table is finely set, and all those who sit it at are very intimidating. Beauty, brains, brawn, power, creativity, you name it. What do I have to bring to the table? Most of the time I feel like Mephibosheth likely did entering that room and wondering if there was a place for me there. Is my pedigree worthy enough? Will I have anything to talk about, will I be found interesting? Will you look at me funny like I don’t belong? Do I have to compete? Do I have to prove anything? All of us have insecurities and second guess ourselves in most social situations. We can even find ourselves doing it with our own friends and family. The truth was in this situation, there was a place at the table for Mephibosheth! There was a place card there with his name on it! The king said he would ALWAYS have a place there. He was in charge, it was his table and he made a place just for you. I can imagine the overwhelming feeling of humility he must have felt as he was seated. Even though he had royal heritage he never knew privilege or felt like he belonged anywhere. And here this stranger invited him into his life. David made the effort because of the affection he felt for Jonathan- another relationship that proved actions mean more than words.
So in this story we have two choices, we can be Mephibosheth (can you say it in your head yet?) or David. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in being Mephibosheth, because we cannot help what we bring to the table. We are what we are. But what we need to get rid of is the feeling that we are the ones from Lo Debar (the land of nothing). The older I get, especially after a very tough couple of years, I have learned to stop trying to squeeze myself a place into certain tables. Trying to convince people sitting there that I belonged, that I was worth taking up a seat. Oh the things you do just to sit there. Some people will never want you at their table and thats cool. Some people used to let you sit at their table but changed their minds overnight and you no longer have your name written on a little place card. (I’m speaking metaphorically of course and hope you’re following along with me, this has absolutely nothing to do with dinner or tables or food lol). I’ve learned that some people were never, ever supposed to be welcomed into your life and thats a very hard lesson to learn. A lot of people are seasonal. We all go through seasons in our life and as much as we want some people to endure all the seasons with us, sometimes its just not meant to be. They teach us in the season that we are in— we need to grace to be able to say goodbye and welcome the new season and the people that come along with it. Some people always leave, and some people never go. Be thankful for those who continue to make space for you and survive the seasons.
Again, I’m learning to stop standing there with my tray of food searching for the table that will fit me in. Because some tables I joined I pretended to be someone else just so I could stay. You’ll eventually be found out and it still won’t be good enough. When you don’t show up as who you are, people fall in love with you you aren’t. I learned to build my own table. Thats right, I’m telling you too—build your own table! Forget about sitting anywhere else and build your own place to sit. And sit there by yourself for a while. Yep, by yourself. Literally and figuratively. I can sit in my car alone after going through a drive thru like nobody’s business but walking into a restaurant and eat by myself? Madness! What will people think? I’ll look lonely. Nah, I tried it recently and really liked it. It took me 44 years to enjoy my own company. I can now go in anywhere, by myself, bring a book, sit there, enjoy my food and read—by myself. I’ve built my own table, set my own terms. I want to be free, like Mephibosheth and arrive just as I am, but I don’t ever want to feel weak or insecure or wonder if I ever have enough to bring to the table. Come just as you are, you’ll bring something that no one else has. Some people can’t sit with you anymore. There may be some people that gave you no choice, they just left. But you can’t linger on people who are comfortable without you—you were worth the effort.
Build your own table, and then be like David and freely, openly, unabashedly welcome people to it. It doesn’t have to make sense, they don’t have to look like you, dress like you, feel like you, believe like you. No one should ever have to fight or work there way for a place at your table. David remembered a great love that was in his heart. He remembered kindness and compassion. He remembered what it was like to give love and to receive love and that made him want to open his heart to express it again. I’m talking about simple things like walking by people with a soft face and a welcome smile. Sometimes that's it, that will do the trick. Maybe it’s just listening to someone—not offering any advice, just listening. Some people just want to be heard and understood. Get to know people and learn what makes them work. When you know people it will be easy for you to find ways to make them feel important to you. Do what they like to do. Include them. As I said earlier I am the pickiest eater on God’s green earth. I eat what I eat, get over it. Sometimes its hard to go to certain functions because I never know if theres anything I can have, usually I have to eat before lol. But I have the most amazing friends and family who will invite me over and make me something different from everyone else just so I can eat and have a place at their table. My grandmother always made me pizza on Thanksgiving, and God bless my momma who always had to juggle menus around me. The point here is effort. Make the effort to make people feel welcome into your life. If it’s just for a few minutes, a season or a lifetime.