“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 23:20 NIV).
We needed an extendable table, because our house has an open floor plan. One room reaches from the front door to the back of the kitchen. A huge table would be an obstacle to us. It would impede our walking path. However, not having a big table was not an option.
We wanted to be intentional about having people over, and that meant having a table where everyone could sit and feel welcomed.
My sister-in-law recommended we buy a simple table that we could extend for our guests. Once we realized what we needed, we had fun searching for the table to fit our space. The layout of the house called for it.
We’ve loved that idea of extending the table, and our family and guests know how to do it easily. Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years:
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
If you wait for the perfect moment to have guests, you may never find it. A nicely planned meal can be fun, but sometimes the unexpected “ask” gets you out of your comfort zone and keeps you from spending a lot of time in preparations that really aren’t necessary.
Our Thai teacher taught us to observe this quality in Thai people, and we were impressed with what we saw. If you walk into a restaurant and find some of your friends there, they’ll invite you over. No matter what they’re having, they’ll cut a piece for you. Yes, they will. They may be eating a hamburger when you walk in, and they slice off a piece and give it to you. They value the relationship more than the need to plan ahead.
Keep it simple and share what you have. You learn the idea of sharing as a child, so you should be an expert by the time you are an adult.
The next time someone rings the bell and you’re in the middle of a meal, try it yourself. Invite them in and slice a piece of whatever you’re having one more way.
Unexpected blessings may extend in both directions when you keep it simple.
2. MAKE IT A HABIT.
Children seem to connect with others easily. The cutest little boy looked up and asked, “You wanna come over?” He was not more than three, and I laughed while trying to read the expression on his mom’s face in order to know how to respond.
Children want to be with people and cry easily when they have to leave places they don’t want to leave. They want you with them—playing with them, sitting with them, just being there with them, and listening to what they have to say. When times are tough, you may find you are quite the same. You may find you long to connect, but being out of the habit of doing so, you may not know where to go.
Make it your habit to extend an invitation. “You wanna come over?” is not so difficult to say after all.
Sure, it will take some of your precious time, but it could be an opportunity to meet a deep need. You may find yourself surprised by the refreshing experience as well.
3. REMOVE DISTRACTIONS.
TVs and cell phones can keep you from focusing when your neighbor arrives. Turn them off right away, or better still, move that TV into a room that doesn’t distract you from real conversation.
While at a fast-food restaurant, I noticed a mother with two teenagers, a girl and a boy. They were content sitting in silence almost the whole meal time. Seriously, my husband stood in line, refilled his Coke, went to the restroom and returned, and none of the three spoke a word—which I found amazing. Maybe they were all introverts and this was their opportunity to just chill, feeling completely at ease with one another.
This behavior seemed normal for the sweet family relaxing together, but it would be quite odd if you treated your guests that way. To initiate conversation, remove your distractions and find ways to interact.
In our online courses at Samford, we are focusing on how Jesus invites us to His table. It’s exciting to dine with Jesus, but the cup we drink with Him often requires our changing to be more like Him. A great example is in our course Women Leaders from the Past. Participants hear the story of Perpetua and Felicitas, two Christian martyrs in Carthage, North Africa. On March 7, AD 202, these women faced death bravely because they understood the cost of dining at Jesus’ table.
Are you extending your table to your neighbors? It may seem awkward at first, until you realize that Jesus may already be knocking on their door. Invite your neighbors to your table. You never know who is beginning to hear His voice, and your invitation might be an answer to a neighbor’s prayer.
Revelation 3:20 shows how Jesus invites anyone who hears His voice to open the door. He invites Himself into your life, but you (and your neighbors) have to open the door to let Him in.
Claudia Johnson lives near Birmingham, Alabama, where she is determined to extend her table to her neighbors.