I wrote this a few years ago, but I'm grateful for the reminder today.
Thank you for being here. I'm glad that you are.
I'm driving past a garage sale. There's a table, front and center, on the lawn. It's a dinette. Two chairs. Octagon. Glass top.
I'm tugged back twenty-some years.
It's exactly like the first table Lonny and I shared in our just-married home.
I'd saved money and purchased the table at the mall. I bought cushions for the chairs and a basket of wooden fruit for the top. We pressed it into our apartment kitchen between the dryer and the defrost-it-yourself fridge.
I'd like to say that we loved that table. But truth is, not so much. The trouble was the glass top. It showed every smudge. Every smear. Every fingerprint. Every crumb. Every undesirable, tainting thing was displayed. And no matter now many times I wiped it down, the darn thing never was clean.
Sort of like the way Lonny and I treated one another all those years ago.
We had smudges. Spots. Stains. But instead of giving a little grace, learning to live with a smudged person, focusing on the goodness rather than the shortcomings, we exposed each other's flaws. Brought attention to them. Displayed them. Just like that darn old table from Montgomery Ward.
The result wasn't good.
We didn't share many romantic dinners around that table.
I drive along, still thinking. My mind moves forward, and now I consider the table that's in our dining room today. It's a family table. Mission style. Oak with a deep cherry stain.
It has imperfections, too. There's an orange ring in the center where a a dried gourd jack-o-lantern met a toppled, too-full glass. Water stretched and pooled and stained the wood under Jack's pointy-tooth smile. There are Sharpie marker streaks from wild craft projects. A tantrum-throwing toddler jabbed the surface with the curved tines of his fork and pressed dotted frowns in the wood.
The table's a mess.
But the rich, deep color helps to absorb the flaws and we don't really see them at all.
We choose to see the goodness.
The table is a gathering place. We come together, hold hands, and thank the Lord. We laugh. We cry. We share and sing and argue and pout. We live life around that table, and though it's far from perfect, we choose to see the good.
Like the way Lonny and I try to honor one another in our marriage.
I still have my smudges. He still has his flaws. But somewhere in this life we share, we've developed the heart-desire to look past, to let go, to see the goodness, and celebrate the gifts. It took wise counsel, deliberate effort, and hearts that were willing to shift the focus off of one another's flaws and to see our own. It meant choosing to make Jesus the center. We're still learning and we don't always get it right. Some days are better that others. Some days it's just plain hard work. Some days we fall and fail. But in a lot of ways, this practice has been binding. Together we strive for love and grace.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12 ESV
When my eyes are on my husband's shortcomings, there's separation. When I'm willing to examine my own shortcomings and see God's love, there's connection. It's the give-and-take of grace.
I finish my errands and point the van toward home. Soon I pull into the drive and take my place on the left. Lonny pulls up alongside and takes his place on the right.
It's almost dinnertime.
I smile at the man in the Suburban and he waves and smiles back.
Time to gather round the grace-table.
Together we've arrived.
Thank you, Lord, for the ways in which you've grown my marriage...Amen.