Hello dear friends! My name is Melissa Brown and I serve as the Development Associate at JustFaith Ministries. I am always so astounded by the generosity and commitment of the JustFaith Community in making the world better. Thank you for being the daily reminder that there truly is goodness walking the high-ways and by-ways of the world. If you are like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world and either don’t know where to begin, or have expectations as to what needs to happen before you can do any good in the world. I hope that, like me, God and a DIY (Do It Yourself) project in a humid garage can teach you otherwise, even if it’s six years in the making…
In 2014 a pick-up truck came rolling down Interstate 71 to a rural Kentucky community to deliver an old table to a parsonage (aka hermitage, manse, rectory, or vicarage). This table was, if anything, a homage to the 1990’s. Dark green with a gold and green diamond patterned fabric on the cushions and a heavy stain on the surface. It had been my mother-in-law’s table and now it was mine. It was an everyday dining-room table that had hosted homework, holiday meals, birthdays, and even moments of grief. It was well loved, well worn, and well out of style. I had grand plans to strip, paint, resurface and shape this table into the 21st century. It was a table with “good bones” and I could see it refinished, beautiful, and laden with meals and friends.
Even some of the grandest plans have hiccups.
Six years, three moves and two babies later, this table was not only still a 1990’s table, but it was even more worn. Added to the fabric were milk spills from a toddler and chips in the tabletop’s varnish. Even the green chair paint had left its mark on the kitchen walls because of “Scoot-the-Chair sessions” orchestrated by my son.
By this point I was consciously inviting only a select few people over for dinner because I hated how dingy this table had become. How could I ask people to sit in these chairs? I’d apologize to close friends about the state of the table and chairs and they always graciously sat, ate, and were merry all the same. Hosting dinner for friends didn’t look anything like I wanted (or thought) it should look like. The table was ugly, and the offering not glamorous – the food usually consisting of quick cooking, and occasionally screaming kids.
This summer I decided I’d redeem this table. It was sanded down, stripped of varnish, and the old cloth ripped up. When you dive into a project and don’t have other things to distract you (cue: a humid garage and no music but nature), God speaks. In all my efforts to strip away the ugly and make sure that this table was acceptable to host people, He reminded me that sacred work had been happening long before this table had come into my possession. This table has been anointed not with holy water or oil, but by relationship, food, and conversation.
How did I miss that this table had been with us through so much during three previous pastoral appointments? How did I miss that this ugly old thing was already beautiful (metaphorically) because it was the recipient of tears as friends and myself have tried to patiently wait on God as we talked at this table? How had I forgotten about how many laity and clergy I had fed at this table? How many times had heavy bills piled onto this table and it held their weight and the weight of God’s miracles? How many times had ministry happened at this ratty old table while I had been simply living life? How many moments at this table filled and re-energized the spirit of people all while I was trying to find enough forks for all the guests?
Tables don’t have to me made perfect before ministry can happen.
Sometimes I think that everything has to be perfect before good things can happen. I have to be ready, I have to be energized, and I have to have a plan. Ducks must be in a row. T’s crossed and i’s dotted. But God doesn’t need great penmanship and ducks to make ministry happen. He asks for the willing.
The world seems ever greedy to me but the table is full of abundance, generosity, and charity even in times of scarcity no matter how worn the cushions have become.
The world seems dark and heavy, but laughter at the table reminds me that where two or more are gathered, God is present and sliding the Bread of Life across a chipped varnish.
The world seems to consume and abuse, but the table seems to fill and sustain the weight of hope and children reaching for dessert.
Simply put, there is a world hungry for justice and mercy and tables don’t have to be perfect to feed the hungry. We don’t have to have the right job, make the right amount of money, or have the right degree to make Goodness happen in the world. If we’re staying on a table theme anyway, why not do ministry Potluck style? If we all have been given gifts, talents, different jobs, expertise, why not bring all these gifts to the table today?
I thank God he doesn’t wait on my notion of “ready”. I thank God that there is no better time than the present to do good. I thank God that there are people like you who are already sharing tables no matter the state of their condition. I thank God that while I was waiting for ministry to begin at a beautiful refinished table, it had already begun and I had a ratty old chair waiting for me.