“When I am in the Father’s presence, I feel like I am at a banquet, where the table has been spread for me, and there has been such attention to detail put into every part of the meal. The true power of that meal is there is no fear in His eyes if I decide to get up and leave. Because there is always an open seat for me at His table.” – Tony AndersonThe upcoming film, The Heart of Man, shows us a picture of us a good, trustworthy Father who stands at the head of the table, affirming, enjoying, and loving each one of us, no matter what season of life we are in. Family, friends, and newcomers to the community all sit together, some entering with others into hard places, others celebrating each other, and all enjoying a meal made with extravagant love. The depth and goodness of the relationships provide an atmosphere where pain and loss, grief and loneliness, do not carry the same power as they would in isolation. And healing is not just a theory, but an ongoing practice that takes place day in and day out. The entire picture illustrates the care and creativity of committed friends who know they are loved, needed, and valued. Friends who know they are indispensable to each other. The strength of this community welcomes all members to come as they are, and stay as long as they like. An innate longing for this table, this sense of community, this place where we can be known and loved, has been woven into our very DNA! Dan Allender describes what this kind of environment, this kind of interaction with God, would be like in a shame-free world.
A community like the one Allender describes allows us to experience a Father who doesn’t need us to fix ourselves up before coming into His presence.
Try to imagine a shame-free world where there is no looking at oneself with judgment, where there is looking at the other with nothing but joy. Looking at your fellow man, your fellow woman, and your God and the world He created—all these relationships would be playful. Your day would be full—an investigation of stars, of cells, of trees. In the garden, everything would have been new and fresh and alive, and everything would have been connected to something else that one doesn’t know. There would be an accumulation of joy each and every day as you climbed the highest mountains and dived the deepest oceans. At the end of your play—in the cool of the day—God shows up. And he’s going to sit down with you, eager to hear what you’ve investigated, what you found, what kind of joy you discovered. It is sitting down with a really good brew, with a really good meal, having a conversation with a really good friend about the best things in life.
What happened through Christ at the cross opened the door even more widely to freedom, strength, and safety with the Father. When we believe in Christ, we get to risk a life without masks, without hiding. His table is a place where you can be known deeply and don’t have to worry that the Father is ever offended by the real you. In fact, He cannot wait for your next conversation! Shauna Niequist describes what is so powerful about coming to the table.
The table is a place where there is no hiding, where we can share our brokenness with others. Some of us, tired and weary of isolation, discover we are being called by God to create such a community for ourselves and other like-hearted friends. Maybe even someone you watched this movie with. Risking such vulnerability is the very best kind of terrifying. The alternative is staying hidden and unknown, perhaps pretending to those around you that you’re doing okay even though you’re in incredible pain. To feel and experience others’ love, we have to trust them enough to let them into our real selves. It takes great courage, but it is worth the risk. We noticed something else very early on at this table. Not all of us are able to fully enjoy the meal. Sometimes we’re preoccupied and struggle to stay in the moment. Maybe that’s how it is for you, too. Half here and half in your own head . . . islands away. But never the Father. He is always there, and He sees what no one else can. Even while He is blessing and enjoying everyone at the table, He understands that we are islands away, and He’s already planning how He will bring us back home. This takes place at every table, in every community. Someone always hides in the midst of community, afraid to be known. The gifts of forgiveness, repentance, and unconditional love are all available to everyone, at every meal. Yet our heads are elsewhere . . . lost in fantasy or intentional sin. Not even a great Father or His gracious welcome is enough to woo us away from that which remains hidden.
COME TO THE TABLE “We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for.
The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”
This article is adapted from the film, THE HEART OF MAN, a story inviting the sons and daughters of God to leave behind our broken, moralistic, and religious way of thinking and relating to God and to others. Once we begin to know who God is (and as a result who we are), we can experience true freedom. Freedom from performance. Freedom from managing our behavior so we appear acceptable to God. And freedom from our addictions, compulsive behaviors, secrecy and double lives. This film offers an invitation to the banquet God is throwing all of us.View THE HEART OF MAN and receive hope and freedom for those struggling with shame and an unawareness of how deeply they are loved by the Father.