“She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.” (Proverbs 31:14, 15).
In ancient cultures, food preparation was a constant, never-ending task for the homemaker. There was no pre-packaged or frozen food available, and the job often demanded long, even pre-dawn hours to accomplish her task.
The evening meal was the crown jewel of this food-preparation phase of the homemaker’s responsibilities, because it represented the one time of the day the whole family could be together.
During and after the meal, the experiences of the day were shared, the children received correction and instruction, and, in Jewish and Christian families, the Lord was honored after the meal. It was a bonding time where family unity was built and direction and purpose for the family was communicated.
However, TV trays, Little League, school activities, and irregular work schedules, to say nothing of fast-food restaurants, have made this time as rare as CD players in today’s world. It is almost impossible to reserve this time for all family members to be at home around the table every night. But making it top priority, and accepting very few reasons for missing an evening meal, communicate its importance and improve attendance dramatically. This time can be one of the main weapons in the parent’s arsenal for imparting vision to their children.
The meal itself is a critical part of the effectiveness of the event. If it is hastily thrown together with little thought, or if mealtime is habitually late, or not served at any particular schedule, the importance of the occasion is not communicated. On the other hand, if the homemaker has given herself to the planning and preparation of a substantial meal, well presented, at the announced time, the stage is set for the family to be built up and strengthened.
When our children, Adam, Jason, and Ramah, were young, we didn’t understand this at all, but we stumbled into an unconsciously reasonable facsimile. Our ritual around the table at night naturally evolved into a report from each child on important events of the day, including whatever they had learned that they thought was significant at school. All listened as each child had the stage for his turn. I can remember many times explaining more fully some idea that had arisen, or going off on some tangent, following the questions of three young, inquisitive minds. “L..L..L..Let me show you on a napkin,” uttered with my slight stutter, was a phrase I used often that we all remember fondly today. Those times were crucial in imparting the idea that learning is important, and I believe they promoted a thirst for it as well.
Young children, particularly, need the structure this meal provides. Being dragged from pillar to post every evening, with no set schedule, and no regular meal, does not contribute to growing into secure young adults. Mother’s meal preparation is a foundational component to everything else that can happen during this time.
I watched the young couple, who were living with us at the time, begin the day. The husband generally left for work shortly after 6:00 A.M. His wife got up with him while their girls were sleeping and prepared a light breakfast while he was getting ready, and then they had a brief time alone together. When he left, she went back to bed. She then fixed breakfast for her children when they got up. She was literally “arising while it is yet night” to “provide food for her household,” fitting her schedule to her husband’s. To her, breakfast was also important, as she sent her husband out to provide for her and their children on a full stomach!
My wife, Jill, used to hate mornings, but she got up for years to make breakfast and school lunches for our children. She understood that children need a good, hot breakfast before they begin the day. This is a vital part of the homemaking profession. Eventually, as the children reach teen years, having them fix their own lunches is good training in taking responsibility.
The final aspect of food preparation to consider is the impact it can have as a ministry to others outside the family, both believers and unbelievers. I believe the message communicated to guests invited into the home for dinner is more significant than is generally recognized.
In the Bible, providing a meal for a guest was a way of showing honor to that guest. In Genesis 19, Abraham was visited by three heavenly visitors, a physical, pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus, along with two angels, probably Michael and Gabriel.
Abraham recognized them as, at the very least, having been sent from God. He, after bowing himself to the ground in greeting, went to Sarah his wife and told her to quickly begin preparation of a rather elaborate meal, including freshly baked cakes, butter, milk, and a freshly killed calf. This was Abraham’s way of honoring such important visitors.
In the next chapter in Genesis, the two angels visited Lot in Sodom to warn him of its coming destruction. Upon entering Lot’s house, “he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate” (Genesis 20:3).
In the New Testament we see the same pattern. Jesus, as a distinguished teacher, was often the honored guest at meals, or feasts (Luke 5:29-32; 7:36-39). He also used the concept of bestowing honor at feasts in His parables (Luke 14:18-24; Matthew 22:1-14). At the Last Supper He inaugurated His New Covenant with the first New Covenant meal, with His disciples as His honored guests, with the bread and wine representing His own body and blood which He was about to shed for our sins. Each Sunday, as we renew that Covenant with Him at Communion, we are in places of honor at His table, as He provides the ultimate meal for His people.
When we begin to recognize the importance of Jesus honoring us at communion we will see the power available to us in inviting guests into our homes and honoring them by providing a meal for them, accompanied by the same love flowing through us that Jesus provides around His table.