One of the best parts of preparing a meal is sitting down with guests at the table and sharing my delicious food. When the first bites of each course are taken, I always hold my breath and pause to see and hear people’s reactions. One of the things I love about sharing my table is everyone who sits at it has different palettes and different tastes. Some will absolutely love what I have created, others might be on the fence about it, and others might offer recommendations to make it better. At times, the feedback is helpful, other times it can be hurtful. When I think about the different people I serve at my table, it made me think about how we allow others’ opinions to shape our sense of worth.
I have sometimes been told I am “too much” for people. I have a big personality, people know when I am in a room. I am not afraid to speak to a room full of people, to make small talk, I have an infectious laugh, and I am knowledgeable about a lot of topics. At times, this at times leaves people thinking I need to be the center of attention, which I don’t. Some people think I am too opinionated because I can talk about a lot of topics with authority. Other people just don’t know what to do with my high-level of energy. Until recently, I allowed these words to enter and shape how I behaved at an event, in a small group, speaking, or attending Sunday service. I began muting myself and getting frustrated for allowing these words to penetrate me.
Recently, I engaged in an online conversation about how women felt when they were told they were not enough, too docile, too fearful, not “Christian enough”, etc. We talked about the fact that as women, we may need to find a seat at a different table. The question started with “Whose table are we sitting at?” This led to, “Which table will give women the grace and patience to find and follow their calling?” The conversation then shifted to those of us who have been told we are too much. One of the ladies responded, “Too much for who? God created us to have gifts and when we use those gifts, some people don’t know how to handle women stepping into these gifts.” This got me thinking, how long have I been allowing this label of “too much” to be a determination of my identity?
Later in the day, I was reading the story of Lydia in Acts 16:11-16. Albeit a brief reading, there it was, in the text,
…a God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying.” ~ Acts 16:14
Here we have an example of a woman who built her own table as a business owner of fine cloth and was welcoming the Apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Luke to have a seat at it. In return for her hospitality, they baptized her and her entire family. They even returned to Lydia’s table after their jailing and release before departing for Thessalonica.
It hit me…was I allowing God to open my heart and hear what He had to say? No, I wasn’t. Was I allowing others to take my gifts and try to silence me because I didn’t fit their mold? Yes, I was.
There is only one mold I need to fit as a daughter of the Almighty King because I am
…fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well ~ Psalms 139:14
I questioned myself again, “Whose table was I sitting at?” Is it a table that encourages and challenges me? Is it a table where I am accepted and loved in the same way Jesus loved the outcasts? As I pondered the responses to these questions, I came to the realization it might be time for me to build my own table and take a seat at different tables where my gifts will be acknowledged, embraced, challenged (in a healthy way), and used to serve others to grow the Kingdom of God.
Whose table are you sitting at? Is it time for you to build your own table or to take a seat somewhere else?