What You Need to Set the Perfect Table (It's Not What You Think)

It was an icebreaker of sorts at a Bible study, a fun way of sharing how God had gifted each one of us to serve. Our leader wanted to help us become better acquainted, and at first, I was skeptical of her method. I had seen things like this fall short of their intended purpose.

“Think about everything you’ll want or need for a table setting,” she began, and immediately I thought of our family’s annual Valentine Tea Party and the fun my mother-in-love and I had in preparing for our guests. Sarah, ever the consummate hostess, would have her dining room table set days in advance, stark contrast to me, ever an up-to-the-last-minute girl, adding finishing touches as guests knocked on the door. I must’ve driven her crazy.

Joan reeled me back to the present as she continued her explanation. “With this picture in mind, tell us what serving piece best describes you and your passionsand why you would choose that particular piece.” To make sure we understood, she added, “I’ll go first.”

“I would be the tablecloth or placemat,” she revealed, “because God has given me the foundational gifts of leadership and teaching to encourage others to grow in their relationship with Christ and in His Word.” Her enthusiasm was infectious, filling the room. I quickly realized my skepticism about whether others would play along was unfounded. Answers were ping-ponging from every direction.

It was fascinating to learn about each woman’s heart and passions as she shared her answer. And it was equally interesting to have such a creative variety of answers — few table items were duplicated, and if they were, for very different reasons. “I’m a salt shaker!” “I’m a charger!” “I’m the centerpiece!” My friend, Hannah, was a fork; in the same way it connects food to a person eating, she connects need to people who can help meet the need. Courtney said she was a napkin because “I’m a mess sometimes, and I’ll get in the mess with you and walk beside you.” Leigh described herself as a serving platter because she loves to serve. Out of the room of women, I know these three best, and I was amazed by how perfectly something from an ordinary table described them. I have seen them walking in their calling and can testify to Leigh as a generous servant, Courtney walking alongside you, and Hannah connecting people to need or people to people.

Joan’s exercise focused on how God designed each of us with unique personalities and giftings for the purpose of serving others, and it got me thinking about an important spiritual truth: as members of the body of Christ, each one of us adds something valuable, vital, and unique1 Corinthians 12:12-27 says it this way:

 For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ . . . Indeed, the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.

If we aren’t living out our calling, something is missing — in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our world. God has carefully and purposefully put the body together, and every part needs to be in good working order for the body to be at its healthiest. Good health is a result of every part of the body functioning as it was intended.

Sweet friend, if you have any doubts, listen: you have a kingdom purpose as a vital, valuable, unique part of the body of Christ. For the body to be at its healthiest, we need you to live out your calling. Your past failures or sins don’t disqualify you for service in God’s kingdom, neither does your age or stage of life. Over the past several months, I’ve read comments on a few (in)courage posts that broke my heart — women who feel like they don’t have anything to offer, women who’ve been hurt by others or even the church, women who feel like they’ve “aged out” of need or value or are too young.

Those are lies, and you need to stop believing them now. There’s a beautiful wedding feast in our future, and between now and then, you have something beautiful to add to make sure the table is perfectly set.

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