For dust you are and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19
Like many families, my family eats on the run a lot.
We have ball practice – every kind of ball practice in every season. We have church and my husband is a pastor, so we have a lot more church than the average churchgoer. It seems like there is always church, which is mostly good, but on Wednesday “family night” suppers, Aidan sits with youth people, Owen sits with us, but “us” is usually me, because Matt is being the pastor and pastoring.
At home, eating in front of the TV became a habit for us because the DVR beckons us with her siren call. We have been together, but not together at all.
When my children were small, people would say to me, “Enjoy it now, because it goes so fast.” At the time, I thought those people were idiots. Diapers, late night feedings, temper tantrums, etc… bogged us down. It was going so slow and I was so sleepy.
It’s only now that I am beginning to see that those idiots were wise. Time is callous and cruel. It moves on even when we realize it is really going way too fast.
So, I decided that this year, we would eat at the table as a family more. I wanted just a moment each day for us to slow time down.
Yesterday, my children were five and two years old. They were adorable and delightful. They snuggled with me. They let me read to them and sing to them. Fighting between them usually occurred over toys and away from the dinner table.
Today, my children are thirteen and ten years old. They are slightly more handsome than adorable. As they grow up, I am amazed to see glimpses of the men they will soon become.
All of that said, I would sometimes like to run away from home. To a spa. Or a very quiet me-sized hole in a tree in a faraway wood.
Aidan holds an honorary doctorate in sarcasm and is working towards a master in surliness. At thirteen, he is taller than me, which makes him taller than most people. Owen, a blonde haired, blue-eyed cherub has career aspirations towards law enforcement, not so much for the action and weaponry as for the power to enforce THE RULES. And honestly, he’d look amazing in the uniform.
Their personalities are a lethal cocktail at the dinner table. Owen says something earnestly. Aidan says something witty and sarcastic which sounds mean in Owen’s pre-teen ears. There’s the “Can’t you take a joke?” and the “It wasn’t funny” and the “You just don’t get it” and the “You’re just a jerk.”
I briefly and fondly wish back the distant days of thrown peas and mashed potatoes. Those glorious high chair days.
We hadn’t even prayed yet.
“Okay,” I said in what had to be a moment of divine clarity. “This is getting out of hand.”
Protests of “he started it” and innocent looks of feigned ignorance were lobbed my way. I held up my hand. “Let’s go around the table and say something nice about each other.”
We each took a turn. The boys talked about the good they see their dad do with people in the community and at church. They actually listen and learn from his sermons. They love just spending time with him.
Apparently, they actually like each other too. They each think the other one is funny. They enjoy doing things together: video games, basketball, and laughing together. They like being brothers.
They like my cooking. Owen likes that I spend time at his school. And then my surly thirteen year old with a doctorate in sarcasm gives this insightful speech about how even though I don’t have a full time ministry job like my husband, my job is so important because I keep everything running. “You’re always there for me,” he said.
He couldn’t know about my mini mid-life crisis. This “what am I doing with my life” thing that I’ve been dealing with. But he wiped all of that foolishness away when he spoke from his heart between forkfuls of broccoli.
On the way to church later, they went back to griping, picking, and nagging. Aidan said his toothbrush tasted like soap.
Owen piped up from the back seat, “That’s because I put soap on it.”
I don’t have a perfect family, but I did have a perfect moment at the table with them. Our lives are made up of moments and most of them fly by so quickly, we barely notice them.
The ashes on our foreheads remind us that we are dust, we are a tiny blip in the timeline. The cross reminds us that we are dust worthy of notice. We are humbled and worthy, both held together in the hands of the One who spun the universe into motion.
That’s just a lesson my children taught me at the dinner table.
Rev. Melanie Kilby Storie lives in Shelby, NC with her pastor husband, Matt, and her two sons, Aidan and Owen. Currently a tutor at a local school, Melanie is finishing work on a novel, Wildwood Flower set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina about a girl who can talk the fire out of a burn.