The Family Meal
Much has been said in our times by psychiatrists and family experts about bonding between parents and children. Fathers and mothers are told to hold, hug, rock, and talk with their children in the very first hours and days of their lives. This, it is believed and strongly affirmed, will create healthy family relationships and build self-esteem in the children. How much of this is measurable by true scientific research may be questionable, but it surely makes good common sense.
A sense of being loved and respected is important to a healthy mind and to feelings of self-worth. Why would not the handling of children and words of endearment early on mold a wholesome attitude in offspring toward themselves and their parents? And what is also clear is that such relationships must continue on throughout childhood and adolescence right into adulthood. The bonding is ongoing when there is togetherness and unity—when the family shares in work, play, problem-solving, Bible study, prayer, and a host of activities.
It is a great time for visiting with one another: talking about Dad’s day at work, about mom’s labors in the home, about the kid’s activities at school. It might include talking about a math problem, a funny joke, a favorite teacher, a political issue, an outstanding sports feat, a moral dilemma, an encouraging friend, an anticipated career—whatever. The important point is that families spend time together and show an interest in one another and one another’s lives.
A great time to do this is at the dinner table when the whole family assembles for the evening meal. The only problem is that there is no family meal any longer. The first problem is that Mom is no longer in the home to fix meals. With the extra money she makes outside the home they can grab on the way home some McDonalds, a pizza, or a few tacos. And a second problem: they take their meals to the living room and gather around the TV to watch a cartoon or a recorded sit-com.
And there goes what could be the most important hour of the day. The family meal, brethren, if I may say it without being sacrilegious, ought to be the “altar” around which the parents and children assemble each day to display their love, honor, and interest in and toward one another. It should be a “sacred” time—a time set apart for commitment and dedication to the needs and interest of each individual family member. Someone said: “The family that eats together stays together.”
Paul Harvey, many years ago, reported on the lack of crime in Chinatown—an area in Chicago. He had gone to Chinatown to speak to public officials and other important figures about the profound respect children had toward their parents and concluded that one reason for the low crime rate was that children had a wholesome dread of bringing reproach on their families. But why did they esteem their families so highly? Harvey’s conclusion, after much research and many questions, was that the family meal was sacred to the Chinese; it was inviolable—a ritual in which every family member must share.
A “worthy woman,” according to Proverbs 31, “looks well to the ways of her household…she rises also while it is yet night, and gives food to her household” (vv 15, 27).
Worthy wives and mothers take seriously the role of cooking for their husbands and children. When they do they can set a time daily for a family gathering in which the members of the family share their lives, blend their hearts, and bond their souls in oneness and love. Oh what wonders this one simple, ancient practice could work in a nation that is divided and falling apart at the seams. The family meal, brethren: remember it and restore it in your home!
- L.A. Stauffer