Build Your Own Table
March 02, 2020 · by Peyton Johnston
Perhaps I’m the only one who’s ever felt left out, forgotten, or overlooked.
Perhaps . . . But I doubt it. Although for a long time, I had convinced myself I was one of the very few who could truly understand the sting of exclusion. As I looked around me, I couldn’t see past the seemingly unending line of people who had a total sense of purpose and belonging -- something that felt so very foreign to me. In my eyes, everyone else had a place, a friend, and a table to sit at, figuratively. How had I missed the secret to inclusion that every other person seemed to be in on? It wasn’t difficult to fall into the belief -- or should I say, the lie -- that no one else could relate to this lonely place.
I was involved. I was blessed. I was accomplishing. I was surrounded by people. I really had no reason to feel the things I was feeling.
Yet, I felt uninvited.
Uninvited: it’s defined as being “unwanted, unwarranted, or unwelcome.” It’s not something we particularly like to talk about. It sounds rather petty if we say it out loud, and it exposes an insecurity we’d rather push aside in order to uphold our confident appearance. We don’t like admitting that something so small could hurt us so deeply.
That’s how it was for me, anyway. I went through different seasons with different scenarios, but all were laced with some form of this hurt. In some seasons I was made to feel that my personality was too big or too small, or that I wasn’t qualified enough in some way or another. I was told who I was or was not and why that label made me inadequate. I watched opportunities I was sure I was meant for pass right by me. Or on some occasions, I was faced with apathy or exclusion from groups I had thought I was a part of.
Over time, all of these situations left me feeling like I was the only one without “an invitation to the table.” It was through that feeling I eventually found myself harboring far too much bitterness to allow myself the privilege of being called a Christian. Bitterness, as they say, is like you’re drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die.
I knew I was poisoned. And I knew something had to change.
In my limited view, I asked God to change my circumstances. But as He so often does in His infinite wisdom, He changed my perspective instead. It was as if He just whispered into my heart: “If you feel uninvited to the table, build your own table and start sending out the invitations. Or better yet, make it an open invitation to anyone and everyone who wants to sit down.”
In that moment, it was so evident. The problem was not others -- it was me. More specifically, it was my selfishness. I had been narrowing my focus on myself while throwing the blame on others.
My feelings. My voids. My problems.
Their words. Her actions. His fault.
God uncovered my eyes and helped me to see several truths.
1. Most generally, no one in my life has ever intentionally withheld an invitation to their table. They’re all humans with flawed personalities prone to oblivious mistake-making. And so am I. I wonder ... How many times have I inadvertently been the cause of someone else’s pain? How many times through my self-focus have I overlooked someone who was trying to reach out and sit at my table?
I would hope that others would choose to give me grace and assume the best in me.
So why was I not doing the same for others?
2. I am not meant to sit at every table. And that’s okay. When we fight to sit at a place unfitting for where God is guiding us in our specific season, it’s usually because we’re trying to find some kind of validation from a person or position we can really only discover by drawing closer to the Lord. We end up wasting a lot of time in frustration and miss out on our greater calling. Ultimately, we all should just be trying to sit at the feet of Jesus anyway.
3. I cannot control the actions of others, but I am in control of my own actions and reactions. I get to decide what kind of attitude I have. I get to decide whether I live in loneliness or live in community. I get to decide where my priorities lie.
Philippians 2:3-8 tells us to have the mindset of Jesus in our relationships, and to value others and their well-being above ourselves as He so humbly did for us on the cross. Jesus’s priorities have been and always will be His people. When we make His priorities our priorities, that’s when the good stuff happens.
So in a culture that promotes a self-serving attitude, I challenge us to remember we are striving to be like the One who values self-sacrificing servanthood. Let’s choose to make everybody we encounter feel like a somebody in our world, no matter our cost or inconvenience. When we create a life of uninhibited love, not only do we establish a place for others to heal from the pain of disconnection, but we also form a community that pours back into us and heals our wounds as well.
So my sweet friends, if you are struggling with feeling out of place, please know that you are most certainly not alone in that. But more importantly, know that your place in the Kingdom was carefully crafted at the beginning of time. Let’s seek out our place in Him, and let’s do it together. Let’s build our own tables and invite EVERYONE: Build a table. Invite everyone. Push your table up next to someone else’s. And just walk in unwavering, joy-filled love. Just walk like Jesus.