For a long time, our kitchen table was one of the few new pieces of furniture we owned. As kids straight out of college living on two journalist's salaries (read very little money), our furniture consisted mostly of a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs. A bedroom set straight out of the '70s and a couch and chair that was originally bought by my grandparents made up the bulk of our furniture.
I remember when we bought our kitchen table and chairs. It was originally bought to go in our dining room. We looked for just the perfect table, one with plenty of room to stretch for entertaining (it seats 14 with both leaves in) and simple styling. For years, it sat in our dining room, rarely used except for special occasions.
Then, we moved to a house that doesn't have a dining room, and it became our kitchen table where it was pressed into daily use. My kitchen table doesn't look nearly as pristine as it did in the days when it was only used a couple times a year. The finish is wearing off in places. There's a 3-inch-long scratch that it gained during the move. As I wiped it down the other day, I discovered someone's Sharpie marker had bled through their paper to the wood below.
As I cleaned up the other day before some friends came over for the evening, I took a good look at my kitchen table. It no longer resembles that beautiful piece of furniture we bought as young newlyweds. It's got a worn, well-used look to it. It has seen many dinners, birthday parties, craft projects and kids doing homework. It's been burned, scarred, marked and worn.
But as I looked at that table, I realized that all those imperfections don't matter because that table is where my family gathers. If our kitchen table could talk, it could tell you the story of our family. It could tell you about the moments of sorrow and the days when we shout for joy. It could tell you about the sillly dinnertime conversations and the serious talks we've had. It could tell you about moments of family crisis and moments where love won out over anger.
Because despite those marks and scars that our kitchen table carries, it serves it's purpose in our home well. It's not just a surface to set things on, it's a the heart of our home. It's a symbol of togetherness. Despite its less-than-pristine state, our kitchen table serves its purpose well.
And we're a lot like our kitchen tables. Every single one of us carries the marks and scars of the battles of life. We've all been shaped by moments of pain and tragedy and moments of triumph and joy. Like our tables, we have stories to tell; stories that serve a purpose. All those scratches and dents, all those moments of joy give us a purpose far beyond simply going through the motions of life. Every experience that has shaped us is one that God can use for His purpose. There's no scratch or dent that we've experienced that can't be used to further God's purpose. Romans 8:28 carries this promise: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose."
Our kids have scratches and dents, too. As they leave our homes, the world does its best to ding them up before they return home. Our job is to help our kids understand that when we get dinged up, it doesn't make us useless. It actually makes us more useful to God. He can use our hurts and our mistakes to help others. He can use our imperfect selves to do way more in this world than if we pretend we're perfect.
When my kitchen table was only used a couple of times a year, it was useful but it didn't get used much. I protected it. I wanted to keep it looking nice. Now that our table is used every day, I still protect it to some degree, but I let people use it for a whole lot more than I did when it was a special occasion piece. And we're just like that. God can use our less-than-perfect finish to make an impact on the world because it's only through our imperfections that others can see and understand the saving grace of our perfect God.
So, if you're feeling a bit dinged up today or your kids have picked up some scratches and dents along the way, take a look at your kitchen table. Run your hand lovingly over the scratches, the dents and the Sharpie marker remnants. Use it as a reminder that we don't have to be perfect to be useful to God. We don't have to offer up a pristine exterior to the world. God uses those scratches and dents in mighty ways when we let Him.