It had started out as usual – lovely turkey and trimmings and far-flung family sitting around the well-laid table enjoying their first and second courses. Then, during dessert came a snide remark. A glass of water was thrown in someone’s face. And suddenly one in-law was about to throttle another. I screamed, “Stop!” and watched as half our guests slipped guiltily away from the table, retreating to the family room to hide from my wrath for the rest of the evening.
I lost my voice that night, and it took a full week to get it back. But I learned some things from that dinner that have changed the family dynamics ever since.
First, I realized that I had invested more preparation time keeping my cat away from the butter dish than I had praying for my family.
Not that I was anticipating disaster. They are a lovely and sane group of people who exercise a reasonable level of self-control. But sometimes the stresses of preparation for the holidays, changes in work schedules, and general fatigue can turn a normal family gathering into a battlefield unless we engage in the prayer that protects and defends each one invited to the table.
It should be a joy to prepare a meal that brings family together. An essential ingredient of that preparation, however, is prayer that calls forth the highest and the best in all the participants as children of God. It is Love that gathers us to the table. Divine Love is the Spirit that Mary Baker Eddy referred to when she wrote: “Spirit duly feeds and clothes every object, as it appears in the line of spiritual creation, thus tenderly expressing the fatherhood and motherhood of God. Spirit names and blesses all” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 507).
Identifying each participant as the child of divine Spirit can help lift off world-imposed “in-law/outlaw” labels that might otherwise claim the floor during the festivities. In the line of spiritual creation, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Mother/daughter, father/son, sibling/sibling tensions dissolve as the line of spiritual creation appears to us in prayer.
This statement by Mrs. Eddy represents to me what happens when this essential prayer is neglected: “Without natures particularly defined, objects and subjects would be obscure, and creation would be full of nameless offspring, – wanderers from the parent Mind, strangers in a tangled wilderness” (Science and Health, p. 507).
After seven days of having no voice, I realized that I hadn’t yet gotten over my anger at what had occurred that night. I suppose I was awaiting an apology or some sign of repentance. It didn’t come.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t forgive. In order to do it, though, I needed to understand why I didn’t have to fear a repeat in the future. I could pray right then for the next gathering.
In prayer, I saw that my true home is my spiritual consciousness of God’s love. The Psalmist promises that we live in the house of the Lord. There is no room in divine Love’s house for unacceptable attitudes or behavior. My home is designed by Love to welcome and bring out the best in every one of God’s children.
Getting a clear sense of what is and is not invited to my table or acceptable in my home, I could release the pain and anger of my wilderness experience with a family that had been left undefined by prayer.
I forgave them. I forgave myself. My voice came back all at once. And I began to look forward to the next holiday meal.
I wish you the happiest holiday preparations. For the sake of all those gathering under your roof, don’t leave out the most essential preparation for a fulfilling, happy time.
Originally published as a blog on the author’s website.
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