Have you ever found yourself assigned to the most random table at a wedding reception? You walk up to the seating chart (probably listed on a chalkboard) with all your friends and find out you’re seated halfway across the room. Instead of being next to your companions, you’re sitting next to Aunt Judy ‘the wino’, a socially unaware cousin, Mike, and a newlywed couple that is still color-coordinating their dress and tie.
This situation is a case of the friend table being maxed out and the bride and groom needing someone to sit at the “random” table. They chose you knowing you would be the one to offer up some banter and conversation with each person. They were right.
It’s through this picture that we realize we don’t always get the freedom to choose who we are around or who is seated at our table. And then there are other parts of life in which we have complete freedom to say who we want near us and who to keep at bay.
Let me take this one step further. Let us step out of the physical and into our minds. Think of all the different voices that we hear throughout the day. I am not talking about being schizophrenic, but the things we hear that influence us or help us make decisions or shape how we perceive something or someone.
Imagine a space with a long wooden dining table set in preparation for the guests to arrive. You are seated at the head of the table and you have the freedom to invite whomever you want. Those seated at this table are going to help you understand your thoughts, assist you in making decisions, get lost in imagination, help you overcome hard moments, etc. Unlike the reception table where you were ‘stuck’ for 2 hours chatting to Aunt Judy about her wine-of-the-month club, at this table you have a choice. You don’t have to put up with the randomness and you can choose to have Wisdom as the guest of honor.
I find that this extravagant table in my mind often has guests that shouldn’t be allowed to be an active part of the conversation. For example, when I am waking up in the morning, I start thinking about my day and what needs to get done. It is in that moment, that my guest Rest or Calmness can have a moment to shine. But often I hear Negative speak up… ”Ahhh ummm, seems like you have too much planned. Good luck getting that done.” Or Worry… “Ooo, I wonder what they will think if you do that.” Or Striving… “Well before you take a break, make sure you check this box. Then you’ll be ahead and you’ll have earned the rest.”
It’s all these guests that have such easy access to sway decisions and affect how we perceive ourselves, God and one another. They have power because we have given them power. We let them sit too close to us, when in reality, they need to get up from the table because they are not welcome. Any guest that is not there to help produce fruit in your thoughts is not welcome to hang around. They are passersby.
The subconscious can be a mystery and sometimes these characters are playing a huge role and we don’t even know it. I recently have become more aware of my thoughts, who is seated at my table, and who keeps interrupting. When Patience, Joy, Hope, Wisdom, Rest are close, no matter the circumstance or worry things begin to change. Fear has to leave, Paranoia flees, and then Truth comes back, Grace is extended to the person beside me, and even Love is extended to myself.
A simple way to identify the key players is to pay attention to your thoughts. Sounds easy but we often let things slip and become lazy in our thinking. This allows the guests to play musical chairs and inch by inch get closer to a place of influence. When I start to feel anxious or worried, I take a moment. I breathe. I invite God into the situation and ask Him to bring perspective and say who I want seated with me. Grace come. New Perspective come. Wisdom make your way. When I do this, I physically become lighter and the critic is forced to leave the table. I am left with sound judgment and Hope whispering into my ear “It’s going to be ok. This will pass. You’re not alone.”
The freedom and tools we have to rewire our minds and develop healthy patterns of thinking amazes me. We are not enslaved by our old ways of thinking. If you find yourself feeling like a victim, in many cases, those are voices that are not talking about who you really are. Those are the kind of voices you are not going to invite over for a dinner party. I hope you begin to see that you are not a slave or stuck with the table that you have created. The table can change. There is freedom. Who you include at your table changes the conversation and creates new habits that are full of healthy words. It takes time and that is ok. But it can start today! Today, when you wake up and while you read this, I hope you can sense a lightness and decide to which guests it is time to say ‘hit the road’ and to which guests you give a big welcome.