I’m in the booth to your left, the one tucked up against the corner of the restaurant. It smells like fries and bacon, and the waitress brings two glasses of water in tall mason jars.
I picked this table for a reason. I’ve sat here many times with my husband when it seemed like we were worlds apart on the issues of the day. Suffice it to say, he and I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye when we vote. But this is the table where my husband and I sit after every political election to have dinner and conversation together. For as long as I can remember we’ve done this after leaving the polling place just up the street from here.
The polling place — it’s where the roads of our marriage have diverged when our ink pens hover over tiny ovals on secret ballots.
Election after election, we walk into the polling place, cast our ballots, and walk out, side by side. In time, the awkwardness of this marital divide has softened, even when our differences haven’t. We often joke on our way back to the car, “Did our votes cancel each other out again?” Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.
But always we have come here, to this table.
Long ago we made the decision to break bread together in the form of a shared plate of buffalo wings. We talk. We listen. And yes, we even disagree. This has never been easy. There have been tears at this table—mine. There has been defensiveness and eye-rolling—again, mine. There have been uncomfortable conversations that we carry back through the front door into our home. But believe it or not, we have learned from each other at this table and have found common ground from time to time.
Whenever I think about this table, it gives me hope.
Maybe you’ve been feeling like no one has room at the table for you anymore because of the way you feel about politics, parenting, climate change, alcoholic beverages, policing, critical race theory, religion, science, divorce, international adoption, vaccines, or public education. The list is unending.
Chances are, you are living in the tension of being misunderstood. And maybe these days you feel rejected or abandoned. Without warning, you lost a treasured friendship that fractured over a difference of opinion. You just found out your next-door neighbor unfriended you last week.
If there’s a way forward, the path feels hidden. But ignoring our differences doesn’t actually make anything safer. It just makes us more insulated and divided. Here’s what we risk if we don’t find a way forward: we will each end up sitting at a table of one.
If we have to agree with every single person in our church on every single issue, we will be sitting in a church of one.
If we have to agree with our neighbor on every single issue, we will live in a neighborhood of one.
A book club of one. A Bible study of one. A living room of one. A family of one.
We’re all going to sit alone at Thanksgiving and Christmas and even the communion table where Jesus beckons us to “Take and eat.” A table of one.
I know how uncomfortable it is. Every election cycle, every news story, and every political event has the potential to set off fireworks in my own home—and not the pretty kind but the explosive, cover-your-ears-and-run-for-cover kind.
But my husband and I have finally come to a place where our divisions no longer shock us. In the same way, our global divisions should not shock us.
Scott and I got married knowing full well that we didn’t always agree. But we got married anyway. Here’s why: because we loved “us” more than we hated what was different.
That conviction is what keeps us coming to this table twenty-five years later. Maybe that’s a starting place for each of us today: We can love “us” more than we hate what is different.
I understand how hard this is, but silence isn’t working (and neither is shouting on Facebook). I know of friends who haven’t talked in more than a year because of divisions over recent events. These friends used to sit at the same table, vacation together, worship together. As days turn to months turn to years, that gap will continue to widen unless it’s dealt with.
Maybe we could try this instead.
Instead of unfriending that college roommate with her unending rants on social media, use the Facebook Like button to let her know you love the photo of her kid holding up his new driver’s license.
Instead of arguing with your dad over how he voted, listen as he tells you what he’s been thinking. (We can listen without agreeing and still enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey!)
This doesn’t mean that the hot-button issues aren’t important. They are. But if our divisions create an all-or-nothing mentality, then we’re all missing out. So instead of focusing on everything that divides, let’s find points of connection. We might not agree with the way our next-door neighbors parent their children, but when we get to know them, we might realize that we both share a fondness for historical fiction and sushi.
I understand that sushi won’t save the world. And I know that this vinyl booth tucked into the corner of a small-town restaurant won’t right all the wrongs.
But like the old song says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
And with you.
Right here, at our table of two.
This excerpt from Come Sit with Me was written by Jennifer Dukes Lee.
Meet Come Sit with Me: How to Delight in Differences, Love through Disagreements, and Live with Discomfort. In this brand-new book, 26 of our (in)courage writers help you navigate tough relational tensions by revealing their own hard-fought, grace-filled learning moments. They show you how to:
– delight in your differences
– honor and value others even when you disagree
– connect before you correct
– trust that God is working even when people disappoint you
– live and love like Jesus by serving others.
Whether you’re in the middle of a conflict without resolution or wondering how to enter into a friend’s pain, this book will serve as a gentle guide. Discover how God can work through your disagreements, differences, and discomfort in ways you might never expect.
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