The dinner table is something that has been respected and revered across all generations and cultures. Though it has adapted and changed, it still holds a place of value in all households. Most homes are built with the kitchen as the focal point, our country has built the restaurant industry based on the concept that people cherish eating together, parties and events are scheduled at meal times so special occasions can be celebrated with food. We offer guests drinks and snacks when they come to visit us even if just for a few minutes. Something deeply ingrained in each of us understands the connection and intimacy that is built around sharing a meal with someone.
Our culture is slowly shifting away from this with the invention of the drive-thru and the idolization of busy. However, even in the midst of busy it is oh so important that we relish in the moments we do get to share a meal with friends or family, even if they are few and far between. These moments are how we as a collective learn to interact together, we experience intimacy on a new level when we put our phones down and take the time to enjoy the moment, the food, the full experience.
Jesus was no stranger to this concept. His first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast, and one of his last moments with the disciples was around the dinner table at the last supper. He understood and embraced the importance of time spent together. That desire to relish in the intimacy spent over a meal didn’t change with his death and resurrection, if anything it has developed into something more urgent.
We are missing a crucial piece in our society, we lack connection. Most days are spent with faces buried into phones and laptops (mine included) and we never fully connect with the people we encounter, things that we do, or even with God. The average attention span of people today is roughly 8 seconds, and slowly diminishing. This means we can only focus on something for 8 seconds before we lose interest. And our smartphones only spur this on, we have the world at our fingertips when something gets boring we can switch to something else. We open multiple tabs and celebrate the fact that we are so good at multi-tasking, when in reality we are not able to focus on any of it. This does not change when we interact with other people. Our attention span stays the same, and often times and we find ourselves wanting to change tabs, topics, or ideas when someone is mid sentence. We never connect with what they have to say, and with that we miss out on connecting with who they are.
It’s interesting isn’t it; Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms were created to build connection with people all over the world, but it has in fact done the opposite. We spend more time seeking connection through these outlets and forget that there are people in the room with you who want to connect as well. We as a culture are starving for more and we can’t find it because we continue to look for it in likes, comments and re-tweets.
Jesus’s intentionality to spend time connecting with people over meals was an example. It is almost as if he knew one day we would face a crisis of lost connection. Humans were designed for intimate connection and without it we suffer, our ability to thrive and succeed suffers. This is why people are so desperately seeking the next like and are disappointed when it doesn’t fulfill them.
Building intimate connections is something we have to learn (which is why Jesus set so many examples of it).Taking even five minutes at the end of the day to put away phones, computers, and turn off the TV to just be with your family is important. Especially if you have little ones. By setting this time aside and emphasizing it’s importance we are reminding ourselves and those we love that connection to one another is the most important thing this world has to offer. Social media is a good thing, a tool beneficial to many of us, but it CANNOT replace the intimate connection of face to face interaction.
Edit: This article received a lot of attention so I decided to follow it up with some practical tips of how to overcome a few of the temptations of social media. Check it out here