the merits of saying grace before a meal are many. it is important to express thanks for the food we are about to eat. it’s also helpful to recognize a Force larger than ourselves and not take for granted the fact that we have a meal to sit down to. it also has incredible power to bring us to the present moment.
think about it. meal times are busy times. at breakfast we’ve awakened to a new day, we’ve scurried around getting ready and often find ourselves racing out the door barely noticing we have eaten. lunch is sandwiched into our full days and is often consumed rather than savored. at dinner, everything around us is changing. the light is shifting, cooking smells tickle our noses, and daytime sounds are often eclipsed by either the silence of car or home or the noisiness of radio or television. all of our senses are peaked. when we finally have dinner on the table, or sit down to it, we are moving quickly.
grace quiets us. it stills us. it calls us to be aware. it, quite literally, brings us to the table.
i have noticed that when i sit down and bow my head i also often breathe in deeply. sometimes this invites a yawn. i notice smells. the darkness offered by closed eyes heightens the other senses and stills me. i need this time. i need to stop. i need to be quiet. i need to bring myself to the table.
when i begin a meal mindlessly absent from the moment i am in i am less likely to savor, to linger, to notice. i don’t see the colors on my plate or feel the textures in my mouth. i don’t attend to the sensations of satiety or feel the temperature of my drink as i swallow. when i say grace, however, i am present to all of the stimulation in small, but meaningful, ways.
where else might grace help bring me to the table? before a contentious meeting? prior to encountering a friend? a foe? might a small moment of closed eyes, gratitude-expressing, quiet change the way i shop or exercise or re-enter home after a day of work? might acknowledging the presence of God settle and soothe? might it change what i consume (be that food or entertainment or stimulation of any kind) or how i consume it?
may i grow ever more conscious of my tendency to race from moment to moment so that i can learn the habit of saying grace. and meaning it. and being at the table. on purpose.