When I was a teenager, I sweated at the McDonalds drive-thru and saved my after-tax dollars to buy clothes. Minimum wage took ages to add up to a pair of Guess jeans, so when my friends hung out at restaurants, I would order a Coke and say I wasn’t hungry. There was no sense in wasting my clothes money on restaurant food. The server would set down juicy burgers, breadsticks brushed with butter, and golden chicken fingers in front of my friends, while the scent of French fries lingered over every table. “Want one, Beck?” my friends would ask. Yes, I did.
Three decades later, I have spent many weekends at baseball games, and the concession stand is the highlight of every game. My three sons wait their turn in line behind dusty, sunburned Little Leaguers and pore over the display window. Shelves of Skittles, Carmel Apple suckers, and Blow Pops stretch before their eyes.
If any of them happens to choose Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids or gummy bears, they will see my eyes widen and linger on their candy. I try not to be a selfish mom and ask for one, but I must have a taste. They know this about their mother and always offer me one.
Hours later, after they are tucked into bed, my husband occasionally comes downstairs to watch TV with a plate of cheddar cheese melted over tortilla chips. I want one (“one”) very badly, even though I told him I wasn’t hungry. What does hungry have to do with chips and cheese? He shares.
Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me.” As I read these words and picture God preparing a feast for ME, I imagine all these favorites. My personal Psalm 23 banquet also includes unlimited sushi, all the Spanish Tapas, and croquembouche with ice cream in every flavor for dessert.
In the presence of my enemies.
But that phrase in Psalm 23 doesn’t end with the lavishly prepared table. It says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Do you rush past that part like I do?
Aren’t we supposed to love our enemies? Eating a decadent feast in the presence of somebody else sounds so selfish. I think of how I feel when I see enticing treats that aren’t mine. Why would God prepare a beautiful banquet for me in front of people I am supposed to love?
I imagine them standing around as I breathe in the mouth-watering scents and savor each bite. Are they looking envious, hungry, angry, resentful? What is the attitude of my heart supposed to be at that point? “Ha! You enemies are getting what you deserve!” In a Psalm about a life of peace and joy and abundance, that can’t be right.
Here is what Dallas Willard says in his book Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 :
“Since I love my enemies, I would not feast upon a delicious meal in their presence and let them stand there hungry. The abundance of God’s provision and safety in my life is so great, I would invite them to enjoy what God had prepared for me.”
Aha. Once again, Dallas Willard seems to light my way to the heart of God. What is the feast that I am enjoying in this life? What banquet of blessing has been set before me? How can I share it?
God has remained good at the worst of times. And he is so, so good at the best of times. I’m gazing around at so many of you in my everyday life who live out what is described in Psalm 23: peace, joy and self-sacrificing love. I love watching you share the feast.