There we sat, dinner was finally on the table, all the family gathered around at Easter/Christmas/Thanksgiving/4-H Steer of the Year/Grandma cured her hemorrhoids/ whatever . . . with all my favourite dishes set out on the table. We could not wait to dig in. My mouth was watering, my brother was drooling more than normal, and grandma already had her teeth in and ready to go.
And then someone would say, “Wait, Wait! We have to say grace!”
And several people would smile but their legs would kick out underneath the table in the general direction of the person who spoke.
And everyone would have to bow their head and some tattle tale would tell on someone whose eyes were not closed tight and their head not bowed and then there would be the argument of “how would you know that unless your head was not bowed and your eyes were opened,” and the pot and the kettle would scream, and the parents would insist everyone close their eyes and then there would have to be a grace period while a responsible adult checked to make sure. After the “all clear” pronouncement, someone would be asked to say prayer and it would always end up being “Aunt Maude,” even though I had already fervently been pre-praying “please please God don’t let it be Aunt Maude.”
I am not sure what the point of praying is when you have just scientifically proven that God does not answer prayers.
Some people argue when people ask them to be the “one.” They say things like “no, I couldn’t, really . . . I said it last year, how about giving Jimmy a turn?” but not my Aunt Maude. She was going to pray. I actually believed that if anyone ever had been asked to say prayer, she would have WWF wrestled them for it … and won. So Aunt Maude would start praying. She would being by recapping the entire world’s history since her last family prayer. Think power point presentation/home movies except she described every picture because pictures were not allowed on account of someone made the rule that praying was not praying if your eyes were open. Then she would move onto the the “thank-you’s” and letting the Lord know we had noticed what was happening around us. Evidently there must be some kind of prize for letting the Lord know you can see his hand in everything. I think the Lord’s hand preceded Waldo and pictures and books. People just sat around trying to see the “hand” somewhere in the “picture” they were sitting in. Aunt Maude would continue with the requests for family, friends, neighbours, their pets – both those here and those passed, and people we drove by on the street or we stood next to in a grocery line once. She was a gift to everyone’s life in that they would be prayed for whether they wanted it or not. Eventually the food was mentioned, but not just the food in general, every ingredient, every person who ever looked at the food, the process involved in getting it to the table in its current state, and the lack of those things prior (like there not being any cranberries available one year) that make you grateful for the current rich abundance.
And an hour would pass. Uncle John would snore at one point and his head would drop into his plate. Once his fork got stuck in his forehead and we had to interrupt prayer to argue about whether we should pull it out or not or whether that would kill him. Aunt Maude reached over, yanked it out, handed him a serviette, and folded her hands and closed her eyes. We were being called back to the praying portion of the family dinner.
You can’t pray that long without there being some serious damage. Mom’s famous green bean casserole would get cold and congealed, and my mouth would get dry. My brother would be normal drooling and grandma would have taken her teeth back out and dropped them in Grandpa’s water. She always fell asleep during Aunt Maude’s praying. Uncle Bob usually would leave the table and would be watching the football game in the other room with the dog.
But that was back in the day. Now, people are not so big on the praying, and if they are, it is brief and many people are already dishing up anyway, without teeth. People skip the whole table thing and everyone is in front of the TV, watching the football game, because we don’t listen to one another talk, let alone pray. Aunt Maude types are moved into the formal living room with a proper tea tray and a bible close by. They keep the room dark, play soothing music and pretty much lock her in there.
People may not pause before a meal to pray but they still pause. Everyone at the table has to pull out a cell phone and take pics of the food set on the table. Then they have to get a shot of it dished out on their plate, half eaten, and then completed. You have to photograph it, think of something incredible to say, and then get it onto social media somewhere because you know the whole world is dying to know what you are having for lunch. There is even a Pinterest category for green bean casserole and people write things like “WOW” and “mmmm,” because people have replaced God with food and pics in their esteem and worship. Eyes are wide open in this modern world because no-one likes those pics where the camera catches you with your eyes shut … or your lips unpursed … or hair untossed.
But before you go patting each other on the back on our apparent evolution as human beings you should think about the cost of modern technology.
We love our food. And we love to share our food, well not the actual food, just the pictures of our food. It is very spiritual and social of us. A good enough picture of our food and people envy us and weep over their ramen noodle lunch. It is a status symbol. We don’t share our real photos, or real contact, but we certainly share our food pics.
And sometimes, we even find a picture of God IN the green bean casserole. That is called irony. It is a sign and then some, and somewhere, up there, both God and Aunt Maude smile and high five one another. They probably take a selfie and post it on Snap Chat.
Now that is progress.
In a totally socially networked kind of way ….