Oxford defines the word linger as: to stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave.
I have an incredible groups of ladies who like to gather around a table for dinner every month. I wish everyone could experience a table like this. It’s our tradition to serve everything at the table. It’s our hope, in doing this, to encourage an environment of gathering, serving and lingering together for the sake of community. It’s an honest place and a place where laughter and tears are welcome. We do linger, often outstaying a normal welcome, just to share a little longer together.
I often wonder what it would have been like for the disciples of Jesus, the guys who did life with and learned from him, to linger at his table. Would it have been as joyful and as sincere at the table I enjoy with my friends? Would it have been as intimate as it is when the conversation settles on burdens and desires for prayer? Would it be gentle and peaceful, a place we always want to return? The Bible definitely depicts conversations with Jesus and his disciples, and I would image the disciples experienced all these things as well as many more.
I recently was encouraged to linger with Jesus intentionally. I began by getting into the accounts of Jesus a new mindset. I thought about the disciples experiencing a physical Jesus, then their experience of living without him. With fresh eyes, I saw ache and anguish in the loose these men and women felt in his absence.
If these disciples lingered daily in Jesus’ midst for three years, what must I do now, 2000 years later, to learn to linger with Jesus? Five minutes here and there isn’t going to cut it. Raising my hands in worship at church on Sunday mornings isn’t going to affect my life so greatly to where I miss Jesus every other day of the week. Lingering isn’t a loud car ride full of positive music. While all these have their place and perfect purpose, for me lingering is the way I want to learn to crave being with Jesus. It includes listening for him and learning to be still in anticipation and expectation. This lingering can come from conversations with just him or in community. It will come when I hesitate to leave because I don’t want to miss him rather than because I think I have to be with him.
I dread the idea of being still. Friends, I fear slowing down my mind and my heart and it shows by my constant busyness. The challenge, then, is to be simply with Jesus more often and to slow the rhythms of my world just a few minutes longer, in other words, linger.
The deep desire to know Jesus overshadows the panic of structured lingering. The imagery I find to help me understand this desire looks like a table. It is bountiful and simple, elegant and quiet. Etiquette is overshadowed by being present. Weary, busy people come to the table, yet full, calm, hope filled people leave it. Jesus is there and desires us to rest in his presence. No works, however good they may be, can obtain the right to a seat at his table. The chair is pulled out and we are offered his choice food in trade for our time and our attention.
And so, Jesus’ table is the place I will instruct myself to run to. I want to learn the grace of Jesus’ table. I want to learn the art of lingering to know Jesus better and more completely. The table has yet to become old. After years of “belonging” to Jesus, the journey of knowing Jesus has only just begun.
In this season of joy and busyness with friends and family, do you need to find your table with Jesus. Does your soul long to know Jesus, either for the first time or yet again? Carve out the intentional time to sit at his feet in wonder and begin to learn to linger just a few minutes longer.
A lingering Jesus: while I was writing this I realized how Jesus does not force us to linger, yet he is always lingering for us. He is always waiting, staying just a little bit longer than necessary until we find our place at his table. He will continue to linger as long as it takes, so let’s not keep him waiting.