Transforming kitchen tables into sacred spaces


She's gifted speaking on stage, but Shauna Niequist may be at her best when sitting at a table. The wildly popular speaker and blogger has written four books--three of which were named after food--and is on a mission to help Christians rediscover their tables as a sacred space. Her last book, Bread and Wine, paired spiritual insights with personal recipes. And her most recent book, Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are, takes readers on a 365-day journey to enjoy "work and play, coffee and kids, meals and prayers and the good stuff and the hard stuff." Here we discuss why these concepts are so important to her, and even offers an never-before-shared recipe. RNS: Life is busy for many people, but you've made it your mission to get people to slow down and "savor" their relationships with God and others. Why is this so important?

SN: Our culture values speed and efficiency, multi-tasking and hustling. When we sign on for those ways of living, we are indeed productive. We’re effective, we achieve. But those behaviors have a dark edge, too—if we’re not careful, they disconnect us from God, from ourselves, from those we love. They turn us more into machines than living, breathing humans. Over time, we lose our ability to see and think and feel on a deep level. I believe that’s a dangerous way to live.

In the last couple years I got closer to that edge than I ever want to again. In this season, I’m intentionally looking for ways to do less, to live more simply, to connect more deeply. It is making me less effective, certainly, in the conventional sense. I work less. I accomplish less. Things are messier around here. But the trade-off--for me and for the people I love--has been entirely worth it.

RNS: You point people to their kitchen tables and often integrate food is into your approach. What role does food play?

SN: The first is more obvious: [tweetable]Food is a way of loving people and connecting people.[/tweetable] While there are many great ways to connect—running together or quilting or cycling or whatever--I really believe that eating together, holding space for one another around the table, is a sacred and meaningful endeavor. The second is that food is a symbol for the whole material, tactile, messy, loud, smelly world God made. I love this world. I love the sounds and smells and textures, and they seem to me to be just as divine as the ideas and beliefs we hold about God. A lot of modern Christianity is about your head—right beliefs that don't engage our senses or connect us to the world God made. Food gets us back to caring about material, tactile life, not just brains and ideas.

RNS: How can the table be a place where people can work through their disagreements?