We had been sitting at the table waiting on our food for over an hour. “We” included me, my husband, all four of our children, and all of their grandparents. We had called ahead to make sure a table would be available for us when we arrived. We were coming to celebrate.
A few hours earlier, the curtain opened on the professional ballet production of The Nutcracker. Both of my daughters had auditioned and earned spots to perform with the local cast. After months of rehearsals, they performed excellently as a little angel and a mouse. When it was over, we took pictures and loaded up for a meal, trooping into the eatery with dozens of roses (from dad) and memorial snow globe gifts (from snow-loving me) and programs and jackets and cameras and phones. We were all a bit bleary eyed from an afternoon in the darkened theater. The brothers were restless from hours of stillness. The grandparents were a little tight and stiff from folding into theater seats and traipsing about with four grandchildren. All in all, we were a happy, hungry lot.
So there we sat and ordered and waited. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Over an hour later, the manager approached our table and began apologizing. He apologized profusely. He offered to compensate us the cost of our appetizers (from almost an hour earlier). Food came out plate by plate, and my youngest children were served last. When my daughter’s dinner arrived, it was not prepared properly. She ate around the icky macaroni pieces with a content heart and I marveled. I wanted the manager to compensate more than the appetizers. I don’t know what I wanted exactly, but my sweet girls’ celebration turned less happy because of all the waiting, and I had tried to plan a happy day that went just so, and the restaurant was messing up my plans.
That’s the story of my life. I plan “just so” and “just so” doesn’t work out exactly the way I thought. And I get grumpy. And God comes into my heart and moves things around and reminds me that I can’t control all the things, and I can’t overvalue the “just so,” and I need to let Him be in charge of my world. Sometimes I wish I could just let go of all of my expectations and my good efforts to make a plan that will accommodate everyone’s needs in an efficient, kind manner. I don’t think my efforts and my heart are at fault, but if I can’t be gracious and kind when my plans don’t work out, then I need a readjustment. And God knows this. He gently teaches me all the time.
After the grandparents decided whose turn it was to pay (bless them), I saw the bill delivered to my dad. The manager again apologized, explaining he had comp’d the appetizers. My dad smiled and told him, “If you feel like you need to do that, then you do it. But the waitress we had tonight was great. I plan to give her a good tip, and I just wanted you to know.” He didn’t berate the man. He didn’t comment on his granddaughter’s poorly prepared meal. He didn’t demand further compensation for food we had, indeed, received and either consumed or boxed up. He gave grace and acted in the love of Christ, and I was thankful he was the one on the spot as a representative of the kingdom of God in that moment rather than me. I would have brought up the tough pieces of macaroni.
I looked back on our meal together after a few days had gone by, and I saw it through a different light. I saw all of my children interwoven around a table among all of their grandparents–a gift in itself. I saw a group of people who were, all in all, content to wait on food and enjoy each other’s presence in the meantime. I saw a gracious father show the love of Christ to a manager, who very likely expected an opposite reaction. (I’ve worked in a restaurant and witnessed how very mean people can be when their food is late or wrong or too hot or too cold.) I can see the red roses on the center of the table, a reminder of the beautiful dances we’d enjoyed. Our time to celebrate the girls wasn’t rushed by the quick arrival of food. We lingered. And we loved on each other. And then we broke bread together.
What “just so” expectations do you have that God might be asking you to hold onto with a very loose hand? What can you celebrate today? What are you eagerly waiting for this holiday season? What is the “icky macaroni” in your life that God might be calling you to overlook or receive with contentment? What examples of faith can convict and encourage you this Christmas? Where might God’s grace and love show up and surprise you today?
Instead of looking for my long-awaited and poorly-prepared meal, I’m going to spend my time looking for the Bread of Life, my Jesus, who never fails to help me see truth, to help me know love, and who always, always satisfies even the very deepest longings of my soul. May He meet you where you are today, too, and help us all celebrate His coming with peace and love and grace and joy.
Then Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. And whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35