The other night, Chris went to his high school’s homecoming football game and I stayed home to recuperate a bit from some difficult things that I had taken in over the course of the day/week/month/year (it’s been a little rough recently).
Thinking that taking some time to think included not making my own dinner, I ventured the mile up the street to a fast food restaurant, went inside, and placed my order at the counter.
Now, there were definitely other customers, but it’s not like the place was swarmed. After placing my order, I filled up my drink cup at the beverage station and settled in to wait for my food.
About 5 minutes went by, which was fine (I’m willing to wait a bit if need be), and I noticed that one or two of the customers who had placed orders before mine were still waiting.
Another 5 minutes went by, so I went and re-filled my drink cup (because I’d been drinking my fizzy beverage since I started waiting). Still no food.
By now, though, I’m starting to realize that customers who ordered after me have gotten their food and moved out of the ordering/receiving area. But I still wait, thinking that maybe there was just an issue with that particular food and maybe they ran out of chicken temporarily or whatever.
And then another 5 minutes went by (we’re up to 15 minutes now) and I realized that all but the two or three most recent customers had all received their food orders. Then the kid next to me (maybe he was in college) asked me how long I’d been waiting.
When other customers begin to notice that you’ve been there a while, there’s a good chance that something went awry, so I went to the counter and politely told the cashier that I’d been waiting 15 minutes for my order and had yet to see or receive it.
Upon hearing this, she promptly went and grabbed my food order from the kitchen and handed it to me in a paper bag, and I returned home and ate it.
And as I ate my now not-so-satisfying bag filled with lard, I realized that what I had experienced in the fast food restaurant was a pretty acute metaphor for my life as of late – starting with the fact that I felt forgotten.
It struck me because I had been trying to explain to both Christopher and one of my friends earlier in the week (and in the day) how I felt, and I came up with a word (abandoned) that I knew didn’t quite convey my feelings accurately, but for which I didn’t possess a better alternative.
It’s a weird concept, especially when you throw in the words “feel” and “by God.” Because, let’s face it – God’s plans are not up for grabs at a fast food counter. You don’t just go up and place your order, wait the prescribed amount of time for your next life season to fry in a tub of oil, and then take it home with you. It doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t work like that.
Nonetheless, I’m trying to root out this mentality when it comes to my expectations of God and His interest in and interaction with my life.
I feel like I placed my order 15 minutes ago, and I’ve seen people get theirs ahead of me and understood that they got here first and waited their allotments of time, but now people who arrived after me are getting theirs, too – punk kids, the geriatric crowd getting their milkshakes (I actually happen to love that older people go to get milkshakes together – I totally want to be like that, but that’s not at all my point here), and others who are pretty similar to myself.
But the thing is, I’m still waiting. Sipping my fizzy beverage from my drink cup.
And, you know, I’ve started to get a little impatient. I’m eager to get my hands on that nice hot slice of deep-fried life. It just never comes.
And then I go ask again.
Of course, this is where the analogy breaks down, because God is not the cashier at a fast food restaurant, where the customer is always right and helpings are served up almost instantaneously if only you let them know that something didn’t happen quite as it should have.
God is always right. Huge difference.
The thing that I’m really trying to work into my head, though, is that in the waiting for this big portion of life, I too easily skip over the blessing of the fizzy beverage sitting in my hand. It’s easy to complain when it’s there for too long and your hand starts to be incredibly cold, and you forget that you’ve already received part of your order – even if it’s not the piece that you think you need.
I too easily forget the many blessings that God has given to Christopher and me over the past year. It has not been easy, and the fight to keep my life out of the prison of depression has been incredibly difficult in ways it has never been, and the fight against my flesh more intense and more acknowledged. I’ve been wearied by our circumstances. I miss people who have passed into the glorious presence of our God and who have moved out-of-state. I’m even back at work hoping to pay off some things that accumulated in the wake of Christopher’s accident and buying a house (and those pesky student loan repayments that start up in February or whenever).
But God has greatly blessed us and been faithful. We might still be waiting for our order, but He’s given us drink cups to fill and be refreshed in while we wait:
- Christopher’s surgery and rehabilitation went well, with no permanent nerve damage, and he’s already back to doing most of the things he loves best
- We are happily settled into our home, which was impossible from the start, but for which God cleared every hurdle and answered every prayer for help with finances and remodeling after Christopher’s injury, and in allowing it to be a place where we can welcome others
- I finished my coursework for my grad program (though that thesis is still pending)
- Our summer with Mpact was incredible, and included a great conference, encouraging meetings with the youth, and a study of Galatians that was challenging
- Christopher’s job and coaching have continued, despite budget cuts statewide to educators
- We have gotten to spend quite a bit of time with both of our families
- When life finally settled down in September and I realized I was bored for the first time in months, I set out to find a job – and had three offers within a week
My spiritual drink cup is overflowing with gloriously sweet and fizzy beverage. I’m just struggling to see it for what it is because it’s really cold and kind of sticky on my fingers, and it’s not exactly what I wanted most out of the order I placed. I know I’m still waiting for what I ordered, and it might feel like things got lost back there behind the counter, but I’m trying to trust that it isn’t the case. The God I know and love doesn’t forget people – sins, of course, because Scripture tells us that, but not people.
And so, when you see me sitting around still waiting for my order, could you encourage me to just enjoy the unlimited refills on my fizzy beverage?
Because it’s one thing to feel forgotten by God and another entirely to believe it.
Reading: Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Listening to: Odd Soul, Mutemath; Vice Verses, Switchfoot