Sitting in a burger joint with my son across the table, I ask him if he would mind ordering one of the $4 specials because I had just recently been laid off from my job and wanted to cut back financially. He didn’t mind, so we ordered. As we waited for our food, I noticed a young family seated directly across from us. Parents probably in their early 20s and a daughter who was a toddler. I noticed both parents wore wedding rings, I noticed they were having a genuine conversation and were not distracted by texting or Facebooking on their cell phones. They seemed genuinely interested in what each other had to say, all while including their daughter in the discussion. It was definitely family time for them. Very admirable in my book.
I continued to talk to my son about his day; typical Friday dinner conversation with a 10-year-old. The waitress walked our direction and placed plates of food in front of the young family. They shuffled the burger platters, grabbed napkins, scooted the toddler up to the table, and then it happened. They each grabbed one another’s hands, bowed their heads and began to say grace. Now, have you ever had that full body, head to toe, kidney punch from God? You know that punch, don’t you? The punch that makes you realize how much more you could be and should be doing for Him. The punch that makes you instantly realize just how much He does for you and how little you have done for Him in return. The guilt-ridden punch that brings you the sober realization that you dropped the ball, followed by the even worse realization that you never picked it back up. I know that punch all too well. In fact, at that booth in that restaurant, across from that family saying grace, God pounded me with one of those punches, and I was out.
While down for the count, my mind flashed back to about two years before. I was in the same exact restaurant with my same son. Sitting in the same exact booth as that young family was a tired, dirty man, wearing tired, ragged clothes. It was a time when I was on top of my game in my spiritual walk. A time when I wasn’t afraid to say grace in public. A time when I wasn’t afraid to step out of my comfort zone and help someone. I told my son we were going to do something cool. On our way out, we stopped the waitress. We asked her to put more food on that man’s plate and to give me his bill without telling him who paid for his meal. As my son and I walked to the parking lot, I explained why I paid for that man’s food and explained how God wants us to help others.
My mind fast-forwarded back to the current time with the young family across from us. Still fazed by the kidney punch, I realized helping that tired man was the last time I could remember stepping out of my comfort zone. Yes, I had done other things for Him during those last two years, but I don’t recall doing anything that required me to step out of my comfort zone. It was a reality check. I needed to do more for Him. I needed to step it up and be a better Christian. I needed to do more than hold open doors for people, be courteous to the lady ringing up my groceries and letting that car pull in front of me when his lane merges into mine. He wanted more from me. He wanted to challenge me.
My son and I ate our food, and as we got up to leave I introduced myself to the husband. I then told the family how I noticed they said grace and how it made me realize that I needed to tighten up my own walk. I shook his hand, thanked them and headed to the cash register.
Wouldn’t you know it, God wasn’t done rocking my world yet. I knew what He wanted me to do. I wanted to fight Him on it. As I paid my bill I tried to rush out of there, as if I was quicker than God and He wouldn’t see where I went. But the closer I got to the door, the harder it was to move. I told Him I had just been laid off and it was not the right time. I realized I needed to tighten up my walk, but I told Him I would do it later, once I got back to work. I guess that was my way of trying to punch back. He wanted me to pay for that family’s meal. I fought Him; it was my way of trying to hold onto something that wasn’t mine and stay safe and secure in my comfort zone. Then came another sobering kidney punch. God called me out on the carpet right at the front door of that restaurant and asked if I trusted Him. The big "T" word. Trust. As the hairs stood up on my neck, I realized at that moment that I couldn’t fight my way out of this. I surrendered. I walked to the waitress and asked for the young family’s bill. I asked her not to let them know who paid for their meal. I walked to the register and paid it with a bank card. As I wrote the tip amount on the receipt and signed my name, I was literally shaking. Trust? Yes, Lord, I do trust You, with my everything. Money, comfort zones, take it. Take it all.
I knew nothing more about that family than what I saw in the time it took to eat my burger and fries. I don’t know if they were well off or were going to spend their last dollars on those burger platters. I do know what I experienced was priceless. I’m not sure any of that would have happened if that young family hadn’t said grace in public. I’m glad they didn’t drop the ball. Due to them, as we walked to the parking lot, I once again had the opportunity to look my son in the eyes and explain why I bought someone else’s food. That alone filled me up better than any burger platter.