It happened at the Waffle House of all places. I saw her sitting at the bar eating her breakfast, alone. I wondered what her story was and thought about how much I used to hate eating out alone. Then, I went back to telling my two-year old not to play with the syrup and stopping his older brother from opening every packet of sugar.
It had been the most stressful year of our lives and honestly, we were cracking under the pressure. Dear friends gave us a trip to the beach on a whim –and we knew we needed a breather. Couldn’t hurt to try getting away? But after we arrived we questioned whether or not we should be there. At least until we heard this…
“So the lady sitting at the bar just paid your check. Yeah, she took care of it…So, you don’t owe anything…Thanks. Yeah, it’s taken care of. She asked for it…”
She rambled on about it…more shocked than we were… Tears filled my eyes.
It was a present.
But, it wasn’t the present of our $27 Waffle House tab being covered that moved me. It was His presence. It was a confirmation that He was with us. That He was okay with us taking a break. That He hadn’t left us even though things seemed like they had hit rock bottom.
I think about how difficult the last twelve months have been. I think about all the things that very few will ever know…or see…but that He knows. I think about our struggles. I think about the hurts. I think about the people that have let us down. I think about the nights that I went to bed not wanting to wake up and face the same pain the next morning. Maybe you can relate…
Then there was this great present…at Waffle House of all places…
I’m surrounded by presents right now. Just a week left until Christmas and my children are counting the days until they can rip into them. I’m swirling in a sea of sweets, stress, and activity and wondering why I do this to myself every year. Why do I miss what’s really important? It’s His presence…not the presents that matter.
And how do we get more of his presence? I think it’s in finding more grace.
When I come to the end of my rope…it’s grace that allows me to go on. It’s grace that allows me to forgive. It’s grace that allows me to love again. It’s grace that allows me to face the same situation, again, and have hope that the outcome will be different this time.
In His presence is where grace abounds. And, without grace, I think it’s pretty difficult to be in his presence.
I know because I used to be a Pharisee. I knew about justice. I knew about keeping the law. I knew about equity. I knew about working hard and getting what you deserve. I didn’t know about grace.
Yes, I used to be able to tell you what was wrong with everyone else…but me. I was conveniently blind to my own shortcomings. Sure, that’s still sometimes my default. But, more of his presence helps kill that when it flares.
When I give people grace, I grow. When I realize that I don’t know everything involved in their situation…just like they don’t know everything involved in mine…I can choose to think the best…and love anyway. That’s one time when I feel His presence.
Sometimes it requires biting my tongue or not pressing send. Grace keeps me from lashing back…from setting the record straight…from feeling the need to protect myself. Grace allows me to keep my emotions in check and keep my eyes on Him.
There’s not a person on the earth that doesn’t need a little more grace this year. That includes everyone on your list.
Good news is…it’s free. Well, free for us. It wasn’t free for Him. In fact, that’s the Christmas story. It’s the ultimate story of grace being shown by a God who should have given up on humanity but, instead, makes the most meaningful of sacrifices for it.
Who have you given up on? Who have you written off? Who do you need to forgive? Who needs you to offer them grace?
Who can you teach about grace? (You can tell a Pharisee because they have a list of negative things to say about people…(they’ll seem justified and well-informed in their conclusions) yet once you get a taste of grace…you’ll see that they are really just missing out.)
I also think it’s a grace that the New Year comes just one week after we celebrate the hope of Christ’s birth. We get a fresh start. We are reinvigorated by the possibilities that a new calendar year has to offer.
John 1:16 says, “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” I pray that God will continue to help me extend that grace to others…
I also pray that He will show you the present of his presence and grace this Christmas season and all year long.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18