Sunday, February 25, 2007

God at the Diner

Today has been a wonderful day. The snow hanging on the trees is gorgeous, the roads aren't terrible. I got to church at 8:30 this morning, participated in both the 9:00 and a bit of the 10:30 service.

Then ... I saw God in a diner. There's a great little place that we only get to once in awhile. It doesn't look like much, in fact for years I didn't even realize that they were open for business. I finally discovered that the reason for that was they were never open past 1:00 p.m. If I get out of church early enough on a Sunday, I love to eat there, the food is fabulous!

This place is a total dive, you'd never find anything like it in West Omaha. This morning, there were so many people there that we had to park in back. One of the cooks saw us park, opened up the back door (to the kitchen) and invited us to walk through rather than walk around to the front door. Once you get inside, you can tell that everyone knows each other - they talk across tables and stop to greet each other on the way in or out. This is in the middle of Omaha! It feels like the local diners in small towns.

Max and I found a table, sat down and started chatting. It took a few extra minutes to get waited on, there is only one waitress and she's doing everything ... including cashier. But, it feels so great there, it's all good. I glanced at the table to my left. An older man and his wife, and their adult son. Behind them was another older couple with two tiny children. There were several families in booths around the room and in the other room, more families and people that were friends of the owners. There were people of mixed race in there, but it is pretty much a working class set of people that eat here. The food is hearty and the cost is quite reasonable.

Where was God? Oh my goodness, I nearly sobbed through breakfast - He was certainly touching my heart. The couple next to me was pretty quiet. The father and his son were having a good conversation and then I realized that there was something wrong with the wife. Her eyes were a bit vacant. She opened her mouth and out came a long tone. Over and over she did this. Her husband put his arms around her, sometimes his hands over her mouth to stop her and he loved her! He was a tough old guy, you could see he had worked hard all of his life. Something had happened to his wife, but he didn't care. He took her out to eat, he cared for her, he refused to be embarrassed by her, he just loved her.

Sometimes we Christians think we have a 'lock' on love. That only if you attend marriage seminars or go to small group every week, or 'work on your relationship' or go to church together or ... whatever it takes ... you can have a solid marriage. This family on a Sunday morning obviously didn't go to church - maybe they're Catholic and they went last night, but they don't carry a Bible around or wear crosses made of gold, they don't play Christian music or stop to pray and make a scene about being a Christian. The older couple was in their 70s and he LOVED her with everything that he has!

I didn't want to embarrass him and tell him how much I honored his commitment and love to a wife that was no longer able to return it. So, I quietly sat in my seat and cried. I was so thankful to see that kind of love from a tough old coot.

Behind them sat the older couple with little ones who were obviously their grandchildren. They weren't terribly rich, that was obvious. He was tattooed all up and down his arms and neck. The old military tattoos. She was tough, with stringy hair and shoddy clothes. All of a sudden she jumped up, grabbed her coat and purse. There was a MUCH older couple that had walked to the diner for breakfast and she wanted to be sure to give them a ride home. When she returned, her grandkids were leaping all over her and as she sat down, she scooped them up.

They sat there for awhile longer as the kids played. Then, she pulled out some picture / easy reading books. She was working with the children and then ... she was working with her husband. I suspect he'd had a stroke. She was re-teaching him how to say words. Simple things like 'owl'. She loved and honored him and by working with him as the little ones were learning, he could interact with his grandkids.

We work so hard at church to make things relevant for everyone. We build our programs and try to invite people to our big, beautiful buildings. We worry about perfection and not offending anyone.

But, I found God amidst the smell of grease and noise of children and people who just acted out their love in the only way that made sense. There was no perfection, there was no program, there was just love. And today ... that was better than any church service I could ever attend.

1 comment:

Jacqniel said...

Beautiful