Smorgasborg of Grace

“God’s relationship with man does not work in a way in which man stumbles and then God has to drop what he is doing in order to lift him up; rather, man stumbles so that God can lift him up. Hence it is utterly impossible to truly diminish his glory.” ~ Criss Jami

I blew into Amarillo the other day like a West Texas Scirocco, greeted by a sunset the color of a day old bruise spread wide and low across the horizon like a flattened sombrero. I checked into my hotel and promptly went in search of food since I had not eaten for nearly eight hours. The life of a road warrior is not all glitz and glamour, even if I do work for the most wonderful international relief organization in the world. Cafeteria food has always been a treat for me, probably because each foray down a serving line prompts memories of special Sunday childhood lunches after church at Luby’s Cafeteria in the Jefferson City Shopping Center in Port Arthur. A brightly lit neon sign indicated a Furr’s Cafeteria to my right, so I turned off Soncy Road, parked near the entrance, and walked inside. The young lady behind a counter near the entrance greeted me and informed me that this was a Furr’s all-you-can eat buffet. That wasn’t what I had in mind, so I asked if there was a true cafeteria nearby, and she directed me to the other Furr’s on Georgia Street, just off Interstate 40. Traffic was light, so I navigated seven miles to the cafeteria in about seven minutes, parked, and went inside. There was no other starving patrons in front of me, so I wasted no time in grabbing tray and linen wrapped utensils. I side-stepped to stand in front of the meat selections, and after an agonizing choice decided on fried chicken-dark meat. The man behind the counter in apron and paper beanie placed a diminutive thigh on a plate and shoved it my direction. I looked down at the meager portion, shrugged, and scooted left to the vegetable choices. I made the healthy choice of two starches-mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, each consisting of one ice cream scoop sized dollop. Deciding that I had made a poor choice for this over priced meal, I limited myself to just the three items except to splurge on a wheat roll with butter. At the check out stand, the wiry aproned middle-aged employee rang up my bill, and as she delivered the paper verdict I told her that I didn’t want to be rude, but that these were the smallest portions I had ever seen at a cafeteria. She simply stared at me, shrugged, and said, “Most people start small.” I ignored her cryptic response, eased myself behind a table by a window, all the while chastising myself for wasting money and time on such a meager meal. A pleasant young lady who seemed out-of-place working for tips in a cafeteria stopped by my table a few minutes later to ask if I needed anything. Not wanting to be rude, I couldn’t help launching into the same expression of disappointment over the size of the portions. She said, “Well, sir, you can go back as many times as you want. We keep the portions small because most customers like to sample a number of different entrees.” I’m obviously not the brightest pea in the patch, but it slowly dawned on me that this, too, was an all-you-can eat buffet. I had been frugal for no reason. I ended up going back uncharacteristically through the line another two trips, ending my feeding frenzy by sitting back in my chair, sipping complimentary coffee, and forcing down a slice of lemon ice box pie. 

On the short drive back to my hotel, I couldn’t shake my embarrassment, thinking how narrowly I had escaped a colossal blunder. How could I have been so blind? I had started through the cafeteria line like a pauper, while all the while a king’s table was spread before me. Ignorance is no excuse for missing out on serendipity. How often do I fail to recognize the heavenly blessings I am the earthly beneficiary of? Surrounded by glory, I opt for self imposed blinders that prevent me from detecting the lavish grace of a grand child’s reckless laughter, a daughter’s sterling respect, my wife’s long-suffering, a stranger’s need, or the intricate reflection of heaven found in rose petals or an asparagus fern. Truth be told, I am blessed beyond measure, and far beyond anything I deserve. The King of Glory spreads a veritable smorgasbord of grace in front of me; God forbid that I would settle for two dollops of potatoes and a thigh.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 | NRSV

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