Thursday, May 29, 2014

Four Hours and Forty-Eight Minutes

One moment he is sitting there, chatting away with his new buddies Phil and Nate about their fantasy football teams and the upcoming draft, and the next minute his mama is rushing up to him with an update on the food and beverage situation, a look of frantic expectation in her eyes.

"They have no more wine."

When I read the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2), I can't help but ask myself what is probably a very un-Christian question:  I wonder what Jesus would be like if he worked as a server on the nights and weekends.  

I mean, he was a handy-man, after all.  It's not like making tables and fixing leaky faucets was going to put him on the fast track to summer lake house and a country club membership.  Wouldn't it have been a hoot if Jesus, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, spent his evenings serving food and wine in banquet halls much like the one he was now sitting in as a guest?  In my imagination, the day described in the book of John is his one day off that week.  The sun is shining, his friends are there, the band is actually pretty good and people are dancing, and he's enjoying not having to run around serving the wedding cake to two hundred people only to have half of them coyly say, " this cake gluten free?"

"They have no more wine," his mother reports.  Eyes wide and insistent, she can already see how quickly this party could go downhill.  I think we all know that once the open bar closes at the wedding, the natives get restless.  I can just picture Jesus' face as he hears the news, lifts his palms up into the air and shrugs a bit with his reply -

"Woman, what does this have to do with me?" 

Now, obviously I know Jesus didn't wait tables for a living.  I'm fully aware that the story of the wedding at Cana isn't about how Jesus' chance to party at a wedding was interrupted by poor planning and a cheap bar budget.  Yes, I know that the key to the message of this story is in the jars that are filled with water only to be transformed into wine, thus launching Jesus' public ministry.

But it's okay to have a little fun with the Bible every once in a while, isn't it? 

I was thinking about this scenario recently when I had a table of ladies sitting out on the patio for a very long, LONG time.  It was Wine Wednesday, which means that every bottle of wine on the menu is half price.  One woman arrived about thirty minutes early, just to soak in the sun on the patio and enjoy her libations.  The second woman landed and grabbed a glass to get in on the action and they were quick to order a flatbread before the Happy Hour special ended and they would have to pay full price.  Their third friend finally arrived and they proceeded to munch away on their appetizer and drink their wine.  Really, all was well for a while.

Now, I have to be very, VERY careful when I write this post.  I'm a big fan of being employed and I want to make sure I stay that way.  As far as I can tell, I haven't violated any of the rules in our employee handbook by what I'm writing or sharing, but if I am suddenly blogging about how I'm looking for a new job.....well, I think we will all know what happened.  Anyway....

After these ladies had ignored their menus for an hour and a half only to finally tell me that they weren't interested in ordering entrees, they started to chat and chat and chat.  Somewhere around the THREE HOUR mark, they asked for more water and part of me wanted to yell -

"Woman, what does this have to do with me???!!!"

I know, I know.  Not very admirable behavior considering that I was on the clock and I was (technically) there to wait on their every food and beverage need.  So, I brought more water.  And more beer and wine.

Here's where it gets fun.  See, sitting next door to my three ladies was another server's table occupied by two ladies who were also apparently in the mood to drink wine and set up shop for a while.  By the time my table had been there for three and half hours, the table next door had been there for three hours as well.  The table of two paid their check and started striking up a conversation - with MY table.

Before I knew what hit me, that two-top had pulled their chairs over at my three-top and suddenly we were all BFFs ready to girl talk all night long.

FOUR HOURS - "Can we get a carafe of water for the table?"
FOUR HOURS, TEN MINUTES - "I'll take one more beer, please."
FOUR HOURS, TWELVE MINUTES - "Oh, well since she is having one I may as well too."
FOUR HOURS, TWENTY-ONE MINUTES - "Can we get the check now?"

What?  The check?  Hallelujah!!!!  By this time, all the rest of my tables were long gone, my side-work was done, and I was just sitting around waiting for this table to skidaddle so I could go home.

FOUR HOURS, TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES - The check still sits there.
FOUR HOURS, THIRTY MINUTES - The check still sits there.

And so on and so forth.

You know how patience and self-control are listed as part of the "Fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5?  Yeah, that wasn't really working for me at that point.  The kindness and gentleness were pretty much kaput as well. 

FOUR HOURS, FORTY-EIGHT MINUTES - Jumping John the Baptist!  They're ready!!!

I trudge over to the table and they instruct me to take the cash off the bill first and then put the balance on the enclosed credit card.  Here's how it broke down.

Total Bill - $87.23
Cash - $80.00
VISA - $7.23

I brought the credit card slip back to the table and bit the inside of my cheek a bit as I wished them a good night and thanked them.  When they had vacated the table after what felt like an eternity, I returned to collect the signed credit card slip.  I picked up the envelope, opened it, and all kinds of thoughts that are a perfect example of why I'm relying on grace alone for my salvation ran through my head.

Photo of the receipt that shows I have carefully removed any information that may identify my place of employment or any personal information of the customer in question. 

My stomach churned and I could feel the anger pulse in my eyelids.
I waited on this table for four hours and forty-eight minutes.  I brought them $87.23 worth of food and beverage, which includes the Happy Hour specials.

They tipped me $3.00.

Now, I'm not writing this to bash on these ladies.  I'm not trying to vent my frustration or complain about the injustice of it all (but I think we can all agree that this was a travesty of epic proportions), but rather to shine a light on my own attitude regarding the situation.  It's not something I'm proud of, but I can tell you truly that my immediate reaction was to wish very, VERY ill on that table.  I scowled, whined to my co-workers, hollered on the phone to my husband on the now very late-night drive home after work. 

Was it ok for them to tip me so poorly?  No, I don't think anyone would say that it was ok.  What was also unacceptable was how quickly I abandoned all grace toward people and lost my ever-loving mind.  It's quite possible it was an honest mistake.  I once had a table of nine people with a check of $233 leave me ZERO tip because they took both credit card slips.  I truly believe that was an oversight that left my wallet bruised and bloody, but didn't exhibit any ill will.  Isn't it possible that this was something similar?  Maybe there was a misunderstanding among the women about who was going to leave the tip.  Perhaps someone was supposed to give their twenty-dollar bill as gratuity rather than as part of the payment of the check.  They had consumed a a bottle of wine and a couple beers over the course of the evening, so it's not unreasonable to assume that the painfully low gratuity was not intentional.

All this to say that moments like this are convicting for me.  It's not exactly a secret at work that I profess to be a Christ-follower.  If that's true and if I really claim Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior, then the people around me should see more and more of Him in me every day.

Sometimes, it is hard to be a Christian and a waitress.  My sinful nature loves to take control of my gut reactions and start cursing a blue streak at the table who stiffs me.  The temptation to gossip sometimes becomes too strong to resist.  I get stressed out and complain about a rough stretch of shifts and fail to trust in His provision.  My anger boils over when I open up a check presenter to find receipts like the one pictured above and suddenly I don't resemble Christ even in the slightest.  

It's at this point that I flip on over to Galatians 5 and cut myself a little slack.  The truth of it is that there is no way that I can pull this off on my own.  People are just too frustrating and my heart is just not up to the task of living the way I want to in a world that makes it impossible. 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  (Gal 5:16)

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  (Gal 5:18)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control....  (Gal 5:22-23)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal 5:24)

I do belong to Christ Jesus.  Alone I am powerless to fight against the envy, jealousy, anger, idolatry, and other ugly works of the flesh that are deeply embedded in my heart.  But He has given me the Spirit, the great Counselor who can overrule the impulses of the flesh and lead me to a life that exhibits something greater.  It's a WALK, not a sprint and I know I've got the help I need to grow increasingly more patient, kind, self-controlled, understanding and even JOYFUL as I go about my job. 

If I didn't know any better, I'd say God is using this encounter to teach me something. 



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