Ever have one of those moments where you just know you were in the right place at the right time, but you weren’t exactly sure why?
The other night my husband and I were out on a very rare date night. We had no plans of where to go, we were just so happy to be free! You know the feeling.
So, we’re driving down the road discussing our dining options and finally land on a popular Italian place that we normally reserve for such special occasions like freedom from our children or birthdays. The place is normally packed and we were starving, but we decided that the Alfredo sauce was worth waiting for.
We drove into the parking lot and to our surprise there was one parking spot right by the door. We slid in and made a comment about how that never happens and were pretty proud of ourselves for pulling it off. This date had the potential to be epic!
Once inside the restaurant I looked around and it felt a little empty. I checked my watch. Yep, dinner time. I thought back through the week. Yep, Friday night. Hmm…did we miss some health department failing score report or something? I honestly didn’t care. I was hungry and on a date. Besides, did I mention the Alfredo sauce?
We were seated immediately and our very friendly server greeted us with a smile and a Southern drawl. She helped us decide on some of the new dishes they offered and we settled in to enjoy our meal. We were really having a nice time together and oblivious to our divine appointment.
The couple sitting across from us didn’t seem as pleased with their experience as we were with ours. They sent their salad back. Twice. And asked to see a manager about it. Then, when their entrée’s arrived I could hear the woman complain to her husband about something and she made him get up to track down the server. When he finally returned and their server made things acceptable we overheard the woman firmly instruct her husband to give their server “not ONE penny!”
And that’s when my husband showed up for the appointment we both didn’t know he had with a God who delights in surprises.
“I want to pay for their meal.” He said to me quietly from across the table.
Honestly I was a little shocked. I thought he was joking. “Why?” I asked him with a little disbelief.
“Because they don’t deserve it.”
And that is all he had to say. I got it. I nodded my approval and we quietly discussed how to pull it off anonymously.
Or, at least we thought it would be anonymously. When the server brought the couple back the bill we had paid for she announced that we had covered it. My husband and I both felt like crawling under our own table. That was not at all the reason we paid for the meal. Because what we didn’t want to happen, happened.
They started gushing and making a scene and asking us why we would do such a thing. We tried to quiet them with a simple response that we just wanted to bless them and my poor husband was biting his tongue so hard I thought it might fall off about the real reason he felt lead to do it:
They didn’t deserve it. They were rude. They were hateful. They were entitled. They were stingy. They were ungrateful.
The woman kept giving us reasons as to why we didn’t have to pay for them. They had the money to pay for it. They owned a business. There was no reason for us to cover their bill. She was right. There was no reason for us to bless them. We could have been justified in calling them out on their behavior. We could have demanded that they apologize to their server, and caused a scene.
When God gives us what we don’t deserve. It’s free and abundant. You don’t have to own your own business to receive it. You don’t have to have the money to pay for it. You don’t have to do anything! You just have to accept it and say, “Thank You.”
The woman asked for our information so that they could find a way to repay us. Of course we refused. I just simply asked her to pay it forward. She seemed so struck by the concept that she repeated it. “Pay it forward.” She paused and then said, “We’ll pay for someone else’s meal sometime.”
I hope they do. I hope our appointment time wasn’t wasted. I hope the tiniest little bit of grace God allowed us to share would grow into something beautifully uncontainable. I hope it manifests into a behavior change for that couple and that it would open their eyes to God’s love. I hope that it would spark a revolution and an attitude of thankfulness across generations. I hope it spreads kindness like wildfire across this great nation and around the world.
It seems so far-fetched that our one little gift could do that. But I’d be willing to guess that God hopes the same things about the grace He gives us…
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8