Being a Bad Waiter Taught Me how to Look for God Moments

I had a few jobs before going into ministry and I believe that the skills I learned and experienced at each of those jobs have helped me become a better person. One of those jobs was waiting tables at Red Lobster.

I loved the time I spent at Red Lobster. I was an absolutely horrible waiter, but I enjoyed the job none the less. I worked with friends. I had a boss that was very willing to work around my school and church schedule, and the tips were always a plus. Even a horrible waiter can make a decent amount of tip money, but there was one failure at Red Lobster that turned-out to be a great benefit to my faith.

One evening, a family of four was placed at a table in my station. It was close to the end of my shift. This was my last table and I wanted to take care of them as quickly as possible.

I approached with a big smile and all the hospitality that I could muster at the end of a five-hour shift. I took their order and said I would be back with drinks and cheddar-bay biscuits. As I walked away, they said something that I did not quite hear, but I assumed they were complementing me on my efficient waiting skills. Within a few minutes, I returned with drinks and biscuits.

As I handed the drinks to each person, I placed the basket of biscuits on the table and noticed this insulted look on the faces of my guests. “Excuse me sir!” the older man at the table said, “We told you that we did not want biscuits. My daughter has a gluten allergy.” I realized in that moment that the compliment I assumed they gave me as I left with their order earlier was not a compliment, but a request to not bring biscuits to the table. I messed-up. “I am so sorry,” I said as I grabbed the biscuits.

Of course, my manager was standing near and witnessed the event occur. Spill a drink on a person or drop a tray of freshly cooked lobster and you can be forgiven, but allergies are serious business…as they should be. I received a serious reprimand about the importance of paying attention to people and their needs.

As we enter this season of Lent, I think about that moment at Red Lobster and wonder how many opportunities we miss because we are too busy or distracted. How many people has God placed in our lives, that we have ignored because of all those distractions? How many messages of hope and joy has God been sending to us through others and through the spiritual disciplines, but we miss-out because we are living a life that is too hectic? How many opportunities to help people in need have we missed because we were thinking about other items?

I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Many of us know the story. It is a simple but profound message and it take practice to accomplish. Mary appreciated the moment and the opportunity to sit and listen to Jesus. Martha was distracted. Maybe, her intentions were good, but God gave her the moment, as God does for all of us. The people in your life are there for a reason. Do not overlook them! The events you are experiencing can be opportunities for God’s grace to grow and make you and others stronger. Do not overlook them! The message is: Do not neglect the moments and people that God has placed in your life.

I pray that you and I will slow down this lent and appreciate the moments and people that God has given.

Dr. Stephen Rhoads is Senior Pastor of Pollard United Methodist Church in Tyler, Texas. If you are ever in the area, please stop by to visit for church.

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