“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
A fellow blogger posted a piece last week about a gesture from someone who may have been a well meaning Christian, but who so missed the mark one day at a restaurant. This customer spotted the server’s tattoo and interpreted it as a sign of the server’s endorsement of sin. After the meal the “Christian” wrote a note on the receipt, saying, “I will not support anyone who doesn’t love Jesus!” Needless to say, there was no tip.
I cringed when I read this, not only because of the shameful action of (presumably) a fellow believer, but the realization that this was not an isolated incident. It brought back memories of a startling revelation years before.
In the late 1980’s I was at a conference of Christian artists that took place in the beautiful setting of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. As an aspiring songwriter I had brought my demo tapes, entered the songwriting competition, and signed up to attend workshops related to songwriting. I had hopes of connecting with at least one of the many representatives of various record labels and music producers and publishers. My mind was on getting my songs “out there,” for God to use them to tell the world about His love. (The fact that every night we would enjoy concerts by well-known Christian artists didn’t exactly discourage me from coming, either.)
Opening night featured a performance by one of the most famous singers in the Christian music industry at the time. He walked onto the stage through a curtain of fog and impressive light show. After wowing the audience with his talent for a few minutes, he got serious. First, he poked fun at the special effects; he almost sounded embarrassed by the glitz. Then he spoke directly to us as family – his brothers and sisters in Christ. He was not the superior, “don’t-you-wish-you-were-me?” celebrity, but someone who was here to follow the Lord and do His will – just as every one of us was. He spoke as if he considered our mission every bit as important as his. Then he dropped the proverbial bomb.
“I was talking with one of the staff here, and he said, ‘Do you know what we call this week?’ ” (This conference was an annual event here.)
” ‘No, what do you call it?’
” ‘We call it “Hell Week.”‘
” ‘Why is that???’
“‘Because Christians are the rudest, most demanding, thoughtless, and ungrateful people we serve. – They’re also the worst tippers.’
The audience grew very quiet. The artist went on to give us a pep-talk about changing our image in the eyes of the people who worked there. I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t even been thinking of them. I had come with high hopes of making connections in the music world and seeing what the next step was for me as a Christ-follower. As it turned out, the next step for me was just to walk my faith out among these people who had come to feel that they were invisible to people like me.
Within the first few hours I learned that my songs had been “cut” from the songwriters’ competition. As I was recovering from that emotional punch in the stomach, I could tell by the oppressive, almost palpable atmosphere, that others were just as dejected as I was. And I could tell by the faces exactly who those people were.
Realizing I was now freed from the stress of wondering how my songs were doing, I had only to get over the feelings of rejection and focus on other possible reasons for my being there. Remembering the words of the singer that first night, I determined to pay more attention to the staff. They were doing a wonderful job keeping the place clean and waiting on us, and I told them so at every opportunity. As I went through the food line after a day in the fresh mountain air, I expressed my delight in what they had prepared for us. When a sudden thunderstorm rolled in and I was stranded in the dining hall without rain gear, two of the kitchen staff “created” a designer raincoat for me out of a trash bag. We giggled uncontrollably as I modeled it.
At the end of the week I came to tell the two ladies good-bye and to thank them for everything. (I also made a point of leaving an extra big tip.) The each gave me a good-bye hug, and one of them said “We really enjoyed having you all here this week!”
YESSSSSSssss!!! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
… well, not really. That mission will be ongoing for the rest of my life.
When we are stressing out about the “important” things that are on our minds, do we still think of others we encounter as we race through our days? Are we aware that each of these people is just as important to God as we are? Do we keep in mind that every word we say, every gesture of kindness or rudeness, every facial expression and attitude reflects our Savior to the people around us? (And no, keeping your faith a secret is not a solution.)
Could it be that the way we treat the person waiting on our table is more important to God than whether or not we write the next gospel hit – or the next Christian best-seller?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we confess that our priorities aren’t always Yours. We have accepted the world’s definition of “success” and forget that when You walked the earth You took the time to minister to individuals that the rest of the world overlooked. Give us Your divine perspective. Whether we serve You in secret or before thousands, help us to be like You. In Your name, Amen.