Zachary and I had a rare 3 days alone together. His choice for dinner on night one was Waffle House.
“Aww, I forgot my sweater. It’s always so cold in Waffle House. I once was told that they keep it cold so you come in, eat, and leave. They don’t want you to stay and take up a table too long.”
His disbelieving eyes turned my direction. “Well, I didn’t say it was true. It’s just what I was told. It’s also usually pretty crowded in there.”
His eyes rolled the opposite direction towards the passenger window, grin spreading slowly.
As we pulled into the parking lot, Zachary shared a story from his last Waffle House experience when he was his dad and brothers. How dad gave him a dollar for the juke box, and he played Toby Mac.
When we stepped inside, no cold blast of air greeted us. That was the first thing I noticed. The second thing I noticed was the empty Waffle House. Well, empty except for the cook and 2 servers.
Zachary raced to secure his special table. Before I was fully seated, he had the menu laid out before him with his finger pressed hard on the picture of the All Star Breakfast.
“Really, Zachary? I mean that is a lot of food and costs twice what I’m ordering.”
“I promise I will eat it all. I’m sooooo hungry right now.”
The server arrived at our table laying down napkin and silverware. I looked up to meet his eyes, but he kept them mostly down. He left to fill our water cups and arrived back within seconds.
“Are you ready to order?”
“Yes, and clearly my son is twice as hungry as I am.” I proceeded to order. Zachary followed up. The young server kept those eyes mostly down. He offered a slight smile, but it seemed to be covered up by something else.
I watched as he quietly went about his job. Sorting silverware, cleaning pots, every so often, he would visit the procedures chart and checklist.
I began to have this “feeling”. This feeling where you wonder if it is your own feeling or the Lord’s prompting. I sort of felt that the Lord had a job for us there, but I didn’t know what it was.
Then there was that inner dialogue that started up between me and God. “Do you want me to tell them about you? What do I say? Do you want me to pray for them? What is their story? Does it matter?” Then the fear excuses began. “Maybe I just think you want me to say something but it’s just my own desire.”
I laugh at that one. I can’t imagine that I believed that really. If the prompting is there to share the gospel, it’s from God. No need to debate if it’s my own desire or His. His desire is always to share Him with the world.
I saw her eyes from across the restaurant. A twinkle. Almost like she knew something. She smiled, and I wondered what she knew. Her smile seemed to say we shared a secret together.
The cook stopped by our table. A kind, older man. He asked if we had a merry Christmas, said his was just fine.
The smile in his eyes looked similar to the one from the lady at the other side of the restaurant.
It’s like their gentle smiling eyes were saying, “Go on. Go ahead.”
Another couple entered. They sat at the bar, familiar with the servers and cooks. Their clothes looked rough. They looked a bit edgy. Maybe young 20s. I wondered if they were the ones I was to tell about Jesus.
I looked back at Zachary. His deep blue eyes, always full of joy and life.
“Mom, can I have a dollar to play Toby Mac?”
We slipped the dollar in, I watched as he selected his 4 songs for a dollar. Toby Mac got 3, Third Day got one.
The lyrics began to sing of Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Our server spread out Zachary’s feast before him. He brought my one plate. We bowed our heads and thanked God for the food and prayed a blessing over the cooks and servers around us.
That’s not part of our “normal” blessing. It should be, but it’s not.
Zachary shoveled food into his mouth. I reminded him he’s not an animal but a boy. I looked around and found the kind eyes of the woman at the other side of the restaurant. She was smiling at me again with those somewhat knowing eyes.
The name of Jesus being sung throughout Waffle House the entire time we were there.
We left without boldly sharing the gospel.
The following morning in Sunday school, a friend shared how he was witnessing to his server at a restaurant. I listened closely. Our Sunday school teacher said that at times he will ask the servers how his family can pray for them, which opens up the door.
I hear you, God. I know it’s no accident I’m hearing this conversation.
After church Zachary and I discussed the Waffle House experience. I said I wished I had been more bold and courageous to share, but that God always gives us the gift of praying for people. We might not have shared the words of the gospel, but we might have shined enough light while we were there to get their attention. Maybe we are to pray for each person there for as long as the Lord prompts, and the Lord will send another to boldly proclaim.
Throughout the day, the faces of the 3 Waffle House employees ran across my mind. I could distinctly see their faces, the expressions in their eyes, sadness in one, a knowing twinkle in another.
I have a precious friend who once said she likes to give the aroma of Christ in her work and in her life. Her words made an impact on me. I often think that when I don’t have the opportunity to share about Jesus that I hope my life gives off enough of His aroma that people will be drawn to Him.
Maybe that was our job at Waffle House. To be His aroma. Lyrics singing His name. We spread kindness and joy while there. But there was something more I couldn’t place. Then Zachary said it.
“Mom, I think we should go back to Waffle House for dinner. Maybe God wants you to go there again.”
“What? Waffle House for dinner two nights in a row?”
Instead of having the debate with God, I had it with Zachary.
“Are you just saying that because really you just want Waffle House again? And you are using the excuse of God because you know that will get me there? Or are you really feeling an urging from God?”
He hesitated a few seconds. “Well, maybe both. I don’t really know.”
I thought back to how those workers had been on my mind all day. From the moment I walked into that restaurant I sensed God speaking to me something. I felt His Presence there. I couldn’t shake their faces and that can only be God.
God may start as a whisper, but He gets louder.
“What? Are you serious, Mom?”
“I’m serious. Now let’s pray because we are powerless without God. Only God can save, only the Holy Spirit can give us the power and courage.”
We got in the car, I turned the ignition, and we bowed our heads. We thanked God that we live in a free country where we can go share the gospel without fearing our lives. We prayed for each employee. We prayed that God would draw them to us and open up the doors of conversation. We prayed that God would make it obvious who we were to speak to. We prayed He would give us all the words and wisdom and that He would flow through us with power and might, empty us of us and fill us with all of Him.
As we got closer to Waffle House, I began to get nervous. How ridiculous. So I poured it all out to Zachary. I told him I felt nervous and that is simply silly. This is eternity at stake. This is someone’s eternal soul. I said the enemy wants me to be quiet. God wants me to speak.
“Zachary, let’s pray again.” He looked at me with questions in his eyes that received no voice, “Ok.” We bowed our heads again and prayed over our time at Waffle House.
As we pulled into the parking lot, Zachary mentioned there were a few people in there. But when I parked, there were two sketchy men sitting on buckets behind the store. They weren’t in uniforms, and they stared at us inside our car. Everything in me wanted to bolt. It was a dark parking lot, I was with my boy, and wanted to get inside quickly or fly out of there.
“Zachary, stop staring at them!”
“Mom, they look scary.”
“Well, just act normal.”
We got out, and walked briskly in the restaurant.
It was like we hit the repeat button. The same older cook greeted us. The servers were different.
The store was warm. 2 lone men sat over bowls of eggs and hash browns.
The server stopped at our table. Quietly he went about setting the place when I asked one question. “Did you have a Merry Christmas?”
He looked up at me, pausing briefly. “I had a great Christmas. I got everything I asked for. And better than that, I got everything for my family they asked for.”
Then the conversation never stopped. It was like a dam had been released. He went on to take our order. Zachary went to the juke box, selected 4 Toby Mac songs.
I noticed the cook bouncing a bit to the tune. He stopped at our table, “I like your song selections. I have never heard these songs played in here.”
Zachary smiled and looked down at his plate. I answered for him, “It’s Toby Mac. He’s a christian singer.”
The server brought our plates, and I took the idea of my Sunday school teacher. “Excuse me, we are going to be blessing our food, is there anything we can pray about for you?”
Right about that time Toby Mac decided to sing louder, the server squinted his eyes, and strained his ears towards me. “What did you say?”
“I said, we are about to pray, can we pray for you?”
A brief cloud came over his face, changing his expression. “Oh, um, my grandmother’s not doing so well, you can pray for her.”
He walked away, we bowed our heads and prayed, then ate.
Moments later he was back at our table. Talking. A lot. I knew immediately, this was the Lord answering our prayers to draw to us those He wanted us to talk to.
We just chatted with him. The cook arrived. Never in my life at the Waffle House or any restaurant have the employees just sat and talked at the table. I mean even at Waffle House they know that you give space for the patrons to talk a bit, but then enjoy the meal.
But when you ask God to draw to you those He wants, all normal procedures are out the window.
The cook began to share about his life. His plans for retirement. His plans for visiting family. We listened. Actually, all we did was listen. Both of the men did all the talking and we just offered a listening ear and smiles.
The meal was over. I asked the older man if I could pray for him. He said, “No, thank you.” Then he came right back and said, “Yes, you can pray for my time with my family.”
As we paid our bill, the scary men from the back of the dark parking lot walked in. They sat right next to the register where I stood and smiled.
We walked to the car, and Zachary said the first word I’d heard him say in about 20 minutes. “Good job, mom.”
“I still didn’t tell them about Jesus. I wonder if I should’ve just asked if they knew about Him.”
He shook his head. “No, I think it was great. I bet Jesus is really happy right now.” He continued, “Mom, do you think God used us to be the seed or to water the seed?”
“I don’t know. We rarely ever know how God uses us when he uses us to be the seed or to water the seed. But we do know that we need to continue to pray for them so that God will send others to keep watering.”
The neatest part of the whole experience with Zachary is that we ended up having this conversation about how God’s love didn’t change for us based on if we shared about Him at the Waffle House or not. That God has this unwavering love for us and we can’t earn it by doing “good” things.
Yes, there are times that God is pleased when we obey. There are times that He is disappointed. But His love never changes for us because He sees Christ when He sees us.
It was that freedom that allowed me to walk in and walk out of that restaurant. Nothing I did was going to earn me more love from God or esteem me in His eyes. We do what we do out of a deep love for Him. And His love for us never changes.
And we pray for the strangers because that type of love He gives us is overwhelming.
“Mom, when I said we should go back to Waffle House, it was partly because I wanted to go but just a very small part that felt like God wanted us to go.”
“Well, God’s nudges are often very small.”
“Yeah, I know. He has a still small voice.”
I smiled, “Yes, He does, and the more time we spend with Him, the better we get at hearing His still small voice.”
“Zachary, I don’t know if you noticed this part, but it’s not normal for 2 restaurant employees to stand at your table the entire time you are eating.”
He paused contemplating this.
“Think about it. Has that ever happened to you before?” He continued thinking, slowly I saw his eyes light up. “No, never.”
“It’s just not what you do. You know as a server or a cook to be kind and pleasant, but you are to give the patrons privacy and space, but we prayed and asked God to open up the doors, to draw to us those He wanted us to talk to. And He did it. At night what happens when you turn a light on outside? What happens around the light?”
“Bugs come to it?”
“Yes, but I don’t mean those people are bugs. The light draws us to it. We are drawn to the light. We asked God to draw to us those He wanted. And we asked that He shine His light through us. We got to see God do that.”
I thought through the night that while I didn’t boldly proclaim the gospel, I could beat myself up over that. I could do what the enemy would have me do and focus on myself and my efforts.
Or I could resist the enemy.
Instead of focusing on what I could’ve done (in my own power possibly), I could instead focus on what God did. Only God could draw 2 strangers to stand and talk for 20 minutes at our table. Only God could cause them to comment on liking our christian rock music selections. Only God could do any of that. I thought back to my friend. Maybe we were to be the aroma of Christ.
We got to see what God does when we ask that He allow us to shine His light through us. We got to see Him at work. And I pray we remember that always. What if every day we left asking God to shine His light through us and give us eyes to see Him at work.
I imagine it would change everything.