taste the joy

 It’s between bites of burrito that I taste the joy for the first time in my life.

Just moments before, I’d been standing at the cash register waiting for someone to take my order at the mexican place my friend and I had stopped at for lunch.   A tall young server stood at the opposite end of the counter looking at me patiently.  When he caught my eye he said, “I can take your order down here, ma’am,”   and pointed to the “ORDER HERE” sign that hung prominently over his head.  I looked up to see the “PAY HERE” sign above my own head.  “Oh, right.  Sorry!” I mumbled and slid my tray down the counter.   My friend Cheryl was next in line, but she was talking cheerily to the tattooed guy behind her so she didn’t notice my sheepish glance in her direction. 

“Do you want black beans or pinto?”  the young man asked.  I could feel my brain grinding down as nervousness and embarrassment got caught in the gears.   “Umm…” I said, and fought the urge to put my fingers in my ears against the noise of the teenagers talking at a table behind us.   If they would just be quiet, I could think.  

I decided on the black beans and then made it through the ten other choices on my way to a burrito.  Gratefully, I reached the end and handed the server my cash, then escaped to a cold plastic booth in the corner of the restaurant.   Cheryl was still chatting and laughing, her lunch-laden tray waiting on the counter while she fished for her wallet.

I was taking a drink from my soda when she slid into the booth across from me.   She had a smile a mile wide. 

 “That was fun!” she said, unfolding her napkin.  I begged to differ, but said nothing. 

“That was such a sweet young guy.  He’s a new dad and he doesn’t really know what he’s doing.  He just wanted to talk to someone.” 

“Do you know him from somewhere?”  I asked, taking a bite of my hard-earned food.

“No.  I just met him in line,” she shrugged.  “He was really discouraged.  So I told him that Jesus loves him and his family and wants the best for them.  Then I bought his lunch.”  She smiled and began eating.

I stared at her.  In five minutes she had managed to meet, listen to, and bless a stranger, not to mention tell him about Jesus.  I barely managed the burrito.

I was quiet, chewing over Cheryl’s easy grace that had poured love into the heart of a hurting stranger.  Like most evangelicals of a particular persuasion I had been taught that this was The Right Way to Witness:  open your mouth and proclaim boldly.   Not so easy for a girl who is overwhelmed in public situations, so busy processing lights and sounds and textures and emotions and people that the simplest of transactions becomes a maze of dizzying choices.   A girl who needs the shelter of a quiet room and the solitude of a keyboard before she can give voice to what is inside her, before the Christ-love she feels for tattooed strangers and tall young servers can be spoken aloud. 

But for the first time, instead of feeling guilty that I have failed to do things The Right Way, I was struck with the magnificence of God’s diversity.   We are two women in love with Jesus, different parts of the same Christ body, functioning in the ease of our individual design.    The joy of that freedom tasted so sweet I couldn’t stop from grinning.

At home again, I pulled out the stacks of letters I’ve received from friends over the last three months.   I flipped through them one by one, lingering over the differences.  Pen, paper, handwriting, story, name, all testifying to a unique calling and plan of God.

In my hands I held the testimony of God's women:

Laure of the poetry,

Wise and artful Missy,

Bonnie with a talent for letters,

Dear, godly Beth,

Doodah who gives laughter,

Charming Betsy,

Passionate, merciful Hillary,

Aimee and Laurel and Andrea who send love around,

Luminous Suzy from across the pond,

South African Karen who searches and thinks,

Colorful Megan who gifts with joy,

 

  Gentle Linda,

Faithful Patricia,

Deep and thoughtful Kortney

Sandra with a heart for the Word

Hardworking Susan,

Prayerful, delightful Kathie,

Sandi with her Kingdom work at home,

Laura who also does not like sharks,

Sarah who knits (and blessed me so much!),

Everly with her fresh perspectives and beautiful heart,

Brave Nicole who wrote an almost-stranger,

Worshipful Suzanne,

Industrious Ann,

Lori who is “washing her bowl,”

Cheerful Sheri,

Margaret who weaves words in emails,

Compassionate Jennifer and her puppies,

Hard-working Denise,

Di and her comfortable friendship,

Carrie with a life that gives,

Joy who understands,

And more…

Such exquisite works of God, so different in your talents, callings and purposes and yet each one reflecting back to me the light that emanates from the Father.

That day at the restaurant I wasn't able to tell Cheryl all I thought.  I needed to wait for this quiet moment and the safety of a screen to say what my heart was whispering.  And now I say it to each of you too:

You are beautiful. 

Your gifts, your service, your hard work, your faithfulness, your love for Christ, they overwhelm me.  

Thank you for being YOU. 

If you could stand where I am right now, holding the gift of your stories in my hands, you'd know how humbly I step back into this online space, so privileged to be a part of the same Body with you; how prayerfully I offer to you these words on a screen - the best way I know to give witness of God, inadequate as I am with these frailties and fears. 

Dear friends, taste the joy of being who God made you to be.   Let's rejoice in our mothering, our teaching, our poetry, our music, our laughter, our knitting, our serving, our praying, our baking, our welcoming, our nursing, our art, our mercy.  And let's find a way to use that joyful, natural thing for Kingdom work, intentionally and sacrificially, holding back nothing in pursuit of His glory.  

 

for further contemplation:   1 Corinthians 12 - please read.