Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dishing Out Mercy

The waitress targeted our friend for her request. We were eating together at a restaurant when our server approached him. “I’m giving you this, but I’ll take it off your bill,” she said as she placed in front of him a dessert he did not order.

“I’m in trouble,” she added when he looked perplexed. “I got it out to eat myself, but I’m not supposed to do that unless I’m on break. So I brought it to you.”

She turned away, leaving the four people at our table to try to make sense of what just happened. Meanwhile, the cheesecake looked just as tempting to our friend as it apparently had been to the server. He picked up his fork.

“You must be really special for the server to bring you dessert you didn’t even order,” we teased.

When the woman brought our bills she slipped our friend’s under his dessert plate. “I brought you the cheesecake so my manager would think it was yours,” she explained. “I could have lost my job.”

“And I ate it,” our friend said easily, “so as it turns out it was mine.”

“I had to put the cheesecake on your bill,” she continued. “Otherwise my manger would know. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal,” she added with a touch of defiance. “

Termination for eating on the job? It did sound like a cruel and unusual punishment; maybe there was a back story.

“I’m going to give you the money to pay for it. I just can’t let my manager see me. Can you wait until my break? Maybe meet me outside?”

As she talked, I watched the woman carefully. It crossed my mind that she didn’t look particularly repentant. Although she spoke in a low voice and her words were urgent, her demeanor was cool, almost nonchalant.

As an observer to this little drama, I didn’t have a decision to make. I wondered fleetingly how our friend would handle it. Here was someone who did something she knew was against the rules and, when caught, devised an intricate plan that required the mercy of a complete stranger to cover it up. Would playing along encourage her to do the right thing the next time she was tempted?

“Nobody needs to lose a job in this economy,” responded our friend. “Don’t worry about the bill. I’ve got it covered.” It was a particularly generous gesture because he himself had himself been struggling through extended unemployment.

She didn’t know his job situation, but our server recognized that she’d been the one served. Her eyes filled. The tension she’d so successfully kept hidden surfaced. “Thank you.”

In the next few minutes we got to tell her a little about why Christians extend grace to people who don’t deserve it. In the telling, I was reminded that I am no different than our server. I have not deserved the grace I’ve received in my life either. Nevertheless, I have been let off the biggest hook of all because Christ paid for my mistakes.

When viewed objectively this kind of grace just doesn’t make sense. It even threatens the moral order of people who want, above everything else, to see the sinful get what they deserve.

It doesn’t really make sense to the one on the receiving end either. And that’s what makes grace so powerful and so wonderful.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God …~ Hebrews 12:15


Teresa said...

Mercy is something we crave but find it sometimes hard to grant...alot like forgiveness. Your story about the dessert was an encouragement to me. Thanks for sharing it. Love and miss you, Teresa Graham

GKCRusk said...

Thank you Kima. Your words and thoughts stay with me through my days.