One of the things I learned in Bible School is that today’s ministers are supposed to be transparent. Very few people can connect with ministers who seem to have it all together. Even fewer can connect with ministers who like to talk about how they have it all together. Growing up my mom used to always say to me, “Aaron, you need to learn to laugh at yourself.” In an effort to please my mom and my Bible School instructors, I’ve decided to start the year off with revealing my most embarrassing moment to you, my loyal readers.
I was 21 years old and working full time as a waiter at Steak N Shake, a popular restaurant here in the Midwest. For those unfamiliar with Steak N Shake, think of a restaurant that resembles a 50’s diner-a step above fast food but not as high on the status scale as an Applebee’s or a Houlihans. Due to an extremely short staff that evening, one of the managers called me in to work at the last minute. I didn’t want to work on a Sunday evening, but I decided to go in anyway since I needed the extra cash…and because the manager on duty really needed the help.
I’m not sure whether God was getting even with me for breaking the Christian Sabbath or whether it was just plain bad luck, but I’ll never forget how it seemed like the entire state of Missouri showed up to eat at Steak N Shake that evening…with only me and one other guy waiting tables. (Note to hypercritical theologians…the above sentence regarding divine retribution for working on a Sunday is a literary device, not a doctrinal statement). There must have been at least 50-75 people all wanting service at the same time. Put that in combination with an individual such as myself who gets really flustered when he’s in a hurry and who happens to be gracefully challenged…and you have a disaster waiting to happen.
One table in particular started out with two shakes, a side of coleslaw, and a cup of soup, a coca cola and three glasses of water. Nothing unusual. I’d filled hundreds of orders like this before. Why this had to happen on a day when the entire restaurant was full, I’ll never know but just as I was getting ready to hand my customers their order, I slipped and fell flat on my …note to editors…derriere. The tray went flying and there was broken glass everywhere. I even managed to get a good portion of the chocolate shake in a female customer’s shoulder length hair.
If this were where the story ended, it would be embarrassing enough. Unfortunately for me and my customers, the story doesn’t end here. After cleaning up my mess I had to go back to fill the customers order a second time. As I walked out onto the floor, I could feel the intensity of every eye in the restaurant staring straight at me, wondering what was going to happen. With every eye glued on me and me alone (at least that’s what it felt like at the time), I attempted to deliver my customers’ order a second time and, what do you know, my foot slipped again and I landed flat on my back with my arms sprawled across the floor. Again, glass went flying everywhere and, again, the same lady received the same amount of chocolate shake in her hair as the first time.
After I fell the second time I went to my manager and begged him not to make me go back out and face the same crowd. “For the love of everything sacred and holy please don’t make me go back out there,” I pleaded. Even as I was pleading with my manager to let me go on break, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. We were too short-staffed and there were simply too many people in the restaurant. For the third time I had to take the walk of shame, only this time people had literally cleared the aisles to prepare a path for me to walk. They were fleeing for their lives. Thankfully, on my third try I was able to deliver the order to my customers and to my utter amazement, the lady with the chocolate shake in her hair even left me a sizable tip on the way out.
A very wise king once said, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again,” (Proverbs 24:16). While I hope and pray that everyone reading these words are doing wonderful and feeling great, I know that for some, perhaps many, that is simply not the case. Perhaps you’ve reached a place in your life where it feels like everything you touch turns to sand. Maybe you’re attempting for the 7th time the same New Year’s resolution. Maybe you’ve suffered a failed business, or a failed marriage. Maybe you’ve fallen away from God and feel that you’ve been out of the race for too long to get back in. Perhaps you’ve dropped out of church because of a root of bitterness you’ve allowed to take hold in your heart. Whoever you are and whatever your situation, know that you are not alone. It’s not the fact that you’ve fallen that defines you. It’s whether you get back up. If you feel like you’ve fallen too many times to be able to hold your head up high, perhaps your Heavenly Father has led you to read the words of this clumsy, flustered preacher to deliver this message to your soul at the start of 2008.
Happy New Year!
Your race isn’t over yet.