Picante Sauce Grace - the essence of His heart.
God whispers to my heart at the strangest times, and in the strangest places.
There are other more prestigious eateries in town, but I like Taco House. The food is so-so; it's the memories that keep me coming back. Since I can remember my family has frequented the simple café, munching its chips and salsa and downing ice-cold sodas. I like to fancy I became a woman the day I ate my first bowl of their green chili.
This visit is no different from the thousands before. Slipping into the booth across from my 16-year-old daughter, Diana, I casually skim the menu then opt for a piping hot burrito smothered in (what else) green chili. That settled, I scan the restaurant taking in the odd assortment of patrons - some obviously on their lunch break, others kicking back just relaxing with friends. My nose is assaulted with a delightful assortment of south-of-the-border scents making my mouth water in anticipation.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see our waiter approaching the table. He looks dapper in his blue jeans and spiffy white t-shirt. Though I've never asked, I'd guess him to be twenty-something-ish and worldly wise. He's friendly and efficient, hence the title we've bestowed on him of Favorite Waiter. Without benefit of a serving tray, he manages our table settings, a basket of corn chips, a bowl filled near to the brim with zesty picante sauce and two tall glasses of water.
He is close, so close, when it happens. As if in slow motion, I watch the bowl of sauce tip precariously to the side. His attempts to stop the inevitable are futile. Fresh-from-the-refrigerator picante spills over the edge and waterfalls into my lap.
Mortified, Favorite Waiter apologizes profusely, 'Oh, no! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!”
It takes mere moments for the pottage to seep through my now multi-colored skirt and down between my legs. Grabbing a napkin, I wipe at my skirt, desperate to stop the unwelcome flow. I'm aware that our waiter is still standing at my side in shock. Knowing he feels horrible, I quickly assure, "It's okay. Really. I'll just wipe it off. I'm not going anywhere special, so it doesn't matter. Look, it blends right in with what I'm wearing!"
Glancing upward, I realize with equal shock that I am not the only casualty. Favorite Waiter is wearing picante sauce, too. Beginning at the crest of his shoulder, angling down across his stomach, and stopping shy of his waistband is a brilliant red stain. He looks worse than I do!
We eat our meal, pay the bill and grin as he quips with a cautious smile, "Everything okay, except for the clothes?"
Once in the car, Diana and I succumb to laughter. "You know," I say between snickers and guffaws and catching my breath, "I feel sorry for him. He has to wear that shirt for the rest of the day. We ought to go to the thrift store and get him another one to wear."
The smile on Diana's face vanishes as she levels me with a mature beyond her years look. In an even, measured tone she says, "We ought to go to the store, Mom, and buy him a new shirt. It won't cost very much."
So, that is exactly what we do. On our return, I appoint Diana as emissary. Slipping through the side door, she timidly hands Favorite Waiter the brown, paper bag. Curious, he looks inside. Then he smiles, one of those grins that stretch from ear to ear. "No way!" he says, "I deserve to be punished, not rewarded!"
And, that's when I hear it - the still, small voice of God. "That, daughter, is what grace is all about. Not giving people what they deserve, but what they don't deserve. Kindness, not punishment. Forgiveness, not condemnation. Love, not anger."
Thanks, Lord, for your marvelous grace and for whispering to my heart at the strangest times, and in the strangest places.