A Cafeteria Conviction

I stand at my cafeteria post, dressed in gloves and a smile – ready to serve my 30 minutes of lunch duty. The second graders slowly begin to trickle in- some with hungry eyes directing them straight towards the lunch line, anxious to see what the menu holds. Others plop down in a seat and quickly unzip their lunchboxes, eager to begin tearing into what their parents prepared. 

Today is different, I notice. Some parents are present for a special event. I see some greeting their children at the cafeteria doors, as their classes arrive. A few others move their way into the crowded chaos- holding bags of Panera, McDonalds, and Chickfila- scanning the tables until their eyes spot their children. 

The kids’ requests are fewer today, perhaps because so many adults are present to help with the mundane tasks that they normally raise their hands to request assistance with – opening sauce packets and milk cartons, a peer conflict (tattling), or the occasional request to leave the table for water or (yet another) trip to the bathroom. 

Instead of hands rising into the air for help, their hands are occupied with digging into their snacks and tapping the visiting parents on the shoulder, in hopes of engaging them in conversation. The presence of a grownup at the table demands attention.

One boy waits hopefully for his father. He tags along with a friend whose parents have already showed up. “I don’t know where he is,” I hear him tell his friend’s parents, with a voice of discouragement. His friend’s mother reassures him. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he will be here soon.” 

Ten minutes have passed and some kids are already finishing up their lunches. The waiting boy continues to wait, eyes fixed on the door in anticipation of his father’s arrival. I observe from afar and remain hopeful on his behalf. 

A few minutes later, I see him dash to the door. Before his father can make his way through the double doors, he jumps up on him and embraces him tightly around the neck. Although lunch was more than halfway over, his father’s presence made his joy complete. 

My heart is convicted. Our Heavenly Father has promised us that He will be there for us. But how often do we sit in discouragement as we wait for Him to show up? How often do we feel alone as we look around the room and feel that everyone else has already received the promise that we are waiting for? 

Let us consider the times of waiting, in the past- the times in which we falsely assumed that our Father’s delay meant denial of our request, altogether. And then He showed up, fulfilling the promise that He said He would- the promise that we are not forsaken and that He is never far off. Let us wait well, knowing that He is on the way. And His very presence deserves a warm embrace. For His presence makes our joy complete. 

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

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