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Column: Love serves

My feet hurt.

I say that almost every day because I'm usually on them for at least five hours or more with minimal down time. I am a waitress at Barajas Mexican Bar and Grill where all servers bartend, too. It's my summer job--or perhaps it's for a longer season--but it's a good fit and "role" for me in small town USA, population 7,000.

All good theatre peeps (like me) seem to visit this profession as least once or twice in life. I'd be lying if I didn't say it's weird and humbling to be a server girl (with a college and teaching degree), working alongside some of the same students I taught in high school. But what's weirder is how much I'm actually enjoying it.

The owners are a husband and wife team who are both only 26 years of age, with two small children, who came from Mexico and opened this restaurant almost three years ago. They've found success with authentic, fresh food that serves northern Minnesota and our Canadian neighbors. I am humbled to be part of the team--a family of other servers, cooks and crew who work in a business that is about being of service to others.

This is what real life is all about. Love serves.

When I bike the two blocks home at midnight at the end of a closing shift, I often pray, thanking God for my job and for the people I work with and serve. I love people. I love good food. And the job does have perks, like the homemade guacamole and the super awesome foot rubs from my cute husband (did I mention my feet hurt?).

While my feature, Everyday Matters, still airs on the radio and I continue to write, travel and speak of Jesus, I guess I never thought I'd be using my feet this way to share the Gospel.

Honestly, there is something calming about scraping rice and beans off a plate in the back, watching Chris the dishwasher "crush it like a boss," wearing a garbage bag. It's kind of like the calm I get sorting laundry.

Each time I push my way through the bright pink door in the back to enter the restaurant, I try to connect to my new family by giving some sort of hug or touch--whether to Tito, the cook from Honduras, to Emily the server girl or to Wolf, the chips and salsa guy. We work as an odd sort of family--serving, swerving and swearing, but smiling, too, because we're all thankful for what we have.

This past week, the restaurant was vacant except for Lane, one of the cooks, and me. After we finished different chores, we sat in the back over a plate of French fries and I did what I love to do: ask a million questions. Lane told me about his life, two children, girlfriend in jail, love of music and skill as a cook. And as easy as bringing out more chips and salsa, I brought up the Gospel and Jesus walked into our conversation.

The conversation about Christ was effortless, in part, because I had just answered the question, "Who is Jesus and how do I talk about Him?" when preparing for the Sunday school class I was teaching. I love the teaching of Pastor Timothy Keller and I must have listened to his podcast, "The Word Became Flesh," at least a zillion times.

Dr. Keller shares, "You have a man, a human being, Jesus, claiming to be God, the ultimate true God, and the living God. He is claiming to be the judge of the world and not only pointing the way, but He is the way. This forces your hand, does it not? What do you do with these claims? You either decide He's a fool, or He's wicked and you run away from Him, or else you throw everything at His feet and say command me and build your whole life around Him. But you can't go halfway. You can't just like a man who talks like this. You can't just like Jesus when these claims are made about Him. It's all or nothing."

Jesus came to close the gap. His teachings say, "Accept my pardon, my sacrifice, so you might have hope now and eternally."

In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached about an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome:

"Ah," the neighbor says. "I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?"

"We don't have a temple," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our temple."

"No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?"

"We don't have priests to mediate the presence of God," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our priest."

"No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?"

"We don't need a sacrifice," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our sacrifice."

"What kind of religion is this?" sputters the pagan neighbor.

And the answer is that it's no kind of religion at all.

So, in a Mexican restaurant on the Fourth of July, I had the opportunity to feel sorry for myself because I was missing out on parades and corndogs but, instead, I was doing what I loved most, which is sharing the hope of Christ in a relationship.

As a child, my Aunt Ginger had shared how I could have a relationship with God. I had the freewill to choose Jesus and I had accepted Him as God. You see, once you've accepted Jesus you want to do all "this stuff," and religion says, once you do all "this stuff," you'll be accepted.

I'm comforted that Jesus never leaves me and always understands me, even when I don't understand myself. Not even the best-intentioned husband--with the most loving of foot rubs--can compare to Jesus, the perfect comforter and counselor, because He is God, the Word who became flesh and blood and lived among us. He shared in our humanity. He understands us and knows everything about us because He suffered too.

Think about it. The best counselors are the ones who have been through hard and painful circumstances, but have come out the other side. When Lane shared more about his girlfriend being in jail, I connected in a way I couldn't have, had I not been in the orange suit attire myself, lying on a cot in a cell, with an issued blanket, toothbrush and Bible.

The Word was and is alive to me because Jesus is the living Word. Jesus knew I would exit and then enter into a season where others needed a friend who not only served them, but could understand them too.

God heard our cries and He came down as a baby, vulnerable and then relatable as He walked through our disappointments, pain and rejection. Sometimes, I've felt that God doesn't hear me, that He's abandoned me, and I bet you've felt that way too.

Yet, because Jesus came down as fully God and fully man, He understands what it is be abandoned by God.

I told our oldest son today that I never really dreamed of having children because my dream was Broadway, and I thought of marriage as companionship and support while I pursued that dream. But here I am, a server girl at age 50--riding my bike to work and loving that I have four sons who are all home for the summer and a husband who supports me.

I'm completely content with how this season of life is serving me because I see how Christ desires to serve all of us by His service and sacrifice to the cross.

That's crazy real love and that kind of Love serves every day.