The Table That Prayed For Me
She approaches the table slowly, hands laden with plates of food, and I recognize her immediately: Marina from Moldova. She had been our waitress on our last visit, had spoken to us in Russian, and we had prayed for her health. That was at least six months ago, and now, though she isn’t our waitress, she is serving us our food. I want to know how she’s doing, but am not sure if she’ll even recognize us, so I ask, “Do you by any chance remember us?” She smiles warmly, “Of course I do. You’re the only table that’s ever prayed for me.”
It’s something we learned from our Uncle David, a fun-loving Methodist minister, who, when out at a restaurant, would say to the server, “We’re going to say a prayer before we eat, is there anything we can pray about for you?” My sister Cathryn–bold and compassionate–picked up the practice in her last year of high school, and so when Sean and I were in Florida two winters ago, she asked our waiter at Outback Steakhouse if we could pray for him. This tall, good-looking young man–arms full of Bloomin’ onions and beers–was so overcome by the request that he began to cry, and had to walk away from the table to compose himself.
It’s a tiny gesture, but in a world filled with darkness, it’s at least a pin-prick of light: an opportunity to give someone the slightest glimpse of God’s heart toward them. The responses and requests vary: “I’m in the middle of finals now and it’s crazy!” from a beautiful, vivacious waitress at the Bottle Room in Whittier. Or from Mimi, our favorite waitress with crazy red hair who gives us free beer and wine on our birthdays, “I’m good right now, but can you pray for our bartender? He’s going through a really rough time.” Or the waiter, covered in piercings, serving us steaming bowls of udon noodles at a charming restaurant in Ashland, who snapped, “No!” in my face before I could even finish the question. We went ahead and prayed for him anyway.
This isn’t a post about what great Christians we are. (Half the time, in the flurry of receiving our food, we forget to ask.) Instead, I hope it’s a post about learning to be like Christ–because that is what I’m always reminded of as I sit comfortably in a booth or at a table and open my mouth to do something that feels vaguely strange–a few steps outside of society’s norm. I’m reminded of who Christ is–the very nature of the One I follow. I’m reminded of how different He is from me, and how, if He were sitting in a restaurant, He would be thinking not so much about how fast or slow the food was ready, how expensive the prices or how prompt the service, but about the people He encountered. He would know that each person was made in the image of God–bore the imprint of the Divine in their very being–and He would treat them as the precious and beloved creations that they are.
I hope Marina, born in Eastern Europe and now transplanted to Orange County, California, was able to see a tiny glimmer of Christ in us–but I know with certainty that God himself enabled us to see Christ in Marina, and that is the most life-changing vision of all.