Saturday, March 25, 2017

McDonald's and Jesus

It was a source of our shame. We didn’t want anyone to know. We wanted to hold that information close to our vest. 

Sometimes life leads you to a place you never wanted to go so you can see a little more clearly.

…like when he saw the exhaustion in her eyes. The brand new mom. Single and without a partner.

..or when he saw the man fight for the right words, and when those words wouldn’t come, his hand went to his forehead and he began to shake. Followed by profuse apologizing.

Sometimes life takes you where you wouldn’t normally choose to go so you can hear a little better.

…like when he heard the thirty-something’s dream of being a stand-up comic. And then came the invite to open mic at the bar so he could watch his new friend.

…like when he heard her say she didn’t want to be there, which is understandable. She’d recently lost twin babies at 5 months pregnant.

Sometimes life rocks you to the core so you can learn something you thought you already knew.

…like when his own prejudice for minimum wage workers was shattered as he rubbed shoulders with them everyday, never dreaming he’d find people he liked so well.

…like when he found himself surrounded by real people with real stories and no church background and realized he unexpectedly uncovered a makeshift congregation to love.

Yes, it had been a source of our shame. An embarrassment we wanted to hide away. A fact we were hoping no one would have to find out. 

Our little secret?

For the past two months, 
my husband has been working at McDonald’s.

Sometimes life takes you to a place you never wanted or would choose so you can actually get where you thought you were all along.


Almost 5 months ago, my husband and I completed 18 years of ministry at a single congregation. We knew we were making the right decision for our family. Putting emotional health and family care above a certain future. We walked away not knowing what was ahead. Without another job in place. Without an alternative source of income in tact. And this has been the hardest 5 months of my life.

Nothing has gone as I expected it. The job market is brutal, especially in a city that is fighting for survival. Potential employers don’t rush to your schedule. They don’t call when they say they will. There’s very little face to face interaction in this day of internet job postings and electronic applications. 

So what do you do when your community contacts are tapped out, your ministry degree gives you a breadth of experience that qualifies you for nothing, 70 applications later no job has come through, your hope is slipping, your savings is dwindling, and there are bills still to pay?

Enter McDonald’s.

The going has gotten tough. And sometimes you just take what you can get in the meantime. But who really expects “the meantime” to be the main thing? Maybe that’s what John Lennon meant when he said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

It took a whole lot of humbling, for my husband and me, to come to the place of accepting McDonald’s as a option for employment. That’s where we go to grab dinner, not to get a paycheck. We smile from the lobby, let others wait on us, get frustrated when the burger isn’t plain, and slowly begin to buy into a lie we never would have admitted before - that we who have been college educated, white collar workers are better than the people behind the counter.

Sometimes life seems to be closing in on you so you can realize how small-minded you’ve been.

Nearly every day after work, Paul has a new (sometimes entertaining) experience. He spent a whole shift at the fryer making sure those fried potatoes of deliciousness haven’t been sitting for more than 7 minutes. Most days, he works the register and will take your order with a clean-shaven baby face because corporate doesn’t allow facial hair.

Nearly every shift sends him returning home with a story. A new co-worker he’s met. A talkative customer he’s encountered. The 911 call that had to be placed. Individuals he might never have crossed paths with except for the intersection at the golden arches. Co-workers he has come to care about. Faces that have become precious to him. People who have shattered his biases and his prejudices.

Just the other night, I sat on the bed and watched Paul’s eyes grow red-rimmed as he talked about the people with which he works. People who months ago had been relegated in our hearts as less than, lower, beneath us.

And in that moment, I was convicted by my unknown blindsides. Rattled by my arrogant attitudes that would dare to exalt me above another simply because of employment. Because of hourly wage. Because of prejudice.

I looked at Paul and murmured, “You’ve met Jesus, at McDonald’s haven’t you?” He has been working the drive-thru window, stacking the Big Mac, ordering a fish filet combo. He’s had black skin and white skin, been female and male, old and young. He’s been staring back at my husband every day as his defenses have dwindled and the layers of our prejudice lay exposed.

The fast food business has served up a needed glimpse in our hearts. It's also allowed a precious glimpse into the face of Jesus. McDonald’s has brought us to a place we never would have chosen so that we could get where we needed to be…loving those at the margins of our lives; embracing those at the other end of our prejudices; leveling the ground at the cross in our minds.

Months ago, our short-sighted, small-minded thinking led us to believe we had already overcome these points of intolerance. We thought we would recognize Jesus when He showed up. 

We were wrong.

Had we overcome this bigoted classism, we would never have felt embarrassed. We never would have resisted wanting to tell others what we were doing to have some money coming in. What we had hoped would be a short stop at an unwanted station has become one of the sweetest gifts we could experience in these uncertain moments of our lives. 

We’ve seen Jesus.

…in the eyes of an exhausted mom.
…in the fumbling words of a customer.

We’ve heard Jesus.

…in the coworker’s dream of being a comedian.
…in the story of a grieving mother whose arms are doubly empty.

We’ve met Jesus.

…and He has exposed our sin of prejudice.
…and He has seen fit to gift Paul with a community to love.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect at all, and you realize you are the better for it.

Jesus said, "Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, 
that was me—you failed to do it to me." 
- Matthew 25:45b -