Several years ago I went out to dinner by myself. There are not too many secrets in my life, but I don’t think I have ever really shared this story with anyone before.
I think I decided on this solo dinner back when some people in my life were telling me that I needed “to get out more.”
“Prince Charming is not just going to ring your doorbell, you need to go out and mingle,” they would tell me. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really know how to mingle, but I did know how to eat dinner.
One weekend, with no set plans, I decided I was going to go to a particular restaurant downtown and see what happened. I dressed up in a particularly cute outfit, applied my make-up and curled my hair and set off for the commute to downtown. I didn’t think through all of the logistics ahead of time (which is actually unlike me), until I walked into the restaurant and the hostess asked how many were in my party.
“Uhhh, it’s just meeee…ahem, I mean three.” What was I thinking, about to tell the hostess that I was at this restaurant alone?! Looking around at all the other groups eating together, I all of a sudden felt quite silly. I contemplated just turning around and going home. However, I spent adequate time getting ready and driving 30 minutes to get there, so I decided to stay.
As the hostess sat me, I explained to her that I was waiting on another couple, but they were going to be late. I was basically lying to the woman. At the time, I chose to call the words that were coming out of my mouth – acting (don’t worry, I haven’t “acted” without a stage under me since – so this is not the time to recommend counseling, I can ensure you that).
She sat me outside on the back patio in a booth. I gave the same story to the waiter.
“Can I get your drink ord..”
“Oh! I am waiting on another couple, they should be here shortly!“(insert nervous laughter) “I am not here all by myself…don’t worry.” I gave him my drink order. He smiled and took off to retrieve it.
After dropping off my drink, he stated that he would be back when he saw my friends arrive.
I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into and I remember having an internal conversation with myself about my goal for the evening. What exactly was I hoping to get out of this night? Did I think that God was going to bring someone into my life that night? I was stepping out of my comfort zone and being bold. Maybe this is the night I would meet a guy and what a story we would have!
Robert the Waiter (that was not his real name, I couldn’t even remember his real name if I tried) checked on me a few times. After the third time, I explained to him that my friends were actually unable to make it after all. He apologized about the situation and asked if I was still going to order a dinner. I did and he sat down in the booth opposite of me and began a conversation.
Later he brought my meal back and asked if it was okay if he joined me, since it was conveniently his break time. I told him he was welcome to and off he went to fetch a hamburger.
As we ate, I remember thinking that the only problem of Robert eating with me is now my knight in shining armor would probably not be approaching me, since I had another man sitting across from me at the table. To be honest, I had actually noticed how good looking the DJ was and kept looking back his way to see if he noticed me. I’ll take away the suspense of the story and tell you that he didn’t.
But Robert noticed me. Well, he kind of had to since he was my waiter, but he didn’t have to choose to have dinner with me that night. And he did. Robert had a meal with me. Looking back on that now, I have come to realize that Robert was a blessing to me that night. It wasn’t because we had some riveting conversation. Actually the only thing I even remember about our conversation was that he tried to guess my age by looking at my hands. He told me that the hands of a woman, will usually always give away her age. I still think about that sometimes when I look at my hands and wonder if they would give away that I am now in my thirties. Not that anyone needs to guess my age anymore, since this blog was started, but you get the idea.
I thanked Robert for talking with me as I finished up and paid for my meal. I got up to leave, passed the DJ, and smiled at him. Then I did something I rarely do (tonight was my night to be bold, right?!), I turned around and made eye contact with Mr. DJ and said “You are really good looking.” He seemed to be caught off guard (who wouldn’t be, really?), but managed to say thank you. I smiled and turned back around and kept walking. I was honestly probably sensing a bit of disappointment that Robert was the one that gave me attention that night and not Mr. DJ.
I am not sure what my thoughts were as I drove home that night. And I can’t remember if I cried that night or not. Probably not, I seemed to be a bit more emotionally stable back then, but I am pretty sure that I didn’t thank God for Robert that evening.
I wish I could go back and thank Robert again, this time a bit more genuinely. Because if I did, I would tell him how much his presence meant to me. I would tell him how grateful I was that I didn’t have to eat alone at a restaurant after making such a silly decision to go there by myself. I would tell him that his smile warmed my heart and maybe even offer the “good looking” compliment up to him instead. He probably deserved it a bit more.
Recently I have been pondering the idea of how many unnoticed blessings I have in my life. I am in the midst of reading The Signet Ring by Kerri Kenyon and have come to realize there is a difference between blessings, gifts and being blessed. I am still a bit unclear of which terminology to use at what time, but in the end, that is probably not as important. So I might not get it 100% right as I try to explain below, for I have a lot more learning to do.
Merriam-Webster describes a blessing as, “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” I began to wonder if God wants us to be happy? And I think He does, because His love for us is so great. BUT sometimes I wonder if our definitions of happiness doesn’t always line up with God’s definition. Many times, my happiness is a result of what is happening around me and it is almost always directly aligned to my own desires. If I think about what makes me happy, I hesitantly admit, that most of it comes out of selfishness. An easy life without many trials would probably make most people happy – our human definition of happiness. But when comparing that to scripture, there are countless stories of people following Christ with a “not-so-easy life.”
In her book, Kerri explains that being blessed is not just the reward that we get when we are good. Nor is being blessed just about getting a good seat at a concert for a good price, avoiding a long grocery store line, or finding a really good sale on a new pair of shoes. According to Merriam-Webster, I can see how all of those would be considered a blessing. But being blessed goes deeper. So maybe we should call those gifts instead?
Blessed refers to living in close relationship with the God who created you. It is an intimacy with Him that allows situations and people to cause us to know and remember our need for Him, not distract us from Him. A blessing then, is simply a reminder of The One who created us. It is anything that keeps us in a place of wanting, needing, and loving Him more than anyone or anything else (Kenyon, p. 28).
Kerri goes on to explain that being blessed often comes through lack, suffering and dark places. That doesn’t really seem to line up with Mr. Webster, does it?
I don’t think what Kerri is saying is that blessings cannot be good things. Blessings can come in all shapes and sizes. And because of that, I think I am guilty of missing some. Maybe a lot.
When we are in a place of longing or despair, we tend to filter everything through a sadness filter. Just last night, someone texted me out of confusion and taking it through my sadness filter, my feelings were hurt. Because it was through text, a tone was missing, but my sadness filter certainly gave it one.
Every day we are walking among broken and wounded people – at our jobs, in the grocery store, and maybe even in our own homes. I wonder what filter they are using to process our words and actions? For most broken people, I am sure they are filtering most things through a filter of pain. Maybe similarly to me, a filter of sadness.
And while I think God gave us emotions for a reason, sadness being one of them, I don’t want to live the next year of my life constantly using it as a filter. I think it is okay to be sad and it is okay to cry, in fact, I think it is quite healthy. But there should be a sense of healing that comes from it. Those that push their sadness down, will one day probably reap the consequences of never letting themselves feel. So I wouldn’t advise that. But I would advise learning how to recognize what filter you are using and gaining the ability to change it.
So, what filter are you currently using as you process your own thoughts and emotions on a day to day basis?
The more we recognize that, the easier it will be to train ourselves to switch up the filter.
I want to change my “sadness filter” to a “blessing/gift filter.”
So when a waiter gives up his break time to eat with a lonely girl at a restaurant, I want to see that as just a small glimpse of God’s love for me.
Again, I am still not sure of the terminology, when it comes to being a blessing or a gift (I am sure it would depend on how I look at it), but here are some recent blessing and gifts in my own life.
-A stranger complimenting my hair as I stand in line at a store.
-People spending their Friday night with me and coming over to my house for a game night.
-A new friend bringing me dinner and then spending three hours getting to know me through conversation deeper than surface level.
-A text from another new friend telling me that she is thinking of me and that she hopes I have a great week.
-A text from a mentor asking how I am doing and making plans to meet up.
-A doctor that is taking interest in the well-being of my family.
-An invite from a friend asking me to come pray with her.
-A discernment of seeing someone struggling, offering to help, and him taking me up on the offer.
-A friend paying for my movie ticket.
-A broken heart that has led me to this place that I am at today.
-Going on several first dates that do not end up in a relationship.
-No guarantee that I will have the same job in the fall.
-32 years living in the abundance of God’s love.
When I stop and really think about it, I could multiply that list by ten. That is what happens when you use the blessing filter. I am really hoping to change that to my default, but I know that is not an easy feat. I know it will take awareness and practice on my part and most of all prayer.
God, please remind me to use my blessing filter more than my sadness filter. But give me the discernment to know how to handle situations when my sadness filter is used without my consent. Help me remember to be gracious to the people around me when they are filtering life through their past or current pain. And most of all, help me be a blessing to those that I talk with, so that they have no choice but to use their blessing filter when interacting with me.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8