A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the Starbucks drive through behind the ever constant line of cars that frequent this popular coffee shop. We usually make our own coffee each morning at home, but on this particular morning, our coffee bag was found barren. I was on my way to my wild man’s four year check-up. The check-up that everyone has coined "the doozie". I needed this small cup of confidence. I was taking both of my children to the doctor together- for the first time. A rambunctious 4 year old and a crawling and curious 10 month old in an office full of flu victims and snotty noses. Like I said, I needed it.
I waited patiently as the line slowly moved along and I began to place my order to the sweet barista on the other side of the speaker. I went for the grande latte this time. Tall just might not cut it. Then I decided I should probably add a breakfast sandwich to that. Those well visits run long sometimes and I didn’t want to find myself hungry and cranky. In pipes the wild man, “I want a cookie!” He’d have to settle for a blueberry muffin. "While I’m at it, I should get myself a bottle of water, and wild man will definitely need something to wash down his muffin". By the time I finished my order I was in a cold sweat realizing I’m about to drop 50 bones at Starbucks and it’s not even 9am. My husband is going to croak when this pops up on his online banking report. "How in the world did you spend that much money at Starbucks?!" He'd say. "It's called survival, honey". That's what I'd tell him.
I pulled up to the window torn between my excitement for my frothy goodness and my disdain knowing I’ll have to hear Andy harp about me throwing money at Starbucks. I handed over the card and she looks at me with these excited and twinkling eyes and exclaims, “No need to give me your card, ma’am! The car before you paid!”
I immediately snapped back, “All of it?!”
“Yes!” she replied with a smile. “They paid it all!”
I glanced behind me. There wasn’t a car in sight. But I had to pay it forward. I just couldn’t make out like a bandit this way. Those poor souls had no idea what they were doing when they offered to pay for the car behind them. They just dropped enough money on their “drive through difference”, as our local radio station calls it, as some people would on a five star steak dinner. I felt awful. Almost guilty.
I did the only thing I could at the time. I thanked the energetic barista and made my way to the doctor’s office.
I spent my 30 minute drive racking my brain of how I could pay this act of kindness back. I almost worried myself sick about it. “Maybe I could just drop in a fast food restaurant and pay for someone’s meal? Just a quick stop.” But that would involve getting two kids out of the car, and inevitably being late to our appointment. "Or I could pull up to a gas station to pump and pay for someone's gas."
What was I doing? Why couldn’t I just accept this favor that was bestowed upon me? I felt guilty that I hadn’t evened the score. Payed my debt. Given away what I owe. Was my heart attempting to pass along this kindness because it was bursting with joy by the gift of grace? Sadly not. I hadn’t even taken a moment to revel in the beauty that someone sacrificed (maybe their own dinner) to pay my frivolous breakfast treat.
My heart began to hurt. Not from the agony that I owed a debt to a random stranger. My heart hurt because I knew it wasn't in the right place. Am I obligated to do good deeds or honored to?
One of my favorite hymns is “Jesus Paid it All”, made even more popular by Kristian Stanfill's modern version.
Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
I owe Him everything. Yet I owe Him nothing. I owe Him my life, my heart and my soul. But I do not owe Him a list of good works. I am not supposed to search out someone to pass on a good deed because I feel guilty that someone paid my debt. I am supposed to give that costly grace in a moment when God puts someone in my path.
I wondered then, after this realization. Did that precious person in front of me at Starbucks look into their rearview mirror and see a tired and stressed mother, reaching her arms across the car to find a lost pacifier and scrambling through her purse for her misplaced debit card? I'm sure they did. They saw their opportunity to serve and they acted. They weren’t obligated to find me and pay for my smorgasboard of Starbucks. They were honored to extend a kind gesture to a frazzled mother and brighten her day.
And it did.
“Our pleasure and our duty,
though opposite before,
since we have seen His beauty,
are joined to part no more.”
-John Newton (Author of Amazing Grace)
Thank you for the sacrifice of your Son Jesus Christ. Because he shed crimson, we are washed white. You know the dilemma between pleasure and duty, all too well. Though it was your duty and your purpose to die for our sins on the cross, to be a living sacrifice, it was also your ultimate pleasure to save us from our pain, suffering and sins. We look forward to the day we see your face and dine a heavenly banquet. Until then, we will take pleasure in our duty to love and serve You and our fellow man.
May blessings abound for you during this Holy Week!