Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All Kinds of Perfect

            Human beings are totally depraved.  We can do nothing good apart from God.  He enables us to be good.  According to the good pleasure of His will, He gifts us.  Grace is more than a status, more than something that rescued us from Hell and promises us Heaven; it is real now, useful for our lives. 

Deserve.  Competition.
            Though marriage is good and normal and to be desired, it is not something that anyone deserves.  Nor is it a competition to be the most deserving.  Feeling that the wife market is a contest tragically cripples my relationships with other women as I become jealous and judgmental.  Or I get frustrated with men for not being discerning of who is most worthy of their attention.

            Marriage is a gift from God.  We become married, stay married, and excel at marriage only by His grace.  The timing and circumstances are results of God’s goodness, even when there is long waiting, heartbreak, rejection.  The goal of marriage isn’t for us to be happy.  It is a good gift, but it is also a good work. 

            There is so much pressure to be perfect, as though that would persuade men – or God Himself – that I am worthy of marriage.  And when I fall short of perfect, I despair of marriage.

            Grace answers this, because God’s grace is merciful.  Everyone already knows I’m a failure.  Marriage is not a synonym for heaven, the reward of the already sanctified; rather, that relationship promotes our sanctification.  God’s grace looks on my imperfection and gives me what will teach and grow me.  For now that gift is a time of hope.  One day He may make me more like His Son by making me a wife.   

All kinds of perfect.
            Looking around at the women who are already married, as though this was scientific, I see all different kinds of strengths and skills and types that have attracted men.  And I have no idea which kind of perfect my future husband is going to want/need/find attractive.
            Because men get to do the initial choosing, I also lose sight of the fact that men don’t deserve wives any more than wives deserve husbands.  So I shouldn’t be putting too much stock in what they think or how they feel.  The pot cannot say to the potter that the potter formed it wrong – but if the pot is a gift from the potter, the person receiving the gift would be rude and rather silly to tell the pot that the potter is forming it wrong.  Nor do I know many men who reject the good gifts the Potter has made for them.

            I believe God is much more involved in the process of finding a spouse than we give Him credit for.  There isn’t any scientific reason why a man should find one woman more attractive than another, why he should notice the shy girl and not go after the more exuberant one, for example.  God gives a man his wife, Proverbs teaches.  It’s almost like magic, and it is nothing I can control, even by being perfect. 

Striving, worrying.
            But I want to control, so I try to be all kinds of perfect.  I second-guess myself.  I over-analyze everything about everybody.  Maybe I gave the wrong impression of myself.  Why do people always assume things about me that are false and that don’t help my marriage prospects?  And then I worry that I’m not good enough.

            One good thing about grace is that it applies to other people as well.  I’m not a vindictive, no second-chances friend, so why do I expect anyone to treat me that way?  Do I have the humility to let others show me grace?  Do I have the confidence that God can work in their lives even when I’m not all-knowing – or even when I do something selfish or stupid?

Peace, joy, fulfillment, vessel. 
            Confidence that God is active, and good, brings peace.  I rejoice when I see Him working, when I receive a gift – whether it is a compliment, a conversation with a friend, or (if the Lord wills, someday) a husband.  I can rejoice when things don’t go as I had planned because it is evidence of a much smarter and more loving Person working.  There is fulfillment in being each day the person God wants me to be instead of the person I am guessing (this minute) would give me the best chance at getting married (this year).  In the life of each person I know, I don’t play the role that I want to play, or that they want me to take on; I can be the vessel for God’s grace and truth that they need, that He intends.  I would much rather have a marriage based on serving a spouse as God has designed than as either of us imagine or demand.

            There is a sense in which God’s grace reveals how I could please Him better.  He is perfecting me, faithfully, and will not cease to do so when I get married.  He guides me in the next step to take: not by excessive analysis of every possible outcome of my choices, but by personally revealing where I am weak and where He has made me strong. When I have the perspective to see that He is using others in my life for His purposes, I can follow the examples of other godly women, without jealousy; and submit to the men teaching on how to be a virtuous woman and valuable wife.  

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cheddar's Restaurant Review

For Mother’s Day my family took Mom out to a restaurant we’d never been to before, Cheddar’s.  Dad was leery since the name sounded like cheese.  Mom read the menu and it sounded like there would be good food for all of our tastes.  My brother called ahead and found out that they didn’t take reservations, even on holidays. 

So we arrived and were handed a little black disk, with flashing and vibrating potential, and an estimate of 25-30 minutes to seat our seven-person party.  All the indoor and outdoor seating for those waiting for tables was taken on this busy Sunday evening.  Dad and my sister took a walk.  Mom and the rest of us sat down on an out of the way sidewalk to play a word game while we waited. 

At 20 or 25 minutes, we were summoned inside to get our table.  Host and hostesses bustled in and out of the stone-tiled receiving area, consulting schedules and table charts and updating lists.  A woman in black (as all the hostesses wore) layered silverware on top of menus and led us beneath brick archways to our seats in the back corner of the restaurant.  The table was wide and a little high, made of a honey-colored wood and covered in a thick satin-shine finish.  Unadorned by colorful brochures about happy hours or daily specials, there seemed room to be a family.  My brother did discover the black leather-bound book with drinks and desserts, the only menu with pictures. 

Our waitress was a friendly and attentive woman, Casie, with a pink daisy in her hair behind one ear.  She quickly furnished us each with a drink (Coke products, lemonades, ice teas, waters), and was ready to take our orders when she’d handed out the glasses.  Within a few minutes we had received our happily-portioned house side salads (each with a croissant), another order of three honey-butter drizzled croissants, and queso chips and salsa appetizer.  The chips were thick; the salsa had a sweet tinge and the exotic addition of mango chunks. 

While we waited for the entrees – and the wait was considerable, but forgivable with such non-stop demands on the kitchen – a manager approached a table near us.  The diners there reported that they had received their food cold.  Immediately the woman told them that their meal was free, and she would do whatever she could to make it right.  They declined replacement food, but accepted a free order of the croissants.  We saw that family leave a while later with several to-go boxes. 

We spent time admiring the fish tank across the restaurant, the strong older custom look of the d├ęcor, and the fans with interesting blades – particularly the one near the entry whose blades rotated vertically, like a waterwheel, instead of the traditional horizontal strokes.  During this time our waitress replenished drinks and chips and salsa several times. 

Our food finally came, and there was plenty of it.  Hamburgers were a half pound each, and come with all the standard trimmings for only $4.99.  One thing I actually appreciated was that fries don’t come automatically with the burgers; you have to purchase them as a separate “side” for $1.79.  My dad and I both opted to get salads instead, a much healthier alternative.  Two of my sisters ordered chicken tender baskets off the appetizer menu, and those came with a side.  One got hers buffalo style, and reported that the flavor was “better than Wal-Mart,” the brand she usually buys.  Most of the dinner entrees came with a side or two, unlike the burgers.  We came away with two boxes of leftovers: French fries and chicken tenders and half of Mom’s burger.  I ate quite a lot, a croissant and another half in addition to my own order: with the honey-butter they were addicting! 

The menu at Cheddar’s advertised that they cook all their beef medium-well or well-done, which is rather unusual but just the way we like it.  Mom requested that her burger come well-done just to make sure.  When we received our orders, my burger was more done than hers, so we traded.  As I ate, I decided that my burger (which had been Mom’s) was more like medium-cooked, even, than medium-well.  Across the aisle from us we saw another manager approaching a small family in a booth.  The mom complained, almost apologetically, that her steak was not medium-well.  It was pink, and hard to cut.  She declined a replacement, since her toddler-son was already grumpy with the later evening hours approaching.  The manager made things right for her much as the other one had done for the other nearby family. 

Our order came without Mom’s side of fries, but she had gotten a side of corn that my sister didn’t want, so she was content.  We guessed that in taking seven people’s custom orders, the waitress had missed the simple and normal order for fries.  But when we got the bill, the fries were still listed.  The waitress promptly removed it for us. 

Over all I was pleased with our experience.  The prices are very good for a family-friendly sit-down restaurant, to the point that I’m surprised if they’re turning a profit.  Cheddar’s was definitely a popular destination for families on Mother’s Day.  Maybe the value, atmosphere, and excellent wait staff and customer relations will out-compete the other nearby options enough to keep them going.  They are just opening a second location in my state, in Colorado Springs. 

To God be all glory.