It was loud as we walked in and it looked like nothing had changed since 1962 when the doors first opened. We were in Ocean City, NJ this past week and decided to have breakfast at Ready’s, a place recommended to us by our friends who lived nearby. As we sat down, I noticed that the patrons did not look like tourists and that most of them were smiling. If we were looking for an authentic “local joint” to have a great meal, it looked like we had found it.
Our waitress, who I will call Martha, came by quickly to see what we wanted to order and seemed friendlier than normal. We were eating breakfast with our youngest son and were sitting in a booth with an extra seat available on his side of the table. Just like that, Martha sat down and began to take our order. She did not even seem to notice that she was sitting in our booth or act like this was in any way unusual. Her smile and warm demeanor were so disarming that we hardly noticed what had happened ourselves until she got up to go back to the kitchen.
We began chatting about how beautiful the day was when our drinks and food began arriving. Martha had coffee for Deb and all kinds of other things in her hands. As she put them on the table she looked at Deb and called her “darling”. I have been in other restaurants where certain terms of endearment like this were used for the patrons, but that had been in the south, not Ocean City, NJ. As the food arrived, we were already in a good mood and the breakfast did not disappoint. Martha had been careful to point out that everything was made to order and nothing was prepackaged. I had one of the best omelets I have ever tasted and could have eaten more.
As we were eating our breakfast, I overheard a group of men in the booth behind us who were clearly Christians. They probably met at this same place every Friday morning to talk about the Bible, catch up on each other’s lives and to grow in their faith. On this particular day, I heard them mention that “she had stage 4 cancer” and was now in remission. At first I thought they were talking about someone they knew, but soon it became apparent that they were probably talking about Martha as the conversation died down every time she stopped at their table.
It was clear that something was different about Martha. She had an infectious personality and made an impact on everyone she talked to. I am sure that some of the regulars came just to chat with her and see how she was doing. She was not letting her disease get the best of her. In fact she was demonstrating the reality that serving others can transform our outlook on life. Her personal transformation was the highlight of my day and a reminder that while life may be shorter than we would like, we have a choice in how we will approach each day.
Jesus demonstrated this principle so many times in his ministry that it often baffled his disciples. Why did he spend so much time healing the sick, casting out demons and paying attention to children? When he should have been sleeping, he was often praying and constantly demonstrated that other people mattered most to Him. At the last supper, he set the ultimate example by getting on his knees and washing the feet of those that would betray and deny him in just a few short hours. On the very cross itself, as he was dying, he took time to pardon a man of his sins and to welcome him to join him in paradise that very day.
In the face of so many obstacles to the Christian faith in our society today, I am often tempted to withdraw and serve myself. If the people around me don’t want to know about Jesus, why should I care? As that self-centered thought crosses my mind, I am quickly reminded that I was once one of those people and he died for me anyway. As a wonderful CLC author, Marty Berglund says in his new book, No Matter What, we have been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking God why, we should be asking Him what. What can I do today to serve others and glorify Him? Only as we seek to serve will we ever hope to understand why? Even then, we may only get the answer in heaven and that’s OK.