We’re over half way through Lent. If you have been faithful to a mini-fast from chocolate or coffee or Candy Crush Saga during this time in the Christian year characterized by reflection and penitence, then you are well aware of the calendar. Eighteen days to go.
Time moves more slowly when you are counting the days or the hours. Think of a child waiting for Christmas or a spouse waiting for their soldier to come home.
Perhaps that is one of the gifts of Lent for those who give themselves to its observance. A slowing down of time. An attentiveness to moments when they are emptied of their often mindless or frantic fill. Intentionally expectant of what God might provide when given some time and space to enter in.
I have some spiritual practices for this Lenten season. A mini-fast from coffee is not one of them. No one who knows me well really wants to see how that would play out. I have multiple ‘go to’ coffee spots in strategically identified locations around Wilmington so that a hot cup of comfort is never more than five minutes away. In one of them I need only to walk in the door and the preparation of a large regular with cream and sugar begins. I like that a lot. To be quick and to be known. Though, to be honest, unless my name has been changed to “Regular,” I’m not really all that known.
But it is quick.
I don’t like waiting. Not in traffic, the doctor’s office, the grocery store. If you want to know which checkout line will move the slowest, just get behind me. Because most days I’m trying to catch the tail of time as it is flying by, sitting with empty time feels like I am leaking liquid gold from my Daytimer. Too often, we look at our time with God the same way, anxious that more “productive” moments are slipping away from us.
This morning I got my coffee at Beau’s, a small coffee shop opened by our friends Amy and Ben about six weeks ago. The line is often long at Beau’s. Today it was spilling out the door onto the sidewalk. But I was happy to wait in it, blessed even. You see, while the coffee and pastries at Beau’s are terrific, that is not the draw for me. I dare say it’s not the draw for most of the folks in line with me. We’re all patiently and expectantly waiting to be received by the person behind the counter.
The staff at Beau’s is special. Their 18 employees have a variety of developmental and intellectual disabilities. Three workers staff the counter, along with a shift supervisor, fixing lattes, plating pastries, making change and, most especially, creating a powerful welcome for those who come to visit. A playing card connects you to your order. Mine was the eight of hearts. It seems appropriate. I bet all the cards are hearts.
Amy and Ben have four children. Their two youngest, Beau and Bitty, were born with Down Syndrome and are the inspiration for this venture which aims to give opportunities for a bright future to a population that is over 70 percent unemployed.
In a recent interview for the Rachel Ray show, Amy reflected on the community’s overwhelming response to Beau’s.
“It means that our employees are worth the wait,” she said, “and that’s a feeling most of them have never had before. It’s pretty cool.”
Perhaps the question that Lenten practices challenge us to ask ourselves is, “Is God worth the wait?”
Do we believe that when we get to the counter after time spent in the line of silence or solitude or fasting that the hospitality would be so sweet that we would gladly do it again and again and again?
Do we trust that time spent in reflection, gaining perspective on the parts of ourselves that need a refiner’s fire, will help us to gain a spirit as pure and compelling as the one who grins as she hands you a muffin?
Do we believe that as we wait we might catch a glimpse of what it might look like to create opportunities for resurrection hope in the world?
I encourage you to find a deck of care and, for the next 18 days, keep the eight of hearts taped to your mirror or the back of your phone and ask yourself the question, “Is God worth the wait?”