Do you ever have moments when you notice God trying to get your attention? Not “GOD IS SPEAKING TO ME” in a tangible, audible way. I’ve always found that idea a little misleading. For me, it’s been when my self-focused life is interrupted by a feeling. A presence. Where I’m suddenly hit with a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me. And I’m prompted in a direction towards something different … something bigger, possibly scarier, and outside of my comfort zone. You’re not speaking with God face to face, but you can definitely feel the evidence that God is at work.
The last time God got my attention was with curly fries. Two days ago, I was craving them like nobody’s business.
I don’t usually have fast food cravings, and I don’t really even like french fries. But curly fries? They’re delicious, and I really needed to eat them.
I wanted curly fries, and I needed to find an Arby’s
The problem is, I don’t live very close to any Arby’s. Usually, it wouldn’t bother me. But this was an unusually strong craving — for no discernible reason — so I decided to do some research. I searched 5 different locations on Google maps. Each was at least 20 minutes away. So I ignored the craving and life moved on.
But on Wednesday, I was driving home from the Shoreline Costco, when I realized Arby’s was literally 3 minutes away. Now, I was half contemplating going home to work. I’ve been trying not to work after hours, but things have been super busy lately.
I figured I could still get some curly fries first. So I did a U-turn and drove straight towards Arby’s. I pulled into the parking lot, parked, and glanced up at the restaurant next door.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had not idea which restaurant was right next door
Denny’s. You know, that diner-style pancake house with pies, burgers, and omelettes. Denny’s was right next door. I hadn’t been to a Denny’s since my grandpa’s birthday.
Everyone in my family has been to Denny’s a million times. It was my late grandpa’s FAVORITE restaurant. The restaurant will forever be interwoven with memories of my childhood, of birthday parties, of visits to grandma and grandpa’s house, and … more importantly … with the unmistakable feeling of how much my grandfather loved me. What it felt like to be loved unconditionally, by someone whose day was brightened just because you were in it. The love of a grandparent is pretty unique, and it’s a beautiful picture to hold onto, especially once the grandparent is gone.
Suddenly, nothing else mattered
I didn’t even want curly fries anymore. I didn’t care about trying to work after-hours. I just wanted to sit in that parking lot, in my car, in the calm, quiet dark and stare up at that Denny’s sign.
I just wanted to be still. To be quiet. And to remember the amazing life and legacy that my grandpa has left behind. On my iPhone, I started to play Jon Foreman’s “Learning How to Die,” a song about saying goodbye to someone you love.
It’s the song my brother, sister, and I listened to on the day we said goodbye to my grandpa at the hospital. It’s the song we sang when we got the text message that grandpa had died. It’s the song I play when I miss him. At random moments throughout the 3 months since he’s died, I’ve listened to that song. It’s a way to remember him, to remember how meaningful his life was, how much he taught me, and what it felt like to be cared about so deeply.
And that can be how God “speaks”
God didn’t come down in a bolt of lightning and command me to stop being a workaholic. God didn’t chastise me for ignoring God lately — for being so focused on my job that I stopped praying, reading Scripture, and spending time with God like I had been before.
I just found myself sitting in a fast food parking lot, in a situation I didn’t expect, and it prompted me to think differently about my life. Of course, I didn’t have to re-evaluate my priorities. I could have seen the Denny’s sign, walked into the restaurant I meant to go to, bought my curly fries, and headed home to work, as planned.
But I didn’t. I sat in my car, listened to the song, and remembered my grandpa’s life … and all the ways God has been present in my life, teaching and encouraging me in the aftermath of this loss. Because God has been active in powerful ways. And I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
So now I can choose. I can choose if I want to prioritize work over everything else, or I can choose to put God more at the center. God isn’t going to rush in and demand I do anything. God may prompt quietly, but if I’m too caught up in my own problems … I might not even notice.
But I have been feeling off lately. Just spiritually off. Weird and inept and off-kilter. I need more Denny’s parking lots. I need more experiences of calm and quiet — where everything else stressful in my life fades away, and I can focus on God and where God is directing me to go next.
For the record, I did go in to Arby’s afterwards and buy some curly fries. They were great. But they weren’t what calmed my nerves and quieted all my stress. I know where to go when I’m craving food. It’s just nice to be reminded of how to address the deeper need. And God is pretty great at that.