Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cheeseburgers

Or on not taking the ordinary for granted...

There is a saying that even when they are only “pretty good” pizza, cheeseburgers, and sex are still awesome. I believe every facet of that saying (don’t get excited, I’m not going to talk about sex, at least not today). If you know me you know I love cheeseburgers. As a matter of fact I arrange meetings to be near good cheeseburger places. I like all types of cheeseburgers. I like the ones at Central CafĂ© pressed flat, and served on a little, fluffy bun with chili and mustard. I like
big, thick burgers from Red Robin, or those little pieces of heaven served at Five Guys. I like to make my own recipe cheeseburgers and watch people eat them with a surprise that a burger can, sometimes, be as good as a steak. It is my contention that cheeseburgers will be on the heavenly banquet beside really good fried chicken and banana pudding. I’ll let you know when I get there.

So we are on our way to the car leaving the hospital. Danelle has some great stories she will share about how awesome the valet parking guys were to her, and an interesting encounter with a scammer at the Rite Aid but I’ll leave that to her story. We gather documents, the infamous DVD with all the pictures of my guts, the clothes that have accumulated from camping in the hospital for four days and get on the elevator. I was still really shaky and the drop of the elevator felt little like Disney’s Tower of Terror, but the doors slid open and we made our way to the parking lot.

The exterior doors opened and I felt the rush of cool, lake saturated summer air. After days of conditioned air filled with clinical smells it almost took my breath away. The wind was blowing and I began to get chilled. Thanks to the valet guys our car was close so I got into the passenger seat (a new experience for me actually) and we eased out of the driveway.

Now up until this point my encounter with solid food since Saturday afternoon had mostly been in the wrong direction. While in the hospital the closest thing I had to real food was a couple of bagels Danelle snuck in from Panera Bread Company with their amazing cream cheese (cause the hospital’s were like hockey pucks) and some bland chicken noodle soup. I needed something on my stomach in order to take my evening pain medication and Danelle asked what I wanted. You guessed it, I said, “I want a cheeseburger.”

It was late, there wasn’t much open. I told her that on her way back to our friend Diane’s (who was an incredible and gracious host that Danelle will write about I’m sure) I convinced Danelle that my first meal since being sprung from the joint should be a McDonald’s Double with a small chocolate shake. Later she said she was convinced I’d be revisiting that meal, it’s not exactly the “healthy choice” you know, but what the heck, I’m dying anyway.

We pulled into the drive-thru and made the order, only after Danelle checked at least two more times to make sure that’s what I wanted. The attendant handed us the bag and the cup. I didn’t want much of the shake (I knew Danelle would be a champ and finish it for me) but those first few sips of cold milkshake bathed the back of my throat and re-awakened my taste buds.  (I had wondered if they’d ever come back to life after hospital food.) Then I took a bite of the burger.

One of the side effects I’m having is that sometimes I am really hungry and may not know it. It may be pressure in my abdomen or the fact that I was NPO for three days, but my stomach is having a tough time sending messages to my brain. I took that first bite of a completely average cheeseburger and it tasted…normal. It didn’t taste like the best thing I had ever eaten, it wasn’t incredible, but it was predictable. At that moment some sense of normalcy re-entered my topsy-turvy world. A little of the fog lifted as I began to realize that in the middle of the storm of my life, the rest of the world kept turning. I took another bite, and another, I had to force myself to slow down because I also realized, for the first time in days,that I was starving. I ate some of Danelle’s fries, drank some more shake, and finished the burger. Part of life had been set right by a cheap cheeseburger, who knew?

We undervalue the mundane. Maybe you don’t, but I know I have. I have often grown bored with the daily grind of life. The predictable things like mortgage payments, cooking supper, and mowing the grass (alright, I’m busted, I pay somebody to cut my grass) seem like drudgery. That night, eating that completely average cheeseburger I understood the value of the predictable in my life. I understood how things that happen over and over again, how mundane rhythms are really God’s way of helping us have a foundation for our lives. You have to be careful what you build your foundation on. You have to be selective about what normal things you seek to incorporate into your life. Sure, you have to go to work, do the chores, pay the bills. There are some things that you need to choose to include in your regular rhythms, things like worship, prayer, and Scripture reading. Sometimes those things feel like drudgery too. You think you are just going through the motions, that you aren’t really “getting anything out of it.” So what, keep doing it. Keep spending that intentional time with God. That small ritual of reading the scripture before your feet hit the floor, or saying the Lord’s Prayer at lunchtime, or praying with your spouse before you drift off to sleep. Keep practicing those simple, everyday disciplines because in one moment the ordinary can slip away and when it returns it renews your soul.

One day you are going to wish you just had a cheeseburger. There will be a day in your life that it all falls apart. Oh sure, you may not get diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer, you may have a car accident, or lose a loved one, or find yourself at the end of your rope. It's on those days when you are going to long for the days when the world was normal, and when you return to those things, you will realize you should never undervalue the mundane again.

God, I confess that I have sinned by not appreciating the places you show up in the mundane things of life. Thank you for making me more aware of how important simple things like paying the bills, cheeseburgers, and cooking supper bring balance to our lives which are so often out of control. In the name of the one who has the whole world in His hands, Jesus, I pray. Amen

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