What is one of the first things you do when you walk into a new restaurant?
You probably either first look at the menu to see if it is worth sitting down to get a table, or you check the sanitation grade that should be hanging somewhere close to the entrance. The sanitation grade is there for health reasons. The restaurant is either average, above average, or shut down for the cleanliness in how they care for the food and quality of the front and back of the house. This grade tells us so much without giving any actual details. We see the grade and then make decisions based off it.
This got me wondering…What if I had to do that with my life? What if I had to walk around with a name-tag label on my shirt that said how I should be graded that day?
Or if it is actually a true sanitation grade it is really me displaying a grade I have to wear today for how I measured up yesterday. Even more, what if we had to do this at the front door of our house? Not just for the cleanliness of the kitchen, but if we had random inspections that graded our hearts, graded our families, graded our marriages.
As I am putting my heart out for the world to see and trusting God to do something with it, I want you to know that I am not sure what a health inspector would grade if he looked at my life, and a couple months ago looked at my marriage. Matt and I are slowly allowing ourselves to be vulnerable hoping that others can grow through the trials we’ve gone through. We are learning that every marriage has them, but no one wants to be vocal enough to admit it, even though we would all connect and be strengthened by the encouragement that we all go through tough seasons in our life and in our marriage.
Matt and I have both hurt each other in our marriage. We’ve also both loved each other immensely and unceasingly. We both have had days where the health sanitation grade for our marriage has been average, days where it has been above average, and through our almost 12 years and 3 beautiful kids together also had times in our marriage where there have been seasons where it has felt like it has had to be shut down, where we really missed the mark. Seasons where we hurt each other. Being at low places in your life can make you the most sensitive to being and doing the things you never thought you would do and hurt the person in the world you love the most.
That is us. We dealt through some difficulties a few years ago, and more recently have had to deal with more hurts a few months ago. Me…hurting him. You don’t see that in the pictures of our beautiful family do you? You don’t see the struggles, the imperfections, and the hardest days. In fact, you won’t even notice them, because I mostly go completely silent until I feel the storm as passed.
So what does that look like for our marriage? Here’s what the worldly health inspector would say: “Shut down for business, closed for repairs, don’t eat here, don’t even come near here or you could get sick, this disease could infect you if you come too close. No 100% ‘A’ grade given here, go eat lunch at the place next door.”
That is the world’s response, but what does Jesus say? I’ll tell you.
Jesus sat down at the table that no one wanted to eat at. The table with the sinners, the table that had been given the worst sanitation grade. They are unclean, unfit to eat with, don’t go over there or you could get dirty too. Jesus walks over to them (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31; and Matt 9:12).
I see this scene in the Bible like the middle school cafeteria, with Jesus holding his tray with all his friends waiting to see where He is going to sit, and Jesus goes to “that” table, with “those” people, and the middle school “too-cool-for-that-table” friends are saying “What the heck are you doing?”.
Jesus came to show hope for the hurting, to be a light in the places and people that often get overlooked. He sees you. He sees me. He sees our marriage, and He walks in our front door even when the sanitation grade is awful and He says “Can I sit here?”. He doesn’t leave us and wait for the storm to pass like most of your “clean” friends may do, he pursues us even in the storm. He won’t let you forget that He hasn’t left. Jesus’ presence reminds us that when sin enters a room it doesn’t mean that love disappears from it.
This is how Matt and I try and model hope in our marriage. Not expecting ourselves to be married to two blameless and perfect people, that was the misperception we brought into our marriage. But loving on the days and even the seasons that are the hardest. Seeing love from each other even on the days where we really have to look for it or days we don’t really deserve it.
At times when Matt has hurt me, in unintentional ways, my world feels shattered. I can be quick to give a failing grade to my best friend and can even want him to walk around with that “F” on his shirt all day everyday. But that’s not the heart of God, so I have to use this to teach me how to treat Matt based off of the character I see in Jesus. The world gives us a health inspection and deems us dead and God walks through the same person, and sees the price Jesus paid so that the health of our stores and our souls still have potential, can still be opened for business.
When I hurt Matt, he loves me in this same way. He doesn’t look at me and make me walk around with a sanitation grade on who I was that I am not proud of from yesterday, he wakes up each morning kisses me on the forehead before he walks out the door and starts out saying with his actions that we start each day as brand new, fresh start, you have worth, I want to stay here, I love this restaurant so much that I will eat here even on the days where the world rumors it is no good.
We said we were “in love” when we first got married, we now realize that this journey is about truly learning what “love” actually means and how to do it in a way that models how God loves us.
How God sees us as His children, and how He treats us when we don’t always get it right, when our grade is below average and we turn to our Father in confession and He says to us, “let’s get up tomorrow and start new, it’s a new day, fresh start, you have worth, I’m not going anywhere”. We can never out run his love and grace in our life. No matter the grade, He sees past it, looks at the menu and still thinks we have the potential to be a thriving restaurant.
Our God is a redeemer, a restorer. A God of the people “trying-to-get-it-right”. The “we-are-always-right” people He is still the God of because they just don’t realize they are in the “trying-to-get-it-right” category themselves.
Let’s find love, figure out how to care for the hurting, for the people around you that are trying to get it right but going through a struggle on this very day. Let’s look past the sanitation grades. Well, you probably still want to think about whether you should eat at that restaurant that hasn’t met up with the health codes. But let’s not treat people like that. Let’s not even treat our spouses like that. Let’s love. Let’s sit at the table with the broken, break bread together and find comfort and healing with Jesus sitting at the table with us.
Who can you reach out to today that is hurting? Who can you send a word of love to in your life that may be sitting at their house today feeling like they are wearing a failed sanitation grade label on their shirt? Can you remind them they have worth, that you see someone of value?
Or maybe today it is you, and you need to hear it. Maybe you need to feel that Jesus is at the table with you, that He’s not waiting for you to get it together before He walks into your life, He wants to be a part of it right now. Do you see Him? He is sitting right there with you, right here with me.
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