Here in early November as we approach the fifth anniversary of Rachel’s passing, let me tell you about my God and His Red Lobster dinners. Perhaps not that huge in the big scheme of things, but rich to me notwithstanding.
The last time our family went out to eat together before her death was at Red Lobster. Someone had given us a gift card, so we decided to use it as a family before our oldest son Marcel headed east in July to settle down in Lancaster County a couple of months before his wedding in September, 2012.
So two weeks ago when I flew into Cincinnati on October 20th (our 33rd wedding anniversary) as I pulled into the hotel where I was staying I noticed a Red Lobster across the street.
Hmmm, I thought. Perhaps this means I should celebrate by honoring Rachel on what would have been our thirty-third wedding anniversary that day and honor our family in memory of that last night out together at Red Lobster. The problem was I didn’t really feel like I could afford it right then; and I did see a McDonald’s just down the street.
But after halting somewhat between two opinions, I decided I’d simply do the honorable thing… for Rachel and for our family.
Paul, the waiter, met me just inside the door, gave me a menu, and showed me to a booth—chatting me up as we went.
Sitting down, I said, “Paul, would you like to hear a story? There’s a story behind why I’m here tonight at Red Lobster.”
“Sure, but don’t you want me to get you some food first? Take a look at the menu and I’ll be right back with some water and coffee.”
“Wonderful… I’ll take a look at what I might want.”
So when he returned, he sat down across from me and urged, “Tell me your story!”
When I finished, Paul had tears in his eyes, “My wife and I have just been married eight years,” he said as he pointed over to where she was waiting on another table. “I can’t imagine losing her like that!”
“Well,” I said, “you know where your wife is—working right here with you, and I know where my wife is—in heaven with Jesus. I’m sure as a good husband, you’re happiest when your wife is happy, and for me the mystery of my wife’s happiness is complete. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, my wife is happy... so very, very happy!”
He then left to get the rainbow trout meal I’d ordered. When he returned he said, “By the way, we were all out of the lunch-size meal you ordered, so you’re getting the dinner-size meal for the lunch price!”
“Awesomeness!” I exclaimed.
We visited some more, talking about his marriage, my book about marriage, and the week ahead when I’d be speaking at a church about how the most important thing in life is being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and how God has provided a beautiful picture here on earth of what that relationship should look like—marriage. From this picture people know how much God loves them, and how much He loves it when they worship Him with their lives.
“Well,” I concluded, “it’s getting late. If you bring me the check I’ll let you go and be on my way.”
“Oh,” he countered, “there is no check because I went back and told my manager your story and she said, ‘The tab is on me tonight.’”
“Now you’re going to make me cry,” I said. "You’re making it possible for me to honor my wife and family here at Red Lobster tonight without it costing me a thing. This seems like a God-Story to me!”
Later as I shared this story with the church that week, they too were delighting with me in how God met me again during what has become the most poignant time of the year for me.
But the stories are not over. The day before I left the church the pastor and his wife came to me with a card... and in that card was—yep, you guessed it, another Red-Lobster gift card!!
So where do you think I celebrated again when I headed back to Cincinnati?
Written by: Ernest Witmer