A Space for Grace at Pizza Ranch

Mission-920x590The other day I had some daddy/daughter time with my now 12 year-old daughter. She asked to go to Pizza Ranch since we hadn’t been there in some time. With all this COVID stuff going on, it’s been hard to just relax and spend time with family. I think she needed some daddy/daughter time anyway and I couldn’t say no to Pizza Ranch and their buffet (it’s contactless now with COVID).

This Pizza Ranch is nice just a few minutes from our place and filled with the usual Pizza Ranch decorations–cowboy stuff that is. It has cowboy boots on the wall, a lasso, some other cowboy trinkets here and there. It’s a bit overboard but nice. It reminded me of the days I pastored out in South Dakota and we went as a family to the Pizza Ranch out in Platte. We got our plates and were served by staff (its contactless buffet remember?) and my daughter and I sat down and just talked. It was fun watching her eat her cheese pizza and breadsticks, dipping her buttermilk biscuit into her chocolate pudding, and singing along to the songs on the speakers overhead.

“Daddy,” my daughter took a look around and leaned forward to ask me an important question. “Is Pizza Ranch a Christian restaurant?”

“Yup,” I answered slowly between bites of my bronco pizza (all meat). “They even have a vision statement saying they are.”

My daughter then had asked me to look it up. I quickly pulled up my Wikipedia app and read her the history of Pizza Ranch and their vision statement: “To glorify God by positively impacting the world.”

My daughter’s eyes lit up in between bites of her breadsticks.

We talked a bit more, and then my ears couldn’t help drifting towards the table close to us (because of COVID they had only every other table opened up). There was a family of five finishing up, enjoying their ice cream, cactus bread, and dessert pizzas. What caught my attention was the words asked by the youngest child of the family:

“Mom, how many times were you in jail?” they asked their mother.

I could tell in her response that she didn’t like the question. She mumbled and the child asked again. The mother didn’t chastise the child but she seemed embarrassed. “Dad’s been to prison too, hasn’t he?” the child asked again. The mother now more embarrassed. She said some things I couldn’t make out. I shouldn’t have been eavesdropping anyway. The mother mumbled some other things and then announced it was time to go even though the children hadn’t finished their ice cream. She seemed to have had enough.

My mind’s been going back to that scene now a number of times since it happened. Speaking up wasn’t the thing for me to do. It wasn’t my place. But still, there should be room, a space, for grace.

Grace is a funny thing. It’s giving special leniency to people when we don’t deserve it ourselves. The child had an honest question. I don’t know the history behind it, but the present situation was that the child just wanted to know. They were curious. They were interested in their mother. They wanted to know their mother. Grace for the child at that time was needed not chastisement. Grace for the mother was needed, not embarrassment.

If the vision of Pizza Ranch was to glorify God by positively impacting the world around it, neither were positively impacted. Now, I’m not saying this was Pizza Ranch’s job to swoop in and tell the family that it was okay to have that conversation. No need to be embarrassed. It was an innocent question. No need to be afraid, there was no judgment coming from me. I wanted to say something, to do something, to give her room and hospitality and let her know she was in a safe place to have that question asked of her. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to.

In the arena of the world that we live in right now, we really need spaces for grace, spaces for that extra leniency and mercy and compassion that certain someone might just need. In this time of COVID right now, we need to offer that grace and love and positively impact others letting them know they too are safe and okay. It’s a struggle right now. I don’t know if this is the “new normal” or not. But I do know that I need to live out the grace of God, the grace of Jesus Christ in what I do and say and how I offer room for others to experience this grace.

What are ways in which you might be able to offer a space for grace for those around you?

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