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The Waffle House Test
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waffle house facts about 720x405 640x360One a recent trip to Nashville for the New Room Conference Jason and I, along with a couple of other friends, decided to look for a restaurant for breakfast on our way to the opening session for the day. As we drove through one of those strip mall districts, we drove by a Waffle House and, unanimously, all four of us in the car rejected that as a dining option. Maybe it’s because Waffle House has a reputation of being the place one goes at 2:00am after making some bad decisions, or maybe it’s the sign that looks like it was cut out like a ransom note (as Jim Gaffigan describes it), or maybe it’s because the menu has pictures on it to which one nearly needs to point at to make your order. Whatever it is, we collectively ruled out Waffle House based solely on reputation and appearance. Around the corner was a Shoney’s–another Southern staple–and so we all agreed that had to be better than Waffle House or the McDonald’s across the street.


We should’ve observed more closely that there were no other cars in the parking lot when we pulled up. Thinking it might not even be open, we pulled on the door and walked in only to be immediately be confronted with a smell that was part garbage and part warmed over death. Seriously, it was stifling. We sat down anyway and it was then that I notice ants crawling across the table. I smashed one while our friend Rich went to check out the “breakfast buffet.” His report: the gravy for the biscuits and gravy had a skin on it. Pudding is supposed to have skin, not gravy.


Given the combination of smell, fauna, and gravy skin, we decided to leave without ordering, making our apologies to the waitress on the way out. She didn’t protest–indeed, she didn’t even look surprised–because clearly this kind of thing happened all the time at this particular Shoney’s.


Now the question was, “Where do we go for breakfast?” We could still see the Waffle House sign poking above the gas station on the corner. So, with fear and trepidation, we swallowed our elitist Starbucks-fueled standards and jokingly decided to slum it a little.


And it was delightful.


The Waffle House was sparkling clean, the wait staff bright-eyed and glad to see us. Other patrons filled the place. The menu still had pictures, but the food was good, hot, and delivered in a timely manner. The shock among us was palpable. After all, who knew that Waffle House could be the best option for breakfast?


I’ve thought a lot about that in the last month. It’s a reminder how easy it is for us to judge based on appearance, reputation, or past experience. Jesus warned us about this–that it’s better for us to pay attention to our own stuff, our own biases, prejudices, and “logs” in the eye before we start looking for crumbs on the floor in someone else’s place. Sometimes we discover that things aren’t as they seem. Shoney’s clearly had a sad story going on even though it looked great on the outside. Waffle House was a joy despite its hillbilly reputation. Sometimes the most together-looking people are a mess on the inside, while that person we tend to walk past without a look may be a fountain of wisdom and good company.


So, I’ve come up with what I propose be heretofore know as “The Waffle House Test.” The next time you see something or someone that you’re ready to immediately dismiss, ask yourself this question: “Why am I so willing to walk on by? What would happen if I gave this person my attention, walked inside their story, let them show me some of the pictures of what’s on their menu today?” You never know what you will find when you are willing to be open to what God might show you.


Thus endeth the lesson. Pass the waffles!

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