When There’s No Room for Error: A Drive Through Story

I rested my hope on the drive through dinner.

Trying to Fit it all in

It was Wednesday night. The perfect storm of activity formed and swirled through our evening schedule. Youth groups pulled up into our driveway to the barn on our rented property. Friends in ministry training were set to arrive an hour from now for our living room. All the while five Eswines presently diverged and scattered into the differing directions of after school activity and community volunteering. “Somehow we have to fit in food” I remembered. The solution emerged! “On my way to here while taking children and teens there,” I thought, “while my wife does this in the midst of our other young adult doing that, and before our guests arrive, we can eat on the way!”  We drove on time and just in time for the drive through to produce a meal that we could handle within our twenty minute car ride in order to arrive at the meetings we were to attend.

There was no room for error.

The Hardest Four Words

I pull up with haste, impatient to place my order and abrupt in tone. “Welcome to Drive through food” the chipper voice sings. “Please wait just a moment.”

(When was it that those four words, “wait just a moment” became so hard to handle?)

Then it happened. I noticed the menu screen. It normally reflects what a consumer orders. (Those two words in connection, impress their meaning upon me as I write, “consumer,” “orders.” Consumers are those who make a life out of declaring orders to their neighbors. Have I embrace such a life?).

Back to the screen. A green background hosted a series of words like “test” and “pass.”  Passing tests! Ha! How ironic! The pace quickens in my being as the slow-down I am about to endure dawns on me. It is 5:30pm. In the midst of the dinner hour and within this long line of consumers impatient to thump their car horns, the drive-through-solution for my over-activity, is rebooting its computers. There is no time to leave if we want food. No other drive-through enablers will line the street between where we are and where we have to get to.

Being Given What I don’t Want

Ten minutes later we drive and eat.
I ordered a small coke. I received a medium Doctor Pepper.
I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. I received a spicy fried chicken sandwich with sauce.
I ordered a side salad. I received fries.

We arrived at our destinations, late and grumpy! (Grumpy Eswines? Never! Right?)

A Life that Can’t Wait

I want to blame the drive-through. But I am the one who scheduled my Wednesday in such a way that the follies of haste, food as a last consideration, impatience and error-free living were required to make the evening work. If I relied on patience, on waiting, on organizing an evening around fundamental necessities and on giving room for mistakes to happen, would I miss out?

I want to never go that drive-through again. But over the last four years of visiting that local drive through maybe thirty times, this is the first and only time that I’ve been asked to wait. Does being a consumer teach me that others have to prove themselves to me every time, that I look at others through their worst rather than their best moments, that one mistake means that a relationship ends?

I hated my dinner. When did it happen that I learned to complain when I have food to eat?

I wanted to get mad at the people behind the screen. Do I treat others like this? Demanding performance without seeing an ordinary human life like me trying to do his or her  job in the midst of frustrating computer crashes (and who knows what other frustrations might exist in the stories behind their eyes as I order them what to do and what to provide for me).

Grace for the Unwaiting Life

Today is Thursday. I’m sorry and humbled. I give thanks for food to eat. I give thanks people who work. I give thanks for the freedom not to order others to change so that I can maintain my impatient pace. I give thanks for a grace way of life that intrudes into my own and beckons me to a healing reorientation on how to do a day as a family. I give thanks for forgiveness. I give thanks that I am not viewed through the lenses of my worst moments, not in Jesus anyway. I give thanks that in Jesus my neighbors too can receive this same marvelous dignity. I give thanks for that patience is a fruit of God’s Spirit, a quality of love. I give thanks that impatient consumers can find grace in the patient and waiting One. I give thanks that in Christ, performance based human beings get to be reviewed on the basis of Jesus’ performance not theirs, and that our dignity and humanity has more to measure it than our performances. I give thanks for Jesus’ error free life. I give thanks that he doesn’t put us into an error free requirement with no way out. The life, the cross, the empty tomb of the waiting One saves us, even those of us with our drive-through ways of doing life.


Author: zeswine

Zack (Dr. Eswine) is often spoken of as a "Pastor to Pastors." He serves as Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves Missouri and Director of Homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary. To learn more about his books and other resources, go to zackeswine.com

3 thoughts on “When There’s No Room for Error: A Drive Through Story”

  1. i had such a similar situation this week (although i will not write what it was because i’m pretty ashamed of the whole thing), and it’s incredible how similar my ‘revelations’ are to yours (although less eloquent as they occurred in my head)! i begin with anger & frustration at the ‘offending person,’ then God clearly & swiftly points out my self-centeredness and completely graceless actions & thoughts. so painful… i hate being wrong, and i hate realizing that i’m selfish & needed another person to confront me in my selfishness. it still stings, but i love what you said- ‘i give thanks that He doesn’t put us into an error free requirement with no way out.’ the other party may never know how their angry words made such a difference to my ‘drive through’ heart, but i’m becoming thankful for them. hopefully i’m becoming less selfish as well!
    thanks for sharing your story, zack!

  2. Most of the time, I display the same selfish “consumer” attitude with no regard for those I hurt or even recognition that my thoughts and actions are sinful. Thank you for shining the light on my sin. The forgiveness of our God is greater still!

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