My Mom Was a Lunch Lady Whose Sloppy Joes Taught me About Grace
Do you remember the song Adam Sandler did on Saturday Night Live circa 1993, “Lunch Lady Land”? (If you haven’t seen it take a look, Lunch Lady Land will be worth your time for sure.) This song stirs up many memories for me. It takes me back to a part of my childhood.
I spent many hours in the middle school cafeteria growing up. Yes, it was because I like to eat, but most of the time I spent in the middle school cafeteria was with my mom. I am the only child of a middle school cafeteria manager. My mom is the lady Adam Sandler was singing about!
I can remember the lunch ladies that my mom worked with. Most them loved the kids more than they loved cooking. They loved seeing the kids come in with big smiles on their faces. They loved watching the kids grow up over the year. And they loved that rare time that a former student would come back to say hey. That’s why those ladies served with so much passion.
Their love for students would carry over into they way they served the meals. The lunch ladies wouldn’t serve with control and accuracy. They would with serve with passion and purpose. So much passion, that their serving became sloppy. Food would spatter on everything in sight. It got all over. It got in every section of your tray, on the floor, and even on the tray of the person next to you in line.
I wish I could say that I served in the same way. I wish I could say that I put passion and purpose as a priority over control and accuracy. Too many times I like to be in control. I like to control how our youth center looks. I like to control how my youth behave. I like to control our programming down to the minute. I even like to control how the church as a whole perceives the youth. These things aren’t bad, but far too often I don’t leave any room for grace.
In Romans, Paul writes about leaving room for grace. He says, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (5:20-21 NLT)
God abundantly gives us grace, not so that we can be pious, but so His grace might rule in our lives. I love that! God’s grace is sloppy. It is messy. It is given in abundance. It is given with passion and purpose, not control and accuracy.
Sloppy grace can change the world. As a matter of fact, it already did. Jesus didn’t come to the people with the best youth center, the most well-behaved students, or even a perfect youth night. He came to fishermen. These men smelled like rotten fish and didn’t always use the best language. It was to these men that Jesus showed sloppy grace.
Jesus showed sloppy grace to sinners and even the tax collectors. It was this sloppy grace that drew people to him. It was this sloppy grace that angered the religious. Sloppy grace that killed him. This same sloppy grace, that raised him from the dead and seated him in heaven, died for us while we were still sinners.
As youth workers, we need let grace be sloppy in our lives. If we did, I think we would work a little different. We wouldn’t worry so much about control. We wouldn’t worry about being perfect or always having to be “on”.” We would work with more passion and purpose. We would be able see the difference we are making for the Kingdom of God. We would not burn out so quick.
What if we served with such passion that we modeled sloppy grace?
What if we showed the kid who gets on our nerves enough sloppy grace that it splattered on everyone around him or her?
What if we showed sloppy grace to the congregation member who “doesn’t get it” and they became one of our biggest supporters?
What if we showed ourselves sloppy grace so that when things didn’t go the way we planned, our volunteers and students would see that our trust is in Jesus instead of our own human efforts?
As youth workers, let’s start showing sloppy grace with passion and purpose. Let’s start letting go of control and let grace splatter on everything.