Bill Gates comes to you one day and says, “Hey.”
And you say, “Oh wow! One of the richest men in the whole world, Bill Gates, is talking to me! Amaze.”
And he says, “Ha ha, yes, that is me. I am Bill Gates. But, hey, I wanted to tell you, you see that restaurant over there?”
He points. You look. There is, in fact, a restaurant over there. In fact, it’s a really nice one. Michelin stars and everything. You could never afford to eat there. You’ve always wanted to but you couldn’t even afford an appetizer, let alone a whole meal. You know the maitre’ d wouldn’t even let you past the front door.
“Yes?” you say, somewhat confused.
Bill smiles as he says, “Well, I own that restaurant and I just want you to know that you can go in and eat there for free, anytime you want. Order anything you want off the menu. It’s all free.”
“Wait? Seriously?” you ask doubtfully. There’s absolutely no way this is for real. Bill Gates doesn’t even know you! What could you have possibly done to deserve this? Nothing. That’s what. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s too good to be true.
“Yes,” he says chuckling, “Whatever you want, just go in and sit down and order.”
“What’s the catch?” you say, doing the squinty eye suspicious thing you’ve seen on TV.
Bill’s eyes crinkle from smiling and laughing. He’s even wearing a Mr. Roger’s style cardi. “No catch,” he says, “You don’t have to do anything. It’s all free.”
“Why,” you say, eyes squinting so tight they’re practically shut, “What did I do to deserve this?”
“This is just something I want to do,” he says, “There’s no catch. You don’t have to earn it. I just want to do this.”
Bill nods, “For real. Pinky promise.”
He gets up from the picnic table at the park that I never mentioned and starts to walk toward a really cool, expensive car that is also, like, so eco-friendly. After a few steps, he turns around to say, “And tell your friends. They can come too.” He gives a very friendly and reassuring wave, gets into his car, and flies away.
What. Just. Happened. You don’t know. It’s a mystery. But yet…….. I mean, you gotta try it out right? Just to see if it’s real. I mean, you’re probably being punk’d but if not…
So you go in. The maitre’ d knows you on sight and looks really happy to see you. You’re seated immediately in a private room with your own personal army of wait staff waiting on you hand and foot.
You order. You order everything. Everything on the menu. You take at least one bite of each thing. To your absolute delight, you are having the time of your life. AND THE FOOD! It’s so good! It’s the best food you’ve ever eaten. Ever. You finally finish. You can’t eat another bite. You leave with 12 doggie bags. And as you leave, you ask the maitre’ d if you can come back again someday.
“Oui,” he says in the snooty, French accent you were already imagining, “You may come back whenever you like and as often as you like.” He smiles and does a fancy clap so that the wait staff come and follow you out to your car, carrying the 12 doggie bags.
You go home and unbutton your pants and watch Firefly and smile because you feel so good all over. What an amazing experience! What did you do to deserve this, you keep asking yourself. You don’t know. But you do know that you definitely want to do that again.
And you do. Not right away. But when you do go back, you don’t order everything on the menu this time. Don’t get me wrong, you still order wayyyy too much, only 8 doggie bags this time, you don’t want to seem too greedy.
Home, pants, Firefly.
After a few more times, you start to feel kinda weird about all this free food. I mean, WHAT DID YOU DO TO DESERVE THIS? You still don’t know. You order less food every time. Something just feels… off… about this arrangement. It can’t be real, can it? You wonder when the producers of the hidden camera show are gonna pop out and scare the crap out of you. There has to be a reason for Bill Gates to be giving you all this free food. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON.
So you switch to Windows only and Microsoft everything. It’s the only thing you can think of. Surely, this is the reason for the free food. This has to be Bill’s end game, amirite? More customers for his products, that’s the real reason for the free food, right?
Not only do you make the switch but you start telling all your friends that they need to make the switch too. “Why?” they all want to know, “Why should we make the switch?”
“Well,” you tell them, “If you switch to Windows and Microsoft, you can eat at this restaurant for free, anytime you want. You can order whatever you want off the menu and it’s all free.”
“Wait, so what you’re saying is, if I switch, I can eat at this Michelin rated restaurant for free, anytime, forever?”
“Welllllllllll,” you hem, “Not forever. You can only eat there as long as you keep using Windows and Microsoft. But as long as you never stray from the Gates Way, you can eat there forever. For FREE.”
Some of your friends make the switch and start eating at the restaurant. Some switch when they feel like eating there but they usually switch back to Apple. Some just really don’t care about eating at some fancy restaurant if it means giving up their iPhone.
Then there are those that make the switch, go to the restaurant, order to go and then SELL THE FREE FOOD THEY GOT TO HUNGRY PEOPLE. #douches
And then you’ve got those who take their doggie bags to the homeless but won’t give them the food unless they make the switch, which they can’t do because THEY DON’T OWN A COMPUTER. #nonsense
How much further do I need to take this analogy?
Surely, by now, you’re picking up what I’ve been laying down.
One thing I know, when I feel God’s presence, I feel overwhelming love and acceptance. I’m not worried about God’s end game. I’m not worrying about how I can earn the FREE love. I’m just enjoying it.
This idea that we have to change, to “make the switch”, to modify ourselves in order to be worthy of God’s free love… we came up with that idea. Whether because of guilt, shame, fear or whatever, doesn’t matter. We have to let that all go and just be confident of God’s love and acceptance.
Nothing feels better than being totally accepted from stem to stern, to feel the warmth of love washing over you and knowing, KNOWING, YOU ARE LOVED. Without a catch, without having to modify yourself or change, without complications, you’re just loved.
I started thinking about all this because I felt really shitty today. I was reminded recently of the existence of a few people who think rather ill of me or at least they think ill of my social media presence judging by their past comments. These are people who used to say nice things about me to others (at least I think they did).
But I’ve been “trying new foods on the menu”, to go along with the analogy. I’ve been finding freedom and love in God in new ways. I’ve been losing my fear and shame and allowing myself to just be myself, exactly as I was made. It’s been a wonderful journey.
But my “freedom” or whatever you may call it seems to make others upset. They don’t like my posts anymore (which let me tell you are really, very mild compared to what they could be). My behavior and dress and language and ideas bother them, anger them, frighten them and threaten them? I guess?
So they comment. And their comments hurt. And just thinking about their past comments to me (and even recent comments, as recent as Jan 1st, 2020) can make me feel less than. I doubt my journey. I doubt myself.
But when I think about the frightened bunny I once was, the one who “made the switch”, I just feel pain and loneliness and suffering. And when I think about the love I feel in God’s presence now, that drips over me and fills me and erases my fear and doubt, I know I’m headed in the right direction.
And I realized that when I can feel God all around me, I’m not thinking about an end game or my behavior or any of that. I’m just basking.
I hope, dear God do I hope, that I can carry these thoughts with me. That the next time I feel shitty because someone said something mean to me, the next time I doubt my journey and myself, I hope I can remember the free love I didn’t have to earn. I hope I can remember that “making the switch” is their baggage, not mine, and I can just go bask in the glow and order everything off the menu.
Because that’s what I want: all of God’s love. Give it all to me so I can take it all in until I’m full to bursting.
People may think ill of my journey, but God’s love is so much sweeter and stronger than their opinions. And it’s that strength and sweetness that I want, not their approval. Come and judge me and find me wanting. It’s ok. I’m taking doggie bags home.
I challenge you and I challenge myself to boldly go into the restaurant with an iPhone in your pocket, order everything off the menu, unbutton your pants and watch Firely.