A Chinese Buffet and the God of Uncountable Chances

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“You mean you actually GO there?!”, a friend asked incredulously.  (A group of us were eating and talking over dinner at our annual New Year’s Eve get-together.  Some folks were talking about restaurants and I mentioned we liked a nearby Chinese buffet). 

“Sure,” I answered, “Why not?”

“But you got food poisoning there the first time you came here to visit!”, he declared.

He was referring to when my husband and I first came to visit the church he’s on the pastoral staff at now (made up of mostly Chinese and Chinese-Americans).  The leaders had taken us out to dinner at this one buffet, which has a sushi bar.  A church member, operating that section, made four large sushi-rolls, each with huge slices of raw salmon on top, and heaped them onto my plate. His way of honoring the new pastor’s wife. When we returned to the table, I tried to share some, but they all politely refused (more than once, so I knew they really meant it).  We’ve learned from many years living overseas in hospitable cultures, not to reject or leave food that our hosts offer us (“What?  You don’t like my food?  That means you don’t like ME!”)  Not the way to make friends and fit into the culture.

I ate all that sushi, including the raw salmon.  Then discovered a few hours later what happens (at least to me) as a result.  Not-pleasant outward flow of previous intake via my mouth, accompanied by dizziness and feeling very weak.  My dear husband decided to reveal the source of me looking pale and ill the next morning to our kind hosts.  By that evening, the whole church was coming up to me and asking if I was ok!  (Thankfully I had recovered enough by then to join them.) 

People remember stuff like that.  This happened four and a half years ago, and this one young guy felt it was his duty to remind me of the dangers of that restaurant!

I explained that it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault.  It was probably mine for eating too much raw fish.  Since then, a Japanese friend told me that if we eat wasabi sauce with sushi, it will kill any offensive bacteria.  My husband says it may kill everything else in there too!  So now I eat it (little bits) with wasabi sauce, and it works.

A couple of months after we moved here, we went again to the same buffet—much to the surprise and chagrin of church folks who found out about it.  They thought I was a glutton for punishment (pun always intended). 

No.  I just wanted to give that place, its owners, and its food a second chance.  Which we did.  My husband did warn me, though, not to eat too much raw fish (he still does)!  But I felt that just because I got hurt once at that place, doesn’t mean I should totally reject it. 

The same with people.  If we all rejected each other after one offense, we’d be living a very lonely life!  Especially considering that the offense may not even have been their fault (such as the well-intentioned offering of a generous portion of raw salmon)!  If the Lord rejected us after just one offense, we’d all be headed for eternity in a place without Him—total darkness, torment, and isolation—nothing good, all bad.  “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? “(Ps. 130:3)

What would we do without more generous-hearted chances to make things right?  Opportunities to live up to good expectations, no matter what happened before?  Someone saying “I believe in you enough to forget the first, even second, third… time and let you try again”?

Thank God He gives us those chances! We just have to take Him up on it.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103:12) Then, pass those chances on to others! 

Yeah, we need the “wasabi sauce” of discernment and wisdom to protect us from harm.  But when we remember how many chances we need, it’s much easier to give them to others!

As we enter this New Year of 2019, I sure thank the Lord for countless new chances!  How about you?