I ate at Taco Bell for lunch last Friday.
Thank you, I appreciate your concern. I won’t claim it was the best decision I’ve ever made, on many levels. But I was traveling that day, and it was quick and cheap. I got something called “The Big Box” which had approximately 18 pounds of Mexican food for about as much as it costs for a gallon of gas. Wait, did I really just mention 18 pounds of Mexican food and gas in the same sentence?
I ordered my food and moved to the side to wait. I saw this little sink that the workers apparently use to wash their hands. It was near the counter, but facing the interior of the kitchen. Next to the sink, closest to me, was a dispenser with what I assumed was hand sanitizer. And so almost out of instinct, I reached forward and pushed the button, releasing the cleansing liquid on my hand.
It was soap.
Big mistake. The sink wasn’t close enough to reach, and I didn’t want the people next to me to realize the error I had made. So I just started wiping my hands as if it really was hand sanitizer. No big deal. Nothing to see here. Except for soap wasn’t made to dissolve without water. And, really, it’s kind of nasty to have it on your hands with no way of washing it off. But I kept rubbing my hands together, and eventually it absorbed (mostly) into my hands or disappeared into Soap Heaven or something.
My food came up and I went to a table with my semi-sticky hands to join some friends for lunch. As I was preparing to eat the taco from the Big Box, I grabbed a packet of taco sauce. Before I opened it, I read the message on the front. If you don’t ever eat at Taco Bell (meaning you actually care about the kinds of things you put into your body), you may not know that each packet has a message on the front. They are written as if the taco sauce packet is talking to you.
Which is so unrealistic.
Because if the packet was really talking, and if it was being honest, there’s only one thing it would ever say: “Why are you putting this garbage into your stomach?” But none of them say that. It would probably be bad for business. Each of the sayings is supposed to be witty and add a little humor to your Taco Bell experience. Presumably because about 30 minutes after you eat there, it’s no laughing matter.
Anyway, my packet said, “I carry my weight in the middle.” Oh, so now the taco sauce is mocking me? As I was applying the sauce to my taco, I remembered a story I heard on the radio a few months ago. Normally, I don’t listen to the radio in the morning. It’s just people talking, and I almost always prefer listening to music. But this one particular morning, I was tuned in to one of the local Atlanta stations. The radio hosts were talking to a girl who was calling on behalf of her brother.
She told the story of how her brother was dating a girl. They had been seeing each other for about a year. It was her birthday, so he planned a scavenger hunt for her to get her gift. Pretty romantic, right? The place the hunt ended was in his car, where he had placed her gift, which if I remember correctly was a weekend at a hotel in the city with spa treatment and all of that girly stuff. His girlfriend worked her way through the scavenger hunt clues until she ended up at his car. Which is where everything goes sideways. Instead of finding the gift that he had left for her, she found a Taco Bell taco sauce packet instead. Why did she mistake this for the gift? On it were written four words.
“Will you marry me?”
Uh oh. She mistakes his kindness for a marriage proposal. This guy really liked the girl, but he had no intentions of marrying her anytime soon. So, obviously, he told her it was all a big misunderstanding and cleared it all up right away.
He allowed her to think that he really proposed, that he really wanted to marry her and spend the rest of his life with her. She told her family, her friends, everyone she could. He let all of this go on without revealing the truth to her. It was two weeks after the fact when his sister called the radio station to tell them the story. And he still had yet to come clean.
So many things we can wonder about and learn from this story.
- Scavenger hunts are evil.
- Never leave Taco Bell hot sauce packets laying around in your car. Someone might get the wrong idea.
- Don’t be an idiot.
- Life is going to present you with its fair share of awkward and uncomfortable situations. But sometimes we make them worse because of our fear of confrontation.
- Whatever you do, it’s always best to be as honest as possible, as soon as possible. The longer it goes, the more difficult it’s going to be to tell the truth.
But none of that is what really gripped me about this story.
I’m worried about the girl.
What happened when she found out it was all a misunderstanding? How did it make her feel?
The level of embarrassment and humiliation had to be off the charts. She thought she was loved. She thought she was chosen. She thought something really special was taking place. A once-in-a-lifetime moment that girls dream of and fantasize about their whole lives.
And it was all a mistake.
We’ve all had times we thought we were chosen, we thought we were loved unconditionally, we thought someone wanted us, only to realize that we were wrong.
- A spouse or parent leaves.
- A friend betrays you.
- A boyfriend/girlfriend rejects you.
Even if it’s just the wave interception. That awkward moment when you think someone is waving at you or talking to you but they’re really engaging the person behind you that you don’t see. It’s embarrassing.
Where is God at when we’re embarrassed? Where is He at when we’re humiliated? Does God care when others have betrayed us, humiliated us, or turned their back on us? Where is He when we thought we had what we wanted, but then our dreams are delayed or crushed? When we feel unloved, rejected, unappreciated, or unwanted?
There’s this scene in Mark 15:33-34 where Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. It begins with this cry of desperation…
He is experiencing the ultimate rejection. He entered in to the desolation of being God-forsaken. As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus was “made sin for us.”
Rejected. Unwanted. Humiliated. Betrayed. Crushed. And even His Father turned His back on Him.
Nobody was there for Him. To strengthen Him, to comfort Him, to rescue Him.
He was alone.
This reality should help us when we feel alone. Jesus didn’t just observe the pain and suffering of this world from far off. He completely immersed Himself. He went all in for us. There is no depth of pain or despair to which He has not gone. He’s the only one perfectly qualified to empathize with us in our most extreme and desperate circumstances.
In those moments when you feel like crying out to God, asking Him where He is, and why He has turned His back on you, Jesus knows exactly how You feel.
That’s the thing about taco sauce packets. They remind us that we’re not alone.