Panera Epiphany

This past Tuesday I was cramming a 15-page paper into one afternoon in the tiny Panera in my hometown in the midst of an already seemingly restless semester of work. My table was tucked away in the back of the restaurant covered with dozens of articles and small space to put my soup next to my computer. My hair was in a messy bun, my glasses were falling off my face, and I was wearing my grandpa’s oversized sweatshirt from 30 years ago… I’m pretty positive I looked like a hot mess. Which would probably explain my favorite part of this story. A couple hours into my afternoon at Panera the manager came over to my booth, looked at me as I scrambled to pull my headphones out of my ears, laughed, and said “It will all pay off in the end”. I know that random man was referring to my schoolwork but in that moment in the midst of a season of such restlessness, that small statement meant so much more to me.

In Matthew 11: 28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. This semester has been paper after paper, test after test, constantly jumping from this commitment to that social event, and don’t get me wrong I love my life at school but as we are nearing towards the end of the semester I’m feeling very burnt out. In this long season of restlessness, I have meditated on the part of that verse that says “I will give you rest” and learned to view Jesus as the peace in my storm. He loves to assure our hot mess selves that if we rely on him alone he will give us the rest we need. And that snowy, exhausting afternoon in a tiny Panera in a town no one has ever heard of in western New York God used a sweet old man to speak into my heart.

If you know me personally you might know my favorite thing in the whole world to do is go to random cafés by myself, meet new people, and hear their stories. This happens almost every time I go out to work on projects but for some reason, I was in such a focused state of mind this time that I wasn’t expecting it. I shouldn’t have been as shook as I was to hear the simple phrase “it will pay off in the end”. My mom, friends, and professors tell me that all the time, but this time it was different. God spoke through this man to give me the endurance to keep going not just in my paper that won’t matter in a month but in my faith too.

College is four years of our lives and as much as we cry out to God for his plan to work out our way in the end, our job is not to be the planner but the doer. If we trust in Him, all this work will pay off in off in one way or another with a temporary job here on this earth, but a nice job after college isn’t really the end goal we should be working towards.

Colossians 3: 23 says,

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”

The end goal that we need to fix our eyes on is the kingdom of heaven and being the hands and feet of Jesus in our time here on this earth. In this stage of my life, God has given me a calling to be a student. There have been so many times over the course of my restless semester (and even all of college so far) that this has been such a hard thing to remember. But the Bible assures us that when we work willingly for the Lord it always pays off in the end. Jesus has already gone before us and granted us a great reward in heaven.

So to the random manager of my hometown Panera, thank you for this powerful reminder. As finals approach and life seems overwhelming, my prayer is that we would all focus on the ultimate end goal of what Jesus paid for so many years before us on the cross and not just the test in front of us or job interview we have lined up next week. Keep the faith my sweet friend, because it will all pay off in the end.

XOXO,

Maddie G

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