Jake pulled his '97 Ford Ranger into the familiar parking lot. As the smell of greasy fries filled his mind with thoughts of food, he found one open parking spot for his little truck and was soon making his way inside, under that famous golden double-archway. The line was long; he got off work a little later than normal, and that put him behind that great throng of people that he usually beat to McDonald's. Oh, well. He could wait.
As the line diminished, Jake occupied his eyes with bright yellow and red bricks in the wall and black-and-white photos of the clown with children who were now grandparents. No one came in behind him, and soon he was left alone facing the cashier. He knew what he wanted, of course. A Big Mac, a Pepsi, and a six-piece McNugget. Yum.
The cashier was quick to ring up the order, as if he had lots of experience. As he was about to drop a Jackson-faced bill into the cashier's hand, Jake recognized him from underneath his red visor.
"Rodney, is that you?"
"Hey, Jake, how's it going?" his friend's voice replied, quite confidently. He was in his element.
Jake was taken aback, unsure of how to answer. "Good, I guess. Um... Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Hang on, let me call your order back." Rodney's trained voice echoed back the order into the microphone, not even forgetting the extra pickles. He turned to Jake again. "It'll be out in just a minute."
"Thanks, but Rod, there's something wrong."
Disoriented by his friend's composure, Jake felt a little foolish; but his hesitation yielded to his blunt statement: "I thought you worked at Burger King now!"
"Hey, don't say that too loud," Rodney answered, his voice lowering into a clandestine tone. He looked behind him into the kitchen area, seeming relieved that the exclamation caught nobody's attention. He turned his now less-than-confidence face to Jake again.
"What is going on, man?"
Rodney leaned a little ways over the counter, lowering his head. Jake followed suit, taking a step closer as well.
"The fact is, I still work at Burger King, and I'm supposed to be working right now." His eyes, dark and full of smothered feeling, shifted back and forth rapidly between Jake's eyes and his collar. Embarrassment, irritation, and dejection flashed across the young cashier's face, quickly replaced by that same serious look as before.
Mustering as much tact as he had, Jake posed the obvious question. "Why are you here, and not there?"
Rodney's whole posture seemed to collapse all at once, as if the invisible weight of negligence and failure had just fallen on him along with Jake's inquiry. "I was just going to stop in before work and say hey to the guys, and maybe get a bite to eat. I thought that would be okay, then I could go to work." Now his palms were planted firmly on the counter like pillars, his head hanging between his shoulders as he shook it side to side.
Jake read his attitude plainly and offered, "It wasn't okay."
"No, it wasn't!" Rodney's face shot upward as he locked eyes with Jake once more. Although it was evident that his anger was focused inward rather than toward his friend, it still frightened Jake a little in its ferocity. "As soon as my old manager saw me, she told me to get to work, so I did! But I know that my new boss is really upset with me; he has texted me twice already, asking where I am. And I haven't replied. I'm too ashamed!"
Jake felt like jello on the inside, but he put on an air of courage and answered in a controlled voice, "Rod, you don't have to obey anything your old boss tells you, because she's not your boss anymore. She doesn't control your paycheck, she doesn't control your hours or the tasks you do. The only thing she can control is you, only if you let her."
Rodney nodded in comprehension, then hesitated. "What should I do?"
"Right now? Just walk away! If she calls you back, just ignore her. Nothing good is coming from you being here; in fact, all the results are bad, so you'd better get going to Burger King before your shift is done!"
Rodney took off the red hat, his former look of confidence returning in its stronger state of determination. Throwing the hat behind him, he jumped over the counter in a surprisingly athletic move. He vigorously shook Jake's hand, grinning like a quarterback who just won the Superbowl. "Thank you, Jake. I have to go!"
The McDonald's manager waddled up to the front, having noticed when the abandoned hat skid on the kitchen floor. "Rodney, where are you going?" She asked severely; Jake could hear the retribution threatened in her tone.
The brave Rodney turned to face her squarely. "I'm going to work at Burger King, where I belong!" His statement of triumph was followed by his turning to go.
"Stop! Get back here! I'll....I'll... cut your wages!" The manager shouted in vain as Rodney pushed open the door and jogged toward his car.
Jake felt almost as triumphant as Rodney did as he pocketed his unused twenty. Smiling politely to the red-faced manager, he announced, "I think I'll take my business to Burger King tonight. Have a nice day!" And before the red-and-yellow door had closed itself again, Jake opened it and strode toward his '97 Ford Ranger.
"How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?....knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.....Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord....Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."
Romans 6:2, 6, 11-14
All for Jesus,