5:52 am — No sun. Pitch black. I enter the little boys’ room and very slowly turn on the light. Somehow, it seems less intrusive to grab the switch with two hands and ease it up as opposed to flipping it quickly with an index finger. The nine-year-old rolls over and makes a gutteral “uuuuuhhh” sound and the ten-year-old starts to whine with a fake cry and raspy “daaaaaad.”

“You guys want to go to Bible Study?”

My boys and I have been attending an early-morning get-together every Friday at 6:30 am for the past several weeks. We meet with other dads and their sons at our local McDonald’s, and the kids absolutely love it. They look forward to it each week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them participate in the lessons. I also like my sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit with hash browns. But I did not want to go this morning.

“I mean, we don’t have to go today if you guys don’t want to.”

“No,” they said in unison, shooting up from their bed sheets. “Let’s go!”

“Are you sure? I mean, it was a late night last night. We don’t have to,” I said.

“Yeah. Let’s go!” the ten-year-old exclaimed.

“Woo-hoo!” screamed the nine-year-old. And he meant it. 

“Y’all aren’t too tired today?” I asked.

“Nope. Let’s do this!” said the ten-year-old.

“OK, but I think we might be too late, guys. I think maybe this is an OK week to maybe not go,” I said, almost pleading with them to let me go back to sleep for another 30, 15, 9, or even 3 more minutes.

“No, dad. We got our clothes out last night. Even the socks and underwear. We’ll be ready in 5 minutes. Let's go!”

“Dad, let’s go,” smiled the 14-year-old who had already gotten himself up and dressed.

“Are y’all sure?” I asked one more time as I backed out of the room and sluffed off to the bathroom to splash water on my face, brush my teeth, and throw on yesterday’s jeans.

I didn’t want to be up. I didn’t want to deal with kids. I didn’t want to drive to McDonald’s. I didn’t want to have to deal with other dads who are obviously addicted to some sort of methamphetamine because nobody should have that much energy at the end of a week… before even the sun thinks it’s OK to come out and look at stuff. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to listen to other people pray. I wasn’t even hungry.

We rolled up in the parking lot at 6:33 am. Three minutes late. The boys bounced out of the car, ran in the side door, and were greeted with smiles and high-fives. I applied three drops of Visine to each eye, wiped my face, and exhaled, “God help me.”

The boys took their seats among friends and no doubt discussed last night’s middle school football game or the National League Division Series while I stood in line to order. Five minutes passed before I realized I was still standing third in wait. I started third in wait and was still third in wait. The guy at the front was on his cell phone mumbling something about shipping costs and delivery dates and “I’m gonna need for you to expedite the order, Jim. This has got to be there by Tuesday...” while also trying to order his Hotcakes and Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait.

What kind of glutton eats hotcakes and a parfait for breakfast? I thought to myself.

The kids and other dads were already two pages into today’s lesson, and I was still standing in line behind this inconsiderate douchebag who… “oh, and I’m also gonna need another large drink. Sorry, bro.”

Are you mother-lovin’ kidding me? 

He was still on his phone, by the way. He clinched it between his ear and shoulder as he dug through his immense pockets for exact change. He smiled at me as he passed, and I so badly wanted to knock his phone across the restaurant Jackie Chan style.

After I ordered, I got our 5 cups — the kids' three and my two, because I was about to be double-fisting coffee and Diet Coke — and stood behind the jackass who was still trying to figure out the newfangled self-serve-self-select-create-your-own-flavor-Coca-Cola machine. 

“It’s easier with two hands,” I said somewhat under my breath, but definitely loud enough so he could pick up what I was puttin’ down. He glanced back and gave me a wink and a grin as he positioned the phone between his ear and shoulder again. I quickly daydreamed that I punched him in his rib cage and swept his legs out from under his fat frame.

He mouthed “So sorry” and half-smirked as he sneaked past me on his way back to the dining area. I shook my head in disgust and filled our drinks — all five of them — in less than 30 seconds to prove how easy things can be when you consider other people’s situations and stop thinking about yourself for one stupid minute.

Still fuming, I turned with all of our drinks and all of our food and made my way through the now-over-flowing dining room to catch the last 3 minutes of the only time I’ll have to spend with my kids all day. And then I saw — out of the corner of my eye — the rude SOB who had been keeping me from my special freaking morning with my special freaking kids. 

He was tucking a napkin into the collar of a young man with severe special needs. He wasn’t on the phone anymore, but he still had that smile on his face. I watched him cut the pancakes into tiny bites and carefully feed the boy who writhed back and forth with excitement. The father wiped the corners of his son’s mouth and then held up a straw so he could drink. The phone rang again and he answered, clenching it between his shoulder and ear while he held up another bite for the boy.

I didn’t hear the final prayer of Bible Study, or even realize the other dads were standing, readying to leave, when my nine year old gently tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could go to the PlayPlace for a few minutes before we left for school.

I sat for another 10 minutes exchanging a few back-and-forths with the other Bible Study dads and we watched our kids run around and climb and laugh and play.

The man from the line was still feeding his son when we decided to go.

I’m still trying to process all of the lessons I learned this morning when I didn’t get to participate in the Bible study I didn’t want to go to in the first place. But I am thankful for grace. And I am thankful that God reveals Himself to me, despite me.

Even before the sun comes up. Even at McDonald’s.