It’s predawn in the parking lot of a new Chick-fil-A Restaurant. The crowd is swelling to numbers upward to 150 – too many for the “First 100.” It’s okay because we all know there will be a drawing in a little while, and we are each hopeful that our number will be called and that we’ll be “in”. The crowd grows restless as the rules are stated. We’re cold and anxious to hear our number called. We want to get our tents set up and begin the activities of the day. If we are chosen we will receive a gift card loaded with 52 free combo meals at Chick-fil-A, valid for one year. The Chick-fil-A Employer carefully explains each part of the rules, and then in conclusion states: You must be 18, have a valid photo ID, and if chosen, you must remain on the parking lot for the next 24 hours.
Chick-fil-A Grand Opening and Heaven
I’d never heard of Chick-fil-A until my son came home from college one weekend and explained that he had won free food for a year by simply sleeping in a parking lot with his head on an asphalt curbing. Of course his dad and I were mortified. We had taught him better than to do something so bazaar and dangerous, and, uh, well, like some bum on a street corner. Little did we know that for the next 15 years we’d be doing the same thing and fully enjoying the experience. So much so that we’d take our ninety-year-old mother along with us.
Chick-fil-A has a grand opening event when they launch the opening of a new store. Over the years, the rules and particulars have changed and it’s a bit harder to “get in” today than back in the earlier years. When our son first attended, he was a college kid walking through a parking lot and curious why there were tents being set up on the business property. When he was informed that they hadn’t yet reached the quota of 100, he agreed to stay. Free food – sure, what college kid would pass on that opportunity? The difference in his adventure and ours was significant. He had no tent, blanket, pillow, or jacket. It was cool and rained during the night. My set up involves a tent, blankets, games, books, electric fan, and many of the creature comforts of home. No matter how we experienced the event, the outcome is the same for both – we receive 52 free meals at Chick-fil-A. But to receive the meals, there will be a raffle because there are only 100 free give-a-ways.
THE RAFFLE BEGINS
The crowd grows quiet as the first number is called.
“Ticket number 8 – 7 -…”
A group of college kids beside me shouts, “YES!”
Employer continues… “8 – 7 – 1 -”
College kids excitedly scream, “YES!”
Employer call out the final digit of the ticket, “5”
College kids groan aloud together, “NOOOOOO!”
Youthful energy fills the parking lot as one after another participant is chosen. This continues for almost 45 minutes until 100 participants have been chosen. There are shouts of jubilation, and groans of dismay as the numbers identify those who will be “in” and those who won’t.
Though I’m not in the winning group, I will be allowed to stay the night with my sister who was chosen. I will obey all the rules, endure the hardships of camping on asphalt – rain or shine, cold or hot. At the end of the 24 hours, I will not receive the prize. I am a guest, I was not chosen. My association with one who was chosen will not give me the right to receive the reward that is reserved for those who were.
AND THIS CAUSES ME TO THINK OF HEAVEN?
Pondering this raffle method of being chosen, my thoughts turn to other events in life where decisions and selections are being made. One such thought is that of my participation in becoming a future resident of heaven. How thankful I am that acceptance into heaven is not dependent upon some sort of lottery. There will not be an acceptance based upon a random selection of numbers. There is no minimum age requirement for participation. There will not be the anxiety of wondering if I will make it “in”.
Jesus settled that at Calvary. He said “to them gave He the power to become the children of God, even to them who believe on His name” (John 1:12). His invitation is for “whosoever will”. He awaits my decision, His invitation simply says “come.”
LATE EVENING – QUIETNESS REIGNS
As the festivities of the day conclude, participants return to their tents and begin to settle for the long night. Tomorrow morning, the prize will be theirs. They will pack up the tents, go home, and have many memories of a great time with friends at yet another Chick-fil-A Grand Opening. But tonight, all is quiet as I walk around the tent city, thinking these thoughts about heaven, enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded campers, and anticipating a good night of sleep under the stars.
I’ve met people who have been to more than 100 openings, experiencing snow, rain, and heat. I personally have only been to about 20. How about you? Have you ever attended a Grand Opening event at Chick-fil-A? I’d love to hear about your adventures.