Read: Galatians 5:1-26
“Test everything. Hold on to the good.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
Incoherent customers are not an uncommon occurrence in retail. More than once, I have found myself at the end of a conversation which, due to some misunderstanding at the beginning, has left me wondering what exactly just took place.
For example: on one particular afternoon, I was approached by a customer with a question about wrapping a tree that she had just purchased. I responded by asking where she was going to place it. (The assumption on my part being that she meant to wrap the trunk in order to protect it from the elements.) “It’s going in my pickup bed,” she responded rather hotly, her irritation at my failure to comprehend her meaning quite evident.
I quickly realized that her concern was for the tree’s safety in transport and assured her that the gentleman who would load her tree for her would take a moment to look over the situation and provide appropriate advice. I quickly radioed for an employee to retrieve the tree from the lot, but as I did so, the customer glanced out the window and, with a tone of exasperation announced, “Never mind, it’s already loaded. But that wasn’t the man helping me!” She then proceeded to storm out of the store leaving me in a bit of a quandary as to what had just happened.
On another occasion, I encountered a gentleman seeking to purchase a bag of Diazinon (an incredibly effective insecticide). It was with regret that I informed him that we had just sold our last bag earlier that morning.
“When I called a week ago, you said that you had it,” he replied, sounding a bit disgruntled.
“We did, a week ago, but we don’t anymore,” I apologized.
“You shouldn’t say you have things when you don’t.”
It was clear that my message was not getting across, but not wanting to lose a customer I replied, “We might be getting some more in this next week, I can check for you.”
“You can’t because it’s illegal.”
“No, Sir… not yet at least.” (Everyone locally was aware of the pending EPA ban on the product – part of the reason we were selling through so much of it so quickly.)
“Yes it is or you wouldn’t be telling everyone that you have it!” And with that, he turned around and left, leaving me, once again, wondering what exactly had just taken place.
Since good things always come in threes (at least so they say), I can’t resist sharing just one more tale of incoherence: this one aided by a telephone.
“I need to know how much a truckload of bark will cost,” my customer explained. (So far, so good. This is a common question and fairly easy to answer.)
“How much bark do you need?” I enquired, reaching for a calculator.
“I don’t know. How much fits in a pickup?”
“It depends upon the size of the pickup,” I replied, fully expecting the customer to respond with something reasonably precise like, “It’s a half-ton, Chevy, short-bed.”
No such luck. “It’s a small one,” she explained.
“Perhaps you can tell me how much ground are you trying to cover,” I suggested.
“I don’t know how much ground I’m trying to cover. I just need to know how much bark I will need.”
“It depends on what size space you’re covering and how thickly you want to lay the bark down,” I explained, reasonably certain that this conversation was going nowhere fast.
“About two inches,” she replied.
The truth is that a little incoherence at the beginning of a conversation can lead to a lot of incoherence by the end. Like shooting an arrow or throwing a ball, what seems to be an insignificant ambiguity in the aiming process can result in an end that is far removed from the intended course.
That the same sort of misdirection can occur when it comes to our Christian walk should come as no surprise. What starts as a minor misunderstanding of Scripture can lead to a life which misses the mark – leaving others to wonder why there is such inconsistency between what we say we believe (God’s Word) and the way we live. Perhaps this is why the apostles took such care to emphasize the importance of our studying (and following) God’s Word for ourselves. Only when we do, can we be assured that our lives will be coherent enough for their message – that God loves mankind – to be clearly understood.
Challenge: Take some time to carefully consider what you believe. Does the way you live naturally follow? Ask God to reveal how you can live a more consistent life!