The One We’re Looking For

It happens every week or so.  A customer asks to look at an item and we’re sold out.

Sold out?  There was one there yesterday.

There were six there last week.

I have to admit it is one of the tasks I dislike the most.  Stock orders.  Inventory must be checked.  Catalogs must be searched–perhaps online, perhaps in a print version.  Either way, when that is done, the order must be communicated with the supplier by whichever method works the best.

Every time I complete a stock order, I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Well, that’s over!”

It’s not.

In a couple of days, the boxes arrive.  Items must be unpacked.  Invoices must be verified.  Prices must be attached to each item.  The merchandise must be placed on display.

“Well, that’s over.”

It’s not.

In another day or three, a customer asks to look at an item and we’re sold out.

How is this possible?  We achieved our goal.  We placed the order.  We even processed the incoming merchandise.  We’re done, right?

I wonder if I’m missing something.  Perhaps the goal wasn’t just to complete the order.  Perhaps the goal wasn’t even just to get it on the shelf.  I have a sneaking suspicion the goal isn’t even just to have customers come get what they need.

Am I missing something?

Perhaps a shift in scope might help.


That’s exactly what we need here!

A shift in scope.

Scope is the extent of the area we are viewing in any particular subject matter.  I just need to see a bigger picture.  Instead of seeing each activity in my business as disconnected, I have to know they are all connected.  All of them–every single one–lead to a bigger goal, a larger thing to be accomplished.

I wonder if you’re ready for me to really stretch the parameters of the view with this next statement.

It has to be said.

There is nothing that you or I will do today which will achieve the ultimate goal for which we are striving.

Not one thing.

We have to widen our scope.

The Lovely Lady and I were relaxing after our individual evening exercise sessions.  We had the television set tuned into some banal comedy.  An ad for one of those online universities came on and I listened with astonishment as a college student made an absurd statement.

“The most important thing I’ll ever do in my life is walk across that stage.”   She made the statement emphatically and proudly.

She was wrong.

Can I make an admission that may surprise many of my readers?

I did not go to college.  There.  I’ve said it.

I don’t say it with pride or with chagrin.  It is simply a fact.  I’ve thought about going to college many times, but have opted not to do so.  Why?

Walking across a stage and getting a diploma is not the most important thing I could do.  If it would enable me to achieve my life goals–if getting that diploma would put me any closer to doing what I’ve been placed here to do–I would do whatever it took to get that diploma.

Not to have a diploma to hang on the wall.

Not to brag to anyone that I have a degree.

Not to pat myself on the back and say that I did it.

The only reason in the world to get that diploma is to use it to move closer to the ultimate aim in life.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not putting down a college education.  I would never suggest to a young person that they not get as much instruction as they need to move forward.  But, if the degree doesn’t help with that, doesn’t in some sense propel them toward their goals, it is useless and a waste of time.

It’s time for me to move on.  I’m attempting to break the news to you gently, but I’ve got to get to it or we’ll be here all day.

Here’s the truth about these minor, picayune subjects we’re wrestling with tonight, and in fact, which we wrestle with every day.

We’re thinking too small if any of our goals–any of them–don’t lead directly to another, bigger goal, which leads to another, bigger goal, which in turn…

Well, you get the picture.

Too often in life, we make the mistake of thinking the next step is the one we’re looking for.

I can’t count the times when friends have said, “One more class session and then I’ll be done forever,” as if that is the end of that.

It’s not.

Which, incidentally, is the way life is supposed to be.  One step at a time, we put one foot in front of the other.  We walk through childhood on the way to maturity.  We walk through school on the way to a vocation, or ministry.  We walk through a lifetime of labor which leads to more labor, which leads to more labor.  We retire from one aspect of life, the work, to move on to another, the nurturing and caring for each other in our old age.

But, at no time, do we get to say, “I’m done forever.”

I remember putting the ceiling and walls up in the den of our house a few years ago.  It was a struggle to deal with those twelve by four foot pieces of sheet rock.  The heavy sections of drywall were bulky and awkward.  It was all the two of us could handle, and then some.  We had covered the ceiling, and then gone around all four walls, holding the sheet rock with one hand and a power driver in the other.  The job was exhausting.

Then, as we went to the stack one more time, my brother-in-law, who was the brains of the outfit said triumphantly, “Here’s the one we’ve been looking for all along!”

I had heard the gag before, but went along just to hear the words.  “What do you mean, the one we’ve been looking for?”

He said the words, more with relief than pride.  “The last one.  We’re done.”

Funny thing.  He was wrong.  We still had to tape the corners and edges.  We still had to put mortar or mud in them.  We had to sand them and then mud them again.  We had to do that several times to the ceiling, since it would be so readily visible.  The walls and ceiling both had to be primed and painted, and then painted again.

Then, the job of construction done, the real work began.  We use the room constantly.  It hosts family, and friends.  It is the playroom for our grandchildren and sometimes, their little friends.  It has to be cleaned and kept up.  Pictures are hung and moved.  Light fixtures have been attached (and removed).

We’re not done with the room.  We never will be.

We never intended to be.  There was always a larger scope than just hanging sheet rock.

From the day of our birth, until the day we die, we are taught, and we work, and we love, and we teach.  The cycle goes on and on, not ending with us, but continuing with our children and those we influence in this life.

Generation after generation, we never find the one we are looking for, the last one.

There is no such thing as the last thing to be done.

Until one day, when our life here is completed.

I have a theory about what happens after we die too, but you may not wish to hear it.

Perhaps, just the widening of the scope for this life has been enough for one session.

Funny, we say that folks enter into their rest when they die.  Maybe that’s right.

But, I’m still not sure that God is going to let us waste all the time we’ve prepared for walking across that particular stage.  There may still be more.

One day, I’ll find out.

Until then, there is certainly more to be done here.

Time to get moving again.

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.  Let’s celebrate together!'”
(Matthew 25:23 ~ NLT)

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”
(Men and Women and Other Poems ~ by Robert Browning ~ English poet ~ 1812-1889)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

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