The man was honest. You’ve got to give him that. Come to think of it, it was really his tee-shirt that was honest.
He started talking almost as he walked in the front door.
“I’m looking for a job. Are you hiring?”
I was pretty blunt with him. We are a Mom and Pop store in the truest sense of the term. The Lovely Lady and I, with the help of my sister, run the business.
We’re not hiring.
I wouldn’t have hired him anyway. One look at what he was wearing, and anyone considering him for a job would have made the same determination. It would be nice if all decisions were that easy.
Honesty. What a concept!
The man’s tee shirt had the words emblazoned across his chest in all caps.
I”M REALLY LAZY.
There were other words printed below. I’m sure they were supposed to be funny, but all I could see were those three.
I’m really lazy. Talk about truth in advertising!
The mind jumps immediately to the possibilities for this type of labeling.
I gamble compulsively. Casinos could avoid a world of problems.
I’m a mean drunk. Bartenders would know when to shut off the flow of liquor.
And, just like that I’m seeing a new line of clothing for the Sunday morning wardrobe.
I’m a horrible gossip—I can’t control my appetite—I curse like a sailor—I’m addicted to Internet pornography—I’m full of pride.
The potential for this is fantastic!
James said we should confess our sins to each other. (James 5:16) We’re not doing so well at that anyway. This could really change our Sunday morning services.
As my imagination runs wild, I suddenly recall another fellow who came into the music store that very same day. Not more than an hour after the hapless young job seeker walked out my door, the next victim of my labeling system walked in.
The elderly lady and I were just completing our transaction when the door was pushed open. She had asked for an old Southern Gospel song and we found it in a songbook. I was giving her the change from her purchase and nodded to the fellow in my best I’ll-be-with-you-in-a-minute manner.
The young man was easy for me to read—nearly as easy as the lady had been. In his twenties, the Hispanic man was wearing a cap with the bill flattened and turned at a slight angle. He returned my nod with an abrupt one of his own and began to look at the guitars.
We wouldn’t have anything to talk about. This one would want sound equipment for his band, equipment I was sure not to have. He wouldn’t hang around long.
There was no tee shirt, but the label I saw read, We have nothing in common.
Just as the lady put her hand on the knob to exit, the young man called out to her.
“Are you in a hurry, Ma’am?”
When she answered that she wasn’t, he turned to me and asked another question.
“Do you mind if we worship the Lord together for a minute?”
We have nothing in common. Really? Boy, did I misread that label!
We prayed together and then we sang, his tone clear and strong, mine somewhat less clear. It could have been the tears that came as I tried to sing harmony to his pure melody.
It wasn’t only the song that brought tears.
This is the air I breathe—Your Holy presence, living in me.
Labels would never work. They never have. I’m not that good at judging character.
We’re not that good at judging character.
I found a phrase in my notes the other day. I like to jot down thoughts as they come to me. I might be able to make sense of them some day. Today this one makes sense to me.
“Knowing a man’s past doesn’t make you privy to his future.”
People change. Not on their own. On our own, it is impossible to be anyone but who we are and have been. But, God reminds us that He still makes new. Somehow, His creation isn’t complete yet. He changes the labels.
He changes the labels.
The Apostle who loved to write letters ran through a list of horrendous labels, the worst you could imagine, applying them to his readers in the past tense.
Such were some of you. But God gave you different labels.
Okay—so he didn’t word it quite like that, but if you’ll read it for yourself, I promise it’s almost the same. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
The elderly lady and the young man are part of the same family.
I kind of like not having to wear the tee shirt. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to share our struggles with each other. But, they don’t describe who we are anymore.
We have a new label. I’m pretty sure He’d like for us to treat each other as if it was true of every person in His family.
Because it is. Always.
I’ll wear this tee shirt. One word emblazoned across the chest in all caps.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ NASB)
This is the air I breathe,
This is the air I breathe,
Your holy presence living in me.
This is my daily bread,
This is my daily bread,
Your very word spoken to me.
And I—I’m desperate for you;
And I—I’m lost without you.
(from Breathe ~ Marie Barnett ~ American songwriter)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.