When you hear that, it's a safe bet that someone's got a Bad Connection.
The transmission is fuzzy, there's no clear signal coming through. Or, it could be something else.
It could be an instance of not liking what we're hearing, and questioning just who it is communicating an undesirable message. In this "Have It Your Way" culture, it's just business-as-usual to default into Personal Preference Mode:
"Pardon? No, I don't like the sound of that. Good-bye."
This is when it's time to not only ascertain who is speaking and what is being said, but also the nature of the speaker's relationship to us:
* A computer-generated database call? Click. You're not being called by an actual person, and there's certainly no personal intentionality going on here.
* A fund-solicitation call? No, thanks anyway. You're a data list entry, and they're calling to enlist your support in a cause that they have a vested interest in, and that you probably do not. But, they'll happily assist you in lightening your wallet, anyway.
* A callback from your biggest supporter, perhaps even your lifelong mentor? Whoa, now. You called him. He's invested in you, and vice versa. You matter enough for him to communicate with. This is a call you can't wait to take...unless you don't like what he's saying.
Ah, there's the rub.
Insert today's latest quote from the Sad and Sadder files of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Today's Associated Press interview, as reported by CNN, includes this token of purported self-awareness:
"Sanford wrote in a message to his political action committee e-mail on Monday that, while he considered resigning, 'I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm.'"
Why does anyone care about the curiously painful descent of this politician's reputation? Well I, for one, can think of only one decent reason; I'm still paying attention because the governor keeps invoking the name of God. By his own profession, he's a devout Christian; I take people at their word when it comes to their own spiritual lives. How can anyone else know those deepest inner details?
But, it's another thing to talk about Someone Who is really there, and blithely gloss over the inconvenient fact that He might have a few thoughts that don't quite jibe with your own prospective scenario. It just doesn't quite sit right. And that's because it ISN'T right.
Taking the foregoing quote at face value, it is apparent that Gov. Sanford presumes that God will open doors for him "next in life." This is not an unreasonable thought. God repeatedly promises to lead us in the way we should go; to counsel us with His eye upon us. To direct our paths. He even promises that we will find Him, when we search for Him with all our hearts..."I will be found by you." [Isaiah 48:17; Jeremiah 29:13].
But, these are not collegial exchanges. The Speaker and the audience are not equals.
Who's speaking, please?
It appears to be only the governor speaking here. He's projecting into the future that God will speak to him and "open doors." And I hope He does.
But, if it's really God the governor wants to hear from, then he needs to remember Who he's talking about. God doesn't blink at our indiscretions and lapses; if He did, He wouldn't be the God of the Bible. And not just because He is all holy [a little-understood word these days]. I am firmly convinced that God doesn't 'turn a blind eye' because that would not be the best for any of us. He loves us with an 'everlasting love' [Jer. 31:3] that never takes the short-cut because short-cuts too often allow a lethal infection of sin to take root.
And, we're too important to Him to allow that: He proved it on Calvary.
So, what next? Well, next is to make sure the infection--the temptation, the miscalculation, the small misstep that has led us on a huge tangent--is thoroughly routed.
I imagine it differs from case to case, but I'm betting that the full course of 'spiritual antibiotic,' the wrenching, probing inside look with the Great Physician, takes time, energy, and not a little courage. Most likely in proportions that add up to a full-time commitment, until the repentance and restoration are complete. And that would be restoration of relationship to God Himself [the future door-opener], to the spouse he made vows to, and to the children for whom he will one day give an account as a father. Oh, yes, and a little further down the list, any future constituents he may have.
These endeavors are too essential to try to wedge into any margins of the DayTimer.
If the governor doesn't see all this as the imperative that is before him as a professed Christian believer, his vision is worse than I thought. And if he sees his only two options as sticking around on the gubernatorial job "to learn lessons" or "running and hiding down on the farm," well, he must really not understand Who he should be listening to. His wires are crossed, and that's no small thing.
Were I to meet him, I think I would like Gov. Sanford. He's certainly willing to be vulnerable about his foibles, and admitting them is the first step, afterall. But there's no one so easy to fool as ourselves; and there are so many who are all too willing to help in the fooling.
That's why it's important to know who's speaking--and how earnestly we should listen.