Monday, October 27, 2008

Mixed Messages

If I had only been able to reach my digital camera in time. We were driving down to Florida's gulf coast earlier this month, and I saw something pretty funny - and quite confusing.

We were in Alabama (where else?) and parked on the side of a hill along Hwy. 331 was an old conversion van.
The van stuck out like a sore thumb (remember, not too surprising since we were in South Alabama), so I had to look at it. As we neared the van, I was able to read the white shoe polish writing on the front windshield:

$1,000 Firm OBO

Now, it could just be me, but when you say something is a firm price, that usually means that you are not willing to negotiate. So, basically, the seller of said van was wanting to be up front with potential buyers that he wanted to get $1,000 for the van - that he was not willing to yield on that issue...well, unless of course the buyer didn't really want to pay that price, in which case he'd consider a lower offer...your BEST offer.

Plain and simple, this is a mixed message. Confusing to the passersby because the sign paints two conflicting messages.

We live in a world where we see this all too often. The tragic thing is that it's not 1978 conversion vans. It's people. Men and women who send a mixed message to those with whom they come into contact. People who, on the surface, are kind and pleasant and well-meaning, but who, in reality, are just as self-centered and rotten as the "average" person.

And, I am no different many times. I can easily get caught up in the emotion of the moment when things don't go my way and completely erase any positive witness I can provide for those around me. For example, missing flights really tends to bring out the hidden beast within - just ask my wife!

Even as followers of Christ, we can often be so blinded by our own circumstances that we fail to see the myriad opportunities we have to show someone who Jesus is through our words and actions. It's in those times of adversity that we really have the chance to make the longest-lasting impact on someone else - good and, often times, bad.

But, responses to circumstances is not the only mixed signal we can send. We do it in many other ways. It can be someone who claims to have a "servant's heart," but who always takes the best for himself - the best parking spot, the best place in line in the grocery store, the best seat at the table in the restaurant.

It can be someone who claims to love the Lord and her family, but who dresses inappropriately to attract an inordinate amount of attention to herself. In fact, I recently read a t-shirt that read "Modest is Hottest." You don't see that too often. And, as a married man, I resent women who reveal too much. I mean, it's impossible for a man to not notice these things. But, women often complain that guys gawk and stare too much. Here's the truth - we don't plan to gawk. We'd prefer not to. OK, enough on that subject - you catch my drift.

The bottom line is that we have to work hard - and work constantly - to make sure our hearts, words, and actions line up. That we are not sending mixed signals to a world so desperately seeking truth and authenticity.

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