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Finding Wisdom

One of the trickiest challenges of youth ministry is to get a large group of teenagers in several different vehicles, travel across a few states, feed them, incorporate a bathroom break somewhere and somehow manage to arrive on time. Most of that could be planned ahead, but the trickiest by far was the feeding process and the time it would take to feed the entire group. The usual plan of attack was to find a location with two or three fast food restaurants side by side, so we could spread out and speed up the process.

On one occasion, we made a stop with four choices. Most chose one of the first three options, so I thought I would be smart and go to the fourth choice, a Hardee’s somewhere in South Carolina. There was little to no line, and I figured I could get in and get out, eat my food, gather the rest of our group and be back on the road in a flash.  I’ve never had my hopes and dreams crushed like I did that day.

I ordered my food and could see through the windows to the other restaurant a large number of my students still in line.  This was a great idea and it was going to work! I didn’t order anything too complicated – chicken tenders and fries – and had no trouble with the cashier or payment – when in a hurry, always use cash! I was already thinking of the joy I would have when I walked back to the other restaurant and ate my food in front of my students while they still stood in line.  This was going to work out perfectly!

Then something happened.  A few more orders were taken, but after a few minutes, I noticed there was not any food coming out from the kitchen – either inside or at the drive thru.  This became concerning to me. I had already placed my order and paid for my food.  I was shackled and imprisoned to this path. There was no way out now. A few minutes turned into more, and I began to notice students from the other restaurants walking out towards the busses.  While I was standing in the lobby, waiting, they had already ordered, received and eaten their food. This was not going well. I was growing impatient as I continued to do the math in my head about how long this was taking, how far behind we were getting on the trip and how late we would be arriving to our destination.

Twenty-five minutes later, I finally received my lunch. The cashier was quite apologetic, but to be honest, I did not care at that moment. I think the funniest thing of all was the effort she made to “make up” for the delay. As she handed me the bag, she politely said, “Sorry for the wait. I threw in a free apple cinnamon turnover for you” (full disclosure – I’m allergic to cinnamon).

Poor choices. Sometimes we have no control over them – like randomly choosing a restaurant somewhere in South Carolina – while other times, we have a ton of resources to help us decide. Sometimes we should know better, but we fail to seek the wisdom or worse – follow it.
Later on that night, after the day was over, I went back and tried to find the exact restaurant and make a note to NEVER go there again.  When I found it, I scrolled through some of the online reviews and comments, and to my surprise, the first comments was, “This place is the slowest fast food restaurant on earth! Don’t ever eat here if you are in a hurry!” Wow, that would have helped about ten hours earlier.

Wisdom. It’s like a road map, or an online review – if we know it’s there and don’t use it, then whose fault is it when things don’t go well? How foolish is the fool who fails to see the fate of those who failed before him?

Fortunately, God has left us a book full of trailblazers – men and women who have succeeded by being faithful and heeding the wisdom of God or failed by following their own wits and wiles. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We have so many examples of how to be faithful and the ultimate example in Jesus.  So, let me ask you again in a different way, “How foolish is the fool who fails to follow in faith those who were faithful before him?”

Listen to wisdom. Follow the map. Be faithful. Fail less. Succeed more. And never, ever, ever stop at a Hardees in South Carolina!!

- Pete Ramsey