Last Saturday, I had a book signing in Battle Creek. I wanted to get there early to meet up with my history and world religions instructor from college and have lunch. So, I packed myself and all my stuff into the car and got there in plenty of time. I had an excellent time at lunch, catching up with my instructor and discussing the Bible, which we always end up doing whenever we get together! At the appointed time, I made my way to Barnes and Noble and walked up the information desk.
“Hi, I’m Amanda Barber here for the book signing,” I began.
The girl on the other side looked back at me, confused. “Book signing?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Just then, the acting manager came up and the girl said something like, “There’s a book signing today?”
The manager looked back at me, dumbfounded.
That’s when I knew things weren’t going to go very well.
After some rummaging around on the counter, they finally discovered the event fliers for the book signing and apologized profusely.
“I wasn’t actually supposed to work today,” the manager explained. “And the person who was supposed to work, didn’t pass this information on to me. We’ll get you set up with a table right away.”
Soon, the table was laid and I got out my chocolate that I use to lure people over and my book marks. The only problem was, they hadn’t brought out the books yet, plus the store alarms were going off for some strange reason. Once the employees stopped running around, trying to figure out what was going on, I asked the girl I’d spoken to first, “Do you know where the books are?”
My heart was beginning to sink.
“Um, let me go ask my manager.”
So, I sat at my table for quite some time, watching the manger scurry back and forth, while people helped themselves liberally to the candy on the table. I’d never seen so many people come right up to my table before. Such a pity there weren’t any books there for me to point them towards! After fifteen minutes or so, the manager walked up to me. Her eyes were all red and she looked about ready to burst into tears.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she said, “but we can’t find your books. I tried to call Tom” (I’m assuming this was the guy that was supposed to be working that day) “but I can’t get a hold of him.”
Well, after a few more minutes, Tom called back and it was ascertained that someone had sent all the books back contrary to orders. So, there weren’t any there. There was nothing more to do than pack up and go back home. The poor manager was so distressed and apologized over and over again. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bad mood to begin with, which I’m thankful for or it might have been a lot more difficult to respond correctly. As it was, I felt so bad for her, I just told her that it was really okay, it wasn’t her fault and would Tom please call me back some time to reschedule?
As I left, I began to ponder the incident. I wondered, “What if I hadn’t responded well? What if I had become angry at the lack of competence? From a purely business standpoint, I had every right to be angry and demand some compensation for gas money at least. Supposing I had done all that and she had picked up my book at some point and read it. Would she have been impressed by the love of God that I was attempting to portray?”
I doubt it. She might have thought, “That’s nice and everything. But I know how she really is.”
This was sort of brought home to me a few days later. An acquaintance of mine (whom I will designate as “A”) through a social media venue abruptly messaged me and asked if I was a Christian. I replied that yes I was. This person wanted to know how I knew that I was a Christian. A little bemused, I obliged by giving my brief testimony of faith. And that was that. I guess if I had said that I wasn’t a Christian, A would have taken the opportunity to evangelize me. And as it goes, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It would be commendable and courageous to a certain degree. The problem is, I’ve been observing A’s online testimony for some time. “A” often criticizes people in very harsh terms (especially A’s spouse) and is a chronic complainer. One memorable day, I observed A railing against another Christian for challenging A’s position about an area of Christian practice. Plus, A had shown very little interest in me as a person or a friend up to this point. My conjecture was that the preacher at church that morning had been preaching about the importance of soul winning or something, and A thought I looked like one of the first opportunities. Regardless, I thought to myself, “If I were an unbeliever and A had asked me the same question, would I have given A much room to speak to me about my soul? Probably not. Because nothing about A’s visible life looks particularly attractive.”
I am thoroughly convinced that no area of my life should ever be secular. Every area should be infused with the fruits of the Spirit. I believe it was St. Francis of Assisi that said, and I’m probably paraphrasing, “Preach always. When necessary, use words.” That’s only half true, and as it stands, rather silly. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But I understand the sentiment behind it. If what I’m saying on social media or at work or in a novel is loudly contradicted by my actions, then the words are rendered nearly useless. (I say “nearly” because God can even take the words that hypocritical people say and use them for his glory.) I hope and pray that I will continue to grow into more and more consistency between my outward life and the inward reality of God’s grace in my heart,so that I do not unintentionally drag my Lord’s name through the mud.