For several years Joel, a friend of mine, and I met each other at 5:30 each morning in downtown Columbia. We would walk for for an hour and a half, talking as we walked. The first hour we would settle all the problems of the world, which, like the mercies of God, are new every morning. The last half hour we would figure out where to eat breakfast.
We would usually stop by one of two coffee shops in the Five Points area- Drip, a locally owned one, and Starbucks. We got to know the baristas at both places really well. One of the ones at Starbucks, a muscular, jolly man with dreadlocks was our favorite. Since we were there before many of the early-birds, knew us fairly well. One morning he offered us his favorite drink- a large iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso, sugar-free vanilla, and cream. Not half-and-half, not milk, but cream. It was great, and quickly became one of my favorites.
The problem is, when I go to any other Starbucks and ask for that, they cannot hear me. For example, this week I stopped by the local store and the woman behind the counter asked what I wanted. "Large iced coffee, extra shot of espresso, sugar-free vanilla, real cream," I said. She said back to me, "Large iced-coffee with half-and-half." "No, ma'am," I said, then repeated my order. "Oh," she said, "large iced coffee, extra shot, sugar free vanilla, and milk." "No, ma'am," I said again, then repeated my order. She looked at me as if I had spoken Vulcan or some unknown language. "I don't understand," she said. "You want a large iced-coffee, an extra shot, sugar-free vanilla, and milk." "Almost," I said. "Instead of milk, this is what I want," and I walked over to the prep area, leaned across the counter, pointed my finger at a container that had the word "CREAM" in big black letters on it. I wasn't getting mad, and I didn't raise my voice, and I certainly did not want to be rude. But I dod not know how else to put it. She punched something into the register, a slip came out, stuck it to a cup, and handed it to the woman preparing the coffee. She looked at it, started preparing the drink, and said, "2% milk, right?" "Nope," I said, and told her my order. She mixed a lot of things in the cup, handed it to me, and said, "Is this right?" "Close, but no cigar." I did not ask her to redo the drink. This has happened to me several times, and each time I ask them to "make it right" (as their sign says) it still doesn't come out right.
So I took the drink and walked back down the road to home.
I thought about this as I walked. The folks at Starbucks don't want to give me something other than what I ask for, they don't intentionally screw-up my order. They are nice people. But they are used to hearing certain things, and answering questions in certain ways. They already know what the answer from me should be.
And I wonder, how often is that true for me? How often does God speak to me, and I hear something different? How often do I read the Bible, already knowing what it's going to say (at least in my mind) and don't hear what it really says? How often do people tell me something, or ask me a question, and I just don't hear? Does God ever (figuratively) lean over the counter and point to someone, something, some Scripture, and say "There. That one. That's what I'm talking about." And I wonder if I do something and God says "Close, but no cigar."
Jesus often ended his parables with these words, "Let those with ears to hear, hear." God, let that be true with me.