I stared at the three quiz questions on the flip-side of his business card. I thought to myself how do I answer these? How would you answer these?
- Do you want to improve your life?
- Are you willing to accept responsibility for you?
- Will you reject what doesn’t work?
I admit I am a bit anxious about our meeting. I’m uncertain what might happen? Though I’m definitely fascinated by what I might hear.
I’m sitting in a restaurant booth—waiting. The place is lunchtime busy. I hear his voice from slightly behind me. “Hi how are you?”
“Better, thank you.” And we launched into small talk, as he slides into the booth, opposite me, facing me.
We ordered our lunch choices and while we await our food, he asks, “Did you take some time to think over the three questions?”
“Great! How did you answer the first question, Do you want to improve your life?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“Very good. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? … How did you answer the second question: Are you willing to accept responsibility for you?”
The waitress set our water and iced tea in front of us, flashed a smile, turned and walked away. I reached for a sweetener as I said, “Yes.”
“Okay, and question three, Will you reject what doesn’t work?” He squeezed his lemon slice into his water and stirred the water, ice, and lemon with his straw.
“Yes absolutely, that would make sense wouldn’t it?”
“Alright, you’re saying that you want to improve your life, that you’re ready to take responsibility for you, and that you’re willing to walk away from what hasn’t worked for you, correct?”
“Yep, that sums up what I’m saying.” The waitress returned to our booth with our orders. We fumbled with condiments and eating utensils. I stabbed at a salted, ketchup dipped french fry, and lifted my fork to my hungry mouth.
“Excellent.” He wasn’t commenting about his salad, instead he was remarking about my answer to the questions written on his business card.
He continued. “All the questions are meant to measure your willingness to commit to improving your life.” He dipped the fork prongs into the Caesar dressing and then poked a chopped piece of lettuce, stuck it in his mouth and began chewing. “So the first question is probing for an answer as to whether you want to change. Let me give you an example, it’s like Jesus asking the man at Bethesda, who’d been sick for thirty-eight years, ‘Do you want to be well?’ This is a decisive question because the guy knew how to be sick, but he didn’t know –or had forgotten, how to be well. In this question I’m asking, do you want to be well? Because all of us have to decide if we want to get better, don’t we?. Ya gotta wanna improve your (situation, circumstances), life. Do you follow what I’m saying?”
I swallowed a bite of my hamburger. “Yes … I must commit to wanting my life to improve … and once again—I do, I want to improve.” I looked directly into his eyes so he could read my sincerity.
“This is a big first step. I compliment you. Now just before you pick up your mat and walk, let me explain the intent of the second question. It’s about reasonable reasons for improving, or on the other hand, unreasonable excuses for not improving.
“Can you give me an example?”
“Certainly. Let’s pretend I have a cussing problem, which I have had in my past, and it still flares up on occasion. Although most of the time other people can’t hear me because I’m swearing under my breath, nevertheless I’m still cussing. I may excuse my behavior because I think it’s no big deal, because no one hears me. But I heard me. I’m responsible and accountable for changing my behavior. I must guard my lips from misspeaking if I want to improve this area of my life. I cannot blame swearing on how my dad and mom raised me, my school, or my friends, for instance. The cussing is my responsibility. It’s my choice to swear or not to swear. I determine how I’m going to act, it’s my decision, my choice, my responsibility, right?”
“You’re saying that I have to choose to improve my life … take responsibility, hold myself accountable … and drop whatever excuses I may come up with.”
He gave me a nod, a thin smile, and continued. “The third question is a final check on the depth of commitment. Will you reject what hasn’t been working, for something that will work and improve your life?” He paused to eat more of his Caesar salad.
I pondered the question being asked. As I mulled it over, being careful not to respond too quickly, too flippantly. I finally said, “You mean, will I trade what doesn’t work for what does work? Well, I’m not an idiot.”
“And the question doesn’t mean to imply that you are a half-wit … it implies that we are inclined to seek easy fixes, we all want to improve, but we often aren’t willing to put a lot of effort into improvement. Especially if the effort becomes boring, or difficult. We’re not into being inconvenienced. So if this happens, and the chances are pretty certain it will, then we’re more than likely to quit trying, and then, nothing actually gets better—improves. So, are you up for investing in your personal improvement?”
I pretended to study the last bite of my cheeseburger, “Well it’s for my own good, isn’t it? … Where do we go from here?”
“You get dressed for work and start building a strong foundation that will serve you for the rest of your life, help you achieve things that are important to you.” He picked up the check the waitress had dropped on our table.
I decided we should meet again.
(To be continued)
Bonus Song: Casting Crowns Jesus Friend of Sinners