When What Is Right Is Not Right

This morning on my way to church I stopped off at Starbucks as part of my normal routine: London Fog latte (2 bags, 4 shots of vanilla) and a Blueberry Yogurt muffin. I’m not a big Starbucks guy, but one thing I do love: the app. I’m hooked on the thing. I like being able to pay from my phone, and the rewards make it even better.

I got out of the car with nothing but my phone, cuz I knew I didn’t need cash or card… just my app. But something wasn’t right… I could feel it. I thought I should probably take my wallet just in case, or at least ensure that the app was fully charged. So before I went into the store, I fired up the app to check the balance. Rather than give me my balance, the app said something about connecting to the server, and presented me with a login screen… huh?

Ok, no problem, I know sometimes apps log themselves out. I’ll just log in real quick, and… login error… username/password do not match. What?!? I know my username and my password… maybe I just slipped, so I will do it slowly…

login error…

Grrr… Ok, I am turning on the password view so I can see it when I go to login…

login error…

This is crazy! I know this is the right password. Maybe my phone is freaking out, so I will reboot it, so it clears its cache. Ok, reboot done, now to login again…

You know what I’m gonna say before I say it, right? Yes… login error…

At this point I am beginning to doubt my memory. Maybe I do have it wrong. Maybe I just need to reset it and start fresh. My stubbornness had me keep trying. Even as I approached the cashier with card in hand, I was still trying to make this work.

What happens when things in our lives that we know are right just don’t look right? Job was a dude that struggled with this (Job, Kenneth, insert your name here). Job was living right, doing what he was supposed to do, and yet his life was crashing around him. No matter how many times he rebooted, his life just kept failing. Problem after problem emerged, and they just kept getting worse. Job’s cry: “I know I’m right, but I know you (God) are also right, and I just don’t understand…

His friends were like the app. They said “login error… Job, you must have done something wrong for all this to happen”. That is the most frustrating thing, especially when you know you haven’t. Eventually, my app started working, and like Kyle Broflovski, I learned something today:

  • Seek to understand, not to blame – when Job was looking for a reason for the junk, he and his friends looked at who was at fault. For his friends, it was Job’s fault. For Job, he didn’t want to blame God, but he knew he couldn’t blame himself. God however came to Job and basically said, “let me give you some information to help you understand this.” When fault is not the goal but understanding is, learning can happen. My daughter Imani hosted a TED chat on education (via Twitter), and one of the themes that came out early and often was to make education not focused on failing and fault, but on trying and learning from the attempts. Understanding opens the mind to all opportunities… blame closes us off to everything and prevents us from moving forward.
  • Practice patience – The problem wasn’t me, or my password, or the app itself per se. It was timing. There was something in the connection of the app to the server that wasn’t authenticating. Because the app didn’t know how to interpret that, it said there was a login error. Had I just been patient, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.
  • Focus on the end goal, not on the path to the goal – Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is absolutely true. At the same time however, there are some times where we need to focus on goals, or destinations. Truthfully, I probably would not get Starbucks as much as I do had I not gotten the app. I’m not the only one either… Starbucks sees around 7 million mobile payments per week. But I didn’t need to use the app. I had cash and cards, and missing one purchase on my app wasn’t going to affect my rewards all that much.

Finally, as 38 Special says, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go”. 🙂

I knew I was right, but I had to be open to learn something about me, about the app, and to receive correction if needed. When Job received his correction (which wasn’t telling him he was wrong, only that he needed a larger perspective), he was in a place to pray for his friends. We can have something to give when we are ready to receive, even in those situations where we really are right.

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