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The tyranny of the salad dressing aisle

So many choices. So little time. Should we really be grateful?

I wheel my cart down the aisle slowly, perusing my options. I know what I want, at least I think I do. Until I see that the flavor I am looking for comes in no fat, low fat, and high test. There are also creamy and oil-based varieties, and at least half a dozen manufacturers. How do I choose?

Do I sort? by color, brand, fat content, flavor? The store has usually done a bit of this for me, thank goodness. That’s not because they love me, actually, but because they want me to buy. If I am overwhelmed I may just throw up my hands and leave the store empty-handed. That will not do – for them.

They know us. We’re shoppers. We come with a list in hand and an idea in mind. We want to check everything off, but deciding is tough. If there were just one of everything, it wouldn’t be. But that is not the world in which we live. We must choose. And choose rightly.

Why? Because there is cost. And it’s not just the number on the price tag. It’s the cost of “You got the wrong one!” “Ew, I don’t like that!” These weigh very heavily, especially when we are trying to keep everyone happy. And we have limited resources.

If I didn’t, I guess I could just bring home one of each and let them choose. Pass the tyranny on to them and call it freedom of choice. But I don’t. I stand and struggle under the weight of “making everyone happy.” Wanting to insure my success, I work backward. Calculating. Comparing. Sorting and selecting. Maybe in desperation I just pick one. Maybe in fear I take home an armful.

Either way, I do not win. The store wins. The product wins. And inevitably, someone at my table will be less than satisfied.

  • This isn’t what I wanted
  • This isn’t what I expected
  • This doesn’t taste right

Still, we love them. It’s amazing what happens when we sit around the table to partake of the same meal with the understanding that no one leaves the kitchen until the dishes are done. Conversation turns to more important things and the salad dressing takes a back seat.

It is amazing how important it seemed just hours before, when I was hosting the dinner. And how much it changes when Love takes over.

Goldilocks and the lukewarm problem

You don’t have to tell me twice. Nope, usually it takes 4 or 5 times. Still, I am listening.

On Sunday our pastor, who is talking about generosity and giving – let that not be confused with stewardship, which is money and giving to the church, because people do not want to listen to this – says, “saying yes to funding these things also tells you what you need to say no to.”

This is, I admit, a new thought to me. Call me slow, but I hadn’t exactly thought about the relationship between these. You only have so much money. When you choose to put it in ‘these pots’ then you don’t have enough also to put it in ‘these pots.’ It’s an automatic – for him.

Not for me. I fill up those pots I’m sure about and then I scamper about trying to dig up money, time, talent, resources of some sort, to put in those other pots. Because they’re standing there like trick or treaters on my doorstep holding out their buckets. We’re supposed to give to all who ask of us, right?

Well, no. We’re supposed to be discerning the right proportions. For the trick or treaters, it may mean giving out less candy to each so you have enough for the bunch of them because you do want enough to go around. But in general, this scraping-up-giving is really not God’s way. But the notion that chosen-giving also illuminated not-giving was new to me.

Next day, I am faced with a decision about something that will commit a good deal of time. Saying yes, would mean investing in yes. And there were so many things I could say yes to. I would be limiting my options. Was that really wise? Prayer led me to say yes. This was something that had potential to pay large dividends. I had evidence of its effectiveness, even though the pay off wasn’t assured.

Oddly, when I said yes, I realized what other option was a no. I knew this without guilt. Didn’t feel like I must scrape something up for the losers. I declined that offer and wished them well in their endeavor. Really quite painless.

But, just to hammer this home, God sent me Tim McCarver on the World Series broadcast. He explained that the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t sign Albert Pujols, who was so expensive, allowed them to spread the resources they saved around to make offers to other players. “Who you don’t sign is as important as who you do sign,” he said.

Not quite done, God sent my online class marketing professor (UVA MOOC) to say, “when defining your brand you must be as careful to say what your product is as to say what it is not.” We can’t be all things to all people or we ‘ll lose them all. She related this to selling iced tea or hot tea; no one wants lukewarm tea.

Four prompts under my belt, I am thinking about little miss Goldilocks. Too hot. Too cold. Just right. She chose the middle ground every time and it worked out for her, in the story. I think most people can relate to this. We’re not extremists. We like to dabble in both sides, investigate our options, research the course of action, perhaps read what others in the know are saying. And then, hopefully, we make a choice. We are middling folks. We don’t want to be deceived and we really don’t want to make a mistake. We are shoppers.

But if you’re in the business of selling, you must decide what your product is and what it is not. You must decide where to put your resources so that you know where they don’t go. You must say yes, so you know what to say no to. In the words of St. Paul, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” He was a salesman to beat all salesmen.

I am a salesman for Christ through youth athletics. I believe in what I’m selling, not because it’s right for all people but because it was and is right for me. I want to get it to everyone for whom it would also be right. It’s my mission. They are my mission field.

Goldilocks has not served me well. It’s a place for shoppers. I’ve never been a very good shopper. I’m a seller. I’ll offer you what I have, who I am, and what I know at a fair price. I won’t cut corners to try to please the middle because that unbalances and depletes. It also blurs the lines between what I am and what I’m not, what I can give you and what I can’t.

You may be lukewarm about buying. That’s reasonable. It’s only fair, then, if I am firm about what I am offering. That’s good for business. And my mission. I don’t want to sell you something you don’t want. Just invite you in for a chat, show you around, find out what you’re looking for. Whether you buy is completely up to you.

That frees both of us.

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