Not long ago I was traveling with my three sons and my father on a hunting trip in eastern North Carolina. We were tired after several hours on the road and decided to stop in at McDonald’s to grab a sandwich before settling in for the evening. Our order was long and somewhat complicated so my father and I stood by talking while our food was prepared. Meanwhile, at the other register another gentleman was ordering. The specificity of his order made mine look easy. He must have thought he was at Burger King because he most definitely wanted the order “his way.” The man received his order and left the counter while my father and I continued our conversation.
A few seconds later, the man returned with his sandwich. Everyone knows this is a bad sign. If the workers had forgotten something, the man would have come back empty handed. However, when someone returns with their sandwich, someone has got something wrong. This has happened to all of us. Ordered a chicken sandwich and received a burger, or vice versa. This would not end up being the case for the man at the adjoining register. The worker who had constructed his sandwich had used the wrong type of lettuce. McDonald’s has both sliced and shredded lettuce. The sandwich he ordered typically comes with sliced lettuce but he had been adamant that the lettuce be shredded. He proceeded to, quite rudely, point out to the young girl at the counter the mistake. Over and over again he pointed to the fact that he had ordered shredded lettuce.
It was one of those moments that I frequently find myself in where I am embarrassed for someone. In that moment I was embarrassed for that man, his family, and really anyone who had ever known him. I felt bad for whoever had to call this guy their husband, or dad, or friend. This man was making a complete fool of himself but that reality did not seem to bother him in the least.
The server corrected his order, apologized once again, and the man left the counter. Moments later we received our food, left the counter, and enjoyed the rest of our trip. I didn’t think about that incident again until about a week later when I was sitting in the back of the chapel at a local funeral home. The family had not yet been brought in and I’ve always found that funerals are a very appropriate time to reflect.
Funerals are a symbol of something final. Whether we stick with the nomenclature “funeral” or the more recent rendition “celebration of life,” it is hard to look past what a funeral means. As I sat there waiting for the service to start, I was drawn back to the incident at McDonald’s a week earlier. I found myself profoundly saddened by the actions of the elderly gentleman and his lettuce preferences. He had been willing to verbally assault a teenage girl because the lettuce on his sandwich had not been cut properly. For him, it was worth being downright nasty to get things his way.
At the same time, I thought about what was happening in this funeral service. We were there to say goodbye to one of God’s children who had departed this life to be with her heavenly Father. What a contrast in situations. The first, where priorities were completely out of kilter and the other which brought such clarity to life and what is significant.
I tell you this story to encourage and challenge you with this: set wise priorities. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus has just encouraged them to “walk as children of light” (v. 8) and to “take no part in the unfruitful words of darkness” (v. 11) when he writes:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:15-16, ESV)
There is a day coming when we must all give an account to God for the things we have done. Our lives are vapors that are here today and gone tomorrow. Funerals are a good reminder of that fact. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that we make wise decisions today—that we set our priorities on the things of God. That we do not waste our time worrying about the cut of our lettuce, but that we take great care to make wise decisions. Our enemy loves to get us distracted into unfruitful activities that prevent us from being on mission as witnesses to Christ. Walk carefully brothers and sisters. Be wise. Make the best use of your time because the days are evil and time is short.