Customer Service


Potato Chips openHalf eaten bags of potato chips, slightly used bedroom sets, and an assortment of exercise equipment teetering on push-carts are all a common sight. A parade of big-screen TVs inch their way to the return counter one week after the Super Bowl. One of the reasons we all love Costco is their wonderful return policy. CostcoTheir customer service staff is so happy to issue a full refund for anything from wilted lettuce to soiled dog beds. Why have they made no-questions-asked refunds their company policy? Because it makes every customer a happy customer; and in the long run, it is profitable.

Returns Line LongWe’ve all been to that “other store” where you bring back a shirt with the tag still attached and want to exchange it for the correct size. You stand in line for fifteen minutes to talk to a stoney-faced representative whose main contribution to society is sarcasm mixed with boredom. All sales finalAnd of course your exchange is refused because a thread is loose on the button, or you’re told, “Those shirts have been moved to clearance”. That’s when we swear, and then we swear we’ll never do business with them again.

On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, I asked a young sales assistant to direct me to a particular department. He immediately got down off his ladder, and walked me to the aisle I needed. Hobby LobbyThe smile never left his face as he led me to the item. He didn’t call to another associate or point in the direction I needed to go. He stopped what he was doing and made me feel like the most important customer in the store.

It got me thinking how healthy our marriages can be if we provide “customer service” like Hobby Lobby, for our spouse. If she wants something to be different, how ready am I to agree? Maybe there is something about me that “isn’t working” for my wife. Can she come to me and tell me? Does she have to make an iron-clad case; or am I willing to listen to understand her perspective? When she tells me, do I respond like the Costco Returns clerk or do I respond like that other store? Couple having CoffeeDo I stonewall her, or do I give her service with a smile? Maybe she needs help with something. Do I drop what I am doing, and go help her? Or do I heave a sigh and point and yell my answer?

They say the best marriages in the world are made when two servants are in love. Customer service in marriage is not a right we can insist on, but is a great benefit when it is provided to us. A little bit of good customer service can go a long way in a marriage. When we treat our spouse like the most important customer in the store, they’ll likely want to “do business” with us regularly.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16Pickles Costco

I Was Wrong

HeadlinesMisstatements are in bold, 300 font headlines on the front page. But retractions and corrections, if you can find them, are somewhere at the bottom of page C17. We always cry “foul” when a political leader lies or fails to fulfill his promise, but when I make a mistake…not so much. My inaccuracies and misstatements always have “legitimate reasons” and “logical explanations”.Politicians

Why is it that the very faults we decry in public, we practice in our marriage relationships?Fonzie I’d much rather say that I misspoke or you misheard me, than to say I was wr—. Why is it so hard to say I was wr—? OK, I wasn’t exactly right! It’s hard to admit. I’m just like Fonzie in Happy Days, who is too cool for school, but just can’t make himself say those three magic words: I was wrong.

Fig Leaf ThongDavinci Fig LeafThe reason is universal. We are just like Adam and Eve. When we sin we tend to cover up instead of “fessing up”. We hide our dirt when we should come clean. So there we stand in our fig leaf thong, acting as if everything is normal. At first our spouse is confused, then they feel sorry for us, then they just get downright angry. Nobody’s fooling anybody, but why am I the last one to find out?

The bible says that God desires honesty in my inward parts. Psalm 51:6

James says we should confess our trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that we may be healed. How many of us are suffering needlessly when a clean slate is three words away?

The psalmist describes the relief that awaits me when I admit that I am wrong:

Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. ScoreboardFinally, I confessed all my sins you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt  is gone. Psalm 32:2-5 (NLT)

We must have some innate feeling that we need to keep score. A competitive spirit is essential when it comes to striving to win the World Series or the Super Bowl.  But Competition in marriage is an oxymoron, two things that do not belong together like apples and orangutans.Apple and Orangutan Three Legged RaceWe often forget that our spouse is not the opposition, they are not the enemy. We are on the same team. When they win, we win. It is essential that we maintain our team chemistry. And run with endurance the race that is set before us, together.

Take Out the Trash

Truck-load-of-garbageIt’s officially Spring and that means it’s time for Spring Cleaning. I’m not sure how it happens but it seems like a ton of stuff always accumulates over the winter. Today we got tired of walking around it, stepping over it, and moving it from one place to another. So we worked all day digging, dragging and hauling. Before we knew it the truck was so loaded it wouldn’t hold any more. The springs on the old Ford sagged as we headed for the dump. As we got closer and closer I noticed more people with the same problem I had. They had their trucks loaded up too. It was almost like a parade as we entered the gates of the landfill. After we paid an exorbitant fee to be rid of all that garbage, we drove away. Our empty truck felt much lighter without the load. In fact it felt so good I wanted to spin donuts in the parking lot. We drove back home with smiles on our faces.

You’ve read about them in the paper and heard about them on the news. They call them hoarders. They even made a TV show about them. They live in filth and no one wants to be around them because they never take out the trash.

Adam and Eve began their life in a perfect, pristine world. They had no secrets, no sore subjects, no past failures, no disappointments, no half-truths, and no broken promises. Genesis 2:25 says: They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. All newlyweds begin their marriage with high hopes and high expectations.

Couple Face to FaceImagine a married couple standing in their bedroom, face to face in broad daylight, naked. (I hope you are imagining your spouse and yourself) Does that make you uncomfortable? Why?
Because we aren’t speaking to one another since I said that stupid thing.
Because he might see that I‘ve put on 15 pounds.
Because he might want to make love and I don’t want to make love because we have other issues.
Because she expects me to say something romantic and I can never think of anything to say.
Because he let our children get away with not doing their chores.
Because she spent a bunch of money and didn’t discuss it with me first.
Because he was playing the stock market and lost it all on a stupid decision.

We all crave intimacy. But we are afraid to let our guard down to attain it. We build walls of protection around ourselves but the walls isolate us and imprison us. Sin makes us ashamed.
Do you remember God said it is not good for man to be alone? It still isn’t. But sin cuts us off from relationship. It cuts us off from relationship with God, and it cuts us off from relationship with our spouse. All couples want a marriage where we can be naked and unashamed. But instead we become hoarders. We collect sin. We collect ammunition. Our spouse sins against us and we sin against our spouse and by the time the honeymoon is over…The honeymoon is over.

Dumping TrashSometimes when a couple comes into my office for marriage counseling it is like they back a dump truck in and dump it in the middle of my office. Then we spend the next hour sorting through the trash. But there is a better way.

The truth is, we are a sinner and we’re married to a sinner. We need to learn the fine art of forgiveness. We need to learn repentance, communication, apologizing, grace, overlooking a transgression, and conflict resolution. We need to learn to take the garbage out.trash-bagHave you noticed if you take the garbage out every day it stays contained in one little receptacle? It doesn’t even stink because it hasn’t been there long enough to spoil. Plus it’s easy to carry out a neat, little white bag with a drawstring. Jesus told us to deal with today’s problems today… that every day has enough garbage of its own (Matt 6:34). Taking the trash out every day is part of the abundant life.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:31-32

No Napkins

You’ve seen the famous picture. A golden candelabra stands on a long table draped with a white tablecloth. Fine china settings and crystal goblets line each side, and seem to run forever to a vanishing point over Jerusalem. Beyond the exquisite table and carved chairs, lay the dawn of a brand new day. Countless artists have attempted to capture the picture-perfect Marriage Feast.

We’ve all been to weddings. I am always amazed at the creativity and expense people go to for nuances of symbolism. They work to exhaustion so that everything will be perfect. The bride wearing a white dress arrives in a carriage drawn by a white horse. Two doves are released. A unity candle is lit.

Ministers carefully craft wedding ceremonies, in the hope that a better description of marriage will help young couples have better marriages. Eager grooms and starry-eyed brides invite family and friends to witness as they make promises, only to find out later that they didn’t have a clue what they were promising.

Marriage Feast in Heaven I’ve noticed there is something conspicuously missing in the famous painting of the Marriage Feast (besides the food, of course). It seems they forgot to include napkins. An oversight? I hardly think so. One of the things that will make heaven, heaven is that we won’t need napkins. In heaven we will all be perfect. No spills, no reaching for the butter and having your elbow hit a glass of milk.  No nice cabernet all over the tablecloth and on your spouse’s lap. No exclamations coming out of your mouth before you realize it.

Someday everything will be perfect…in heaven. In the meantime, husbands and wives are two imperfect people making a life in an imperfect world; two people in need of grace. Grace is unearned and undeserved favor that God gives to us. Life and marriage will be more like heaven as we learn to give grace to one another.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 1:7