Saturday, June 16, 2012

Someone has to pay

It seems like Facebook is everywhere. It’s far and away the single largest and fastest growing computer phenomenon in history. With more than 900 million users, it would qualify as the third largest country in the world, lagging behind only China and India.

With Facebook’s growth and achievement, their recent stock offering has been anything but a success.  Their failed IPO has taken a beating; the media is full of news, talking heads and conspiracy theorists. The digital airwaves are filled with endless chatter as everyone looks for the hidden meaning and reason for this failure from Facebook’s meteoric rise. Everyone was certain that they were going to make a killing only to see the stock price slide.

As I write these words, Facebook President, Mark Zuckerberg personal net worth has dropped from more than $17 billion to somewhere in the neighborhood of $15.5 billion (don’t you feel sorry for him.) There are more than 54 million Google search references to the failed Facebook IPO across the internet. Numerous suits have been filed in various local, state and federal courts as everyone is looking for reasons, the guilty and for someone to pay, with the emphasis on the pay part.

Someone has to pay.

Something similar happened to me a few years ago. I was traveling for work and had a meeting in the city that was hosting the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament. When I arrived a few days before the semi-final game, I could not help but notice that everything (and I mean everything) was for sale to memorializing the upcoming games. The four college names, logos and mascots were printed on hats, t-shirts, coats, sox, underwear, you name it. Remembering that Sam, a good friend at work, went to one of the schools, I casually bought him a t-shirt with his alma mater’s name and stuffed it in my suitcase. Returning to work on Friday, I gave Sam the t-shirt, wishing him and his alma mater good luck. You have seldom seen someone more grateful in your life, his eyes welled up and his voice trembled as he struggled to get the words “thank you” out. He grabbed my arm and told me that this was about the nicest thing anyone had every done for him. Sam nearly ripped off his suit coat and put the t-shirt over his starched long-sleeved white shirt and tie. He then paraded around the office, strutting like a peacock, showing off his new t-shirt and boasted that the new “good luck” from this gift assured victory and a national title. Before leaving work, Sam gave me his sacred, personal vow that he would wear the shirt during Saturday’s game, taking a picture to commemorate our friendship.

Watching Saturdays game with casual interest from home, I noticed that Sam’s college fell behind early. They struggled in all aspects of the game. Quickly falling behind by more than 15 points, they looked outmanned, outclassed and outgunned. I really didn’t think much about this till the frantic call at halftime. It was Sam, screaming “It’s all your fault” followed by curses and obscenities that were difficult to follow as they flowed without pause or breath for more than 5 minutes.

Historical note – this verbal abuse exhibition easily shattered the previous Guinness Book of World Records sports tirade of 4 minutes and 17 seconds held by Kobayashi for his 2003 performance on Fox Network’s Man vs. Beast show. Kobayashi lost in an eating competition against a 1089-pound Kodiak bear when he ate 31 bun-less hot dogs in 2 minutes and 36 seconds to the bear's 50. The ensuing sports related tirade is classic but has been removed from due to its graphic and adult content.

When Sam finally paused to take a breath, I yelled “Sam, I’m sorry that your alma mater is playing so poorly, I really am. But why are you yelling at me?” Well, this really incensed Sam; the pitch of his voice and volume went to heights previously thought impossible for the human larynx. “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” He kept repeating the phrase, “It’s all your fault!” yelling it over and over. Now, I was raised to feel guilty for just about everything, but this was new guilt territory, even for me. As it sounded that Sam was going into convulsions I blurted “I really don’t understand Sam. How am I responsible?” Now his sobs could be clearly heard through the words, “The shirt. The shirt. You bought the shirt, I’m wearing it. It’s bringing us bad luck. It’s all your fault.”

Someone has to pay.

With this background, and being the scientific and rebellious cuss that I am, I set about conducting a serious, detailed and well documented systematic study to see if this law of nature was true or not. Does someone really have to pay?

I walked into a bagel shop this week and ordered breakfast. My order was short and to the point; asiago cheese and jalapeno bagel, toasted with plain cream cheese, the largest coffee known to mankind with milk and two sweet-and-low. The young woman scurried off and with amazing efficiency and speed, joined by her happy team, filled the order in a matter of minutes. Smiling, she presented the completed order to me in a paper bag. Returning her smile, I gently accepted the bag, giving her my biggest and best “thank you.” As I turned and started walking back to the car her smile faded, she got this very puzzled look on her face as she said, “Excuse me, aren’t you forgetting something?” I turned around, got this thoughtful but puzzled look on my face and said, “No, I have everything. I can’t think of anything I’m missing.” Her confused look now decidedly turned more serious as did the tone of her voice. “You forgot to pay.” Looking directly in her eyes I smiled and replied with a questioning tone, “Pay? Do you have to pay?” Now the look on her face got more serious, her eyebrows came down and those little lines appeared in her forehead and at the side of her eyes. I apologized, paid for my breakfast and experiment, leaving a very handsome tip.

Someone has to pay.

The same can be said about our broken relationship with God. We have turned; no run away from God as we hurl abuse and arrogance at him. He lovingly created us to live with and for him in perfect harmony. He reached out with kindness and we spit in his face as we race away in hurtful disobedience.

Someone has to pay.

We were not able to make it right with God; we could not restore ourselves to God no matter what we did or said. So God took the initiative and paid the price himself. When Jesus Christ lived a perfect live and died a perfect death, he paid the price we could not pay[1].  He has made it Ok to come back to him. He’s not mad at us any longer; he paid our debt that we were unable to repay. Our response is to humbly return to him with gratitude, love and thanksgiving in our heart.

Some will think that this is an excuse to do anything we want and then just say the magic “I’m sorry” words, giving us permission to live and do anything. But, when we see how much it cost God to pay our debt and restore us, living for ourselves will seem like a slap in the face. Our thankful response will be to live for him

Someone had to pay. And God paid; the one who was hurt paid the awful price to restore us.

Blessings - Chet


Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[1] 1 Timothy 2:5-6 there is only one God, and only one intermediary between God and men, Jesus Christ the man. He gave himself as a ransom for us all—an act of redemption which happened once.

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