Can you follow directions?


Ever notice the directions on products? Some of them are quite humorous, such as “do not operate this hair dryer when sleeping.” Really? Visions of women lying in bed with their blow dryer grasped in a white-knuckled grip trip through my mind. Another favorite is the peanut package on airplanes which says, “Open packet. Eat nuts.” I guess that is for those who would rather slip the packet into their purse and smuggle it off the plane. Found on a Korean kitchen knife, “Keep out of children;” on a batman costume, “This cape does not enable user to fly;” on a shampoo bottle, “Use repeatedly for severe damage.”
When the directions make sense to us, we use them as guidelines to use the product or put together the object we’ve purchased. I know several men who’ve said, “Don’t read me the directions, I can mess this up all by myself.” They were alluding to the fact that most directions found in something that must be put together by the purchaser are often difficult to decipher. One usually needs some sort of class in instructions-ese to understand how this part A really does fit in part B and is enclosed by part Z. So what good are directions that make no sense? Maybe a chuckle or two.
We have societal “understandings” like no burping or nose cleaning in public, we have basic work ethics, and we have laws of the land that require certain behaviors toward others such as paying our bills and obeying traffic signals and signs. These are established as directional guides of society so that people will go in generally the same direction. Of course, common criminals travel against the flow. Sometimes godly people travel against the flow because they’ve lost their GPS or compass.
I wrote a column Shake Well Before Using which points out we have a choice in our direction. Our choices, which stem from our God-given free will, determine the path we trod. When we deliberately decide to follow the footprints of Jesus, and allow Him to carry us when the load becomes too heavy, then our path is well-lighted so we can clearly see the stumbling blocks Satan tosses in our way. We have support, relief, and supernatural wisdom which are our birthright through Jesus. 

Even so, some godly people are drawn toward the world’s siren song. Some tread down side paths because they have lost sight of the ultimate purpose. Never fear, God won’t leave them on the wrong path. He has determined a plan for their life and side trips are the way for believers to learn lessons the hard way, rather than the easy way. These unwise choices result in  pitfalls and potholes that could so easily be avoided if the Lamp of God had been used.
A somewhat famous actor on TV back in the 1970s and early 1980s did not use that Lamp I'm talking about. You might know him better as the husband of Mary Ann Mobley (1937-2014), a former Miss America from Mississippi. His name was Gary Collins (1938-2012), quite a handsome fellow, distinguished-looking, and successful in his own right. He was in the series The Sixth Sense, and had guest appearances on shows like Jag, Hollywood Squares, and even on a Perry Mason Mystery.  

However, in 2007 he walked out of a Biloxi, MS restaurant without paying his $59 bill according to a news article from several years ago, which is a felony in the state of Mississippi. The article reads like a litany of all his brushes with the law. An updated report states Collins told the police he had ordered dinner, and the kitchen was taking too long to bring his steak. He was drinking alcoholic beverages and he was afraid he'd be too drunk to drive home so he left. He had two previous drunk driving convictions, so I can understand his dilemma. Yet, he should have paid for the drinks and canceled his order.
It would be just another actor/police story if I didn’t remember an interview from decades ago.
I remember watching a talk show hosted by Dinah Shore one summer morning with guests Mary Ann Mobley and Gary Collins who had just gotten married in November, 1967. During the interview, they both expressed how blessed by God they were  to have found each other and discussed how being Christian in Hollywood affected their careers. I know, I can hear someone asking, “How in the world can you remember that from so long ago?”
I was thirteen years old, and I had aspirations of being Miss America. I thought Miss America was the most fabulous woman on earth at that time. Furthermore, I carefully watched  those actors who professed Jesus (and there weren’t that many, in fact there still aren't that many). 
What is extraordinarily sad is I can’t find any reference to that interview anywhere. After extensive research, I found a quote by Mary Ann about growing up in the church and feeling strongly about it. I also found out that she bought chimes for her church, Brandon Methodist Church, with her first check as an entertainer as well as that is where the couple got married. She made the mustard seed necklace famous, and often quoted Luke 17:6 when talking to the press. She and Gary were married until he died in 2012 (45 years). That is certainly an achievement. 
This just illustrates that bad choices and bad decisions are not the property of fools, idiots, and unbelievers. Only Jesus never made a bad choice or decision. Peter said, “Don’t wash my feet, Lord.” The disciples deserted Jesus in His hour of need. David watched a woman bathe. Solomon married foreign wives and had 1,000 women in his household. Rehoboam listened to the young kids on the block rather than the wise old sages.  These weren’t the smartest decisions made by believers and they certainly weren’t the last. The world is full of people who have made, and will make unwise choices.
Of one thing I’m absolutely sure: No matter how bad the choice or the consequences, God gives us the opportunity to humble ourselves in His presence and to turn away from the dark path back to the lighted one. Sometimes, God will even pick us up when we’ve reached the dead end and put us back on track. The key is recognizing when we’ve made a wrong turn, accepting the consequences of that decision, and following the directions for the best product available under Heaven which is the Christian lifestyle.
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