If Margins Could Talk

I must have been grinning like a kid in a candy store. As I unlocked the door to the radio station run by a college in the town where I grew up, I was still trying to grasp what I would be doing in a couple of days. I could hardly believe that, despite being a mid-teen, I was about to get the opportunity to be a DJ for a week while the college student DJs were on Spring break. It was now after 10pm, so the station was off the air, and the manager had given me the keys so I could practice without getting in anyone’s way.

Earlier that evening I met with the manager and he showed me the ropes. I took notes diligently and was careful to not leave anything out. I think he saw the sense of responsibility with which I approached the upcoming week of broadcasting and he volunteered to give me the keys to the building so that I could practice during off-air time. Now, notes in hand, I was ready to get started on my rehearsing.

I methodically went through each step of the setup process until finally, I was ready to begin the practice set. Being alone, I figured I would take some creative liberty and allow some of my teenaged-male goofiness a spot on my “show.” I spoke like McGruff the Crime Dog as well as characters from the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati. I played some of the records backwards and announced to my pretend listeners that I heard various messages such as “Pepsi beats Coke,” “I want a Big Mac from McDonald’s” and the secret 11 herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sure, that was fun, but the best thing of all was that I got to sing along with the songs into the microphone and hear myself in the earphones. That was when U2‘s Pride In the Name of Love was a big hit and I gave it my best shot. I have a decent singing voice (I majored in voice/guitar in college) but few people besides Bono can sound good singing that song in the original key, and I fully admit I am not one of those few.

After about an hour of craziness, I felt I had a handle on things and began tearing everything down. I went in the reverse order of the setup instructions, being careful to put everything back exactly as I found it. As I went through the instructions again, this time I saw something on the page that had to do with the patch bay (a series of 1/4″ input/output jacks connected by cables). I hadn’t seen it before. I read it, then looked at the cable in question, then read it again, then looked at the cable in question. No. It couldn’t be. Yes, it really did happen. There was one particular instruction to which I had drawn a line with an arrow on it. The opposite end of the line met a reminder to myself that I had written in the top margin of my notes. It said, “Don’t connect this cord if you are practicing (makes you live on air).”¬†Yes, the whole time I was actually broadcasting ON THE AIR! If only I had remembered to look in the margin! What was done was done. There was nothing I could do, no way I could take it back and redo it the right way.

Nobody ever said anything about my “debut show.” I doubt anyone was listening, since regular listeners wouldn’t have been listening since it was during off-air time. And, of course, I didn’t tell the station manager. Still, the shock of realizing I had missed a very important piece of the puzzle is something I have never forgotten.

I know many of us are doing our best to live a “good Christian life” by doing the things we are supposed to do and not doing those things we aren’t supposed to do. However, if the margins of the gospels of the Bible could talk, one of the most important messages would be this: Heart matters. Motive matters. Intention matters. The “why” matters. Yes, what we do or don’t do is important to God, but the WHY is even more important. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had gotten very technical with the whats and dismissed the importance of the whys. They didn’t want to hear Jesus’ message that wrong whys will cancel out the right whats. What will you say if, when you stand before God, you find out your good deeds did not qualify as good? Friends, this is what my book Rude Awakening is all about. I invite you to invest today in this all-important inventory check for your spirit person.