This is Not What I Ordered

This is Not What I Ordered

Some like it hot…But not that hot.

It all started when my son, his girlfriend, my wife and I sat down at a table in a half-full (or half-empty depending on your perspective) restaurant. I have eaten here before and was looking forward to my usual order of chicken wings, specifically the ones on the menu listed as “Hot Buffalo Wings.” For the uninformed, no buffalos are harmed or used in this product. As for the chickens, well, that is another matter entirely.

While the wings I ordered on the menu are described as hot, there are four other categories of wings that are spicier; much spicier; as in “melt your lips off and leave you hallucinating” spicier. Surely you can guess where I am going in this story. After not one, or two, but five of the ten wings I ordered, my lips were melting and my nose was running and my eyes were blurring from the heat. I could take it no more. Pushing aside the remaining basket of hellish poultry parts, I asked our server, “Um, maybe my order was mixed up.” She looked at it, and said, “Yeah, I just found out in the kitchen that your order was accidentally replaced with “Slow Burn.” For the record, there was nothing slow about the burn I was feeling. It is the restaurant’s hottest and spiciest wing offering made with the demonic-sounding “Trinidad scorpion peppers.” I think the good folks of Trinidad grow those peppers as a joke for their neighbors across the hemisphere.

This is not what I ordered. I get the feeling I was set up by underpaid and unappreciated restaurant staff who were just bored on a Monday night, but I will let go of that conspiracy theory for another day.

This is not what I ordered. Have you ever had that experience? In a restaurant? A mail-order parcel? A pizza deliver? Life?

Yes, life most certainly is not served to us as ordered. There are surprises, set-backs, lagniappes, and disappointments all along the way. This diagnosis is not what I ordered. This failure is not what I ordered. This betrayal is not what I ordered. This struggle is not what I ordered. This job is not what I ordered.

Here in this great country in which I live we are use to, I am use to, getting what we order. Anyone remember the fast food jingle from the 70s? “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way…Have it your way…” Conspicuous consumption has birthed a sense of entitlement that is customized, on demand, and without compromise.

We get upset when public servants do not (indeed they cannot) let us have it our way. We leave churches when we cannot have it our way. We break friendships when the opinions of others are not “our way.” It is a philosophy that is both false and doomed to fail.

A scene from the movie “Lord of the Rings” has a wonderful, if not overused, quote that is still worth sharing: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for    them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Indeed, we will say over and over again, “This is not what I ordered.” Sometimes we can make a change. Sometimes we can refuse. But most of the time it is what it is. What we do with what we have been given is what makes the difference between living a life, as Henry David Thoreau once quipped, of “quiet resignation” or living fully, deliberately, and lovingly.

In the Old Testament Job states: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10) While I do not think God sends us the bad, I do believe that dwelling alongside the good and the bad of life is life. I cannot always change my circumstances. I can live faithfully and trust in God’s grace when I inevitably falter.

Life is not about what we ordered. It is about what we do with what we have been given.

Still, I sent the hot wings back.