This past week has been a strange one for me. The kids started school, but I didn’t. I start on Tuesday. But this year none of us are facing the anxiety and stress that we faced last school year of being in a new place, trying to get familiar with our new surroundings, trying to find a church home, and wondering if this whole ‘school for Michael’ thing was, in fact, a good idea.
So this week has been calm and quiet – except for one thing – my phone and internet connections. Due a dramatic increase in the cost over the course of this past year, I decided to switch phone and internet providers, going from Comcast to AT&T.
The gentleman that I talked to over the phone was friendly and helpful and assured me that service would be established within a week. Indeed, as promised, a very nice service technician came to the house on a Wednesday morning to establish my phone service. He did so, but there was a problem with the line and while I had a dial-tone, the service was not very clear and he would send someone to repair it. They did.
The following Wednesday, I was informed, someone would come to establish and switch my new DSL service. Indeed, again a nice technician called on Wednesday afternoon and informed me that he was having trouble getting service established. After working on the issue for several hours, he determined that it was out of his control and transferred my issue to the ‘central office’ for further work. He left me his business card and told me to call if there were any problems. This is when the trouble began. In the meantime, my phone service had to be disconnected in order to resolve the issue.
Thursday came and went and no word, so Friday morning I called the repair man and he gave the number of his manager. So I called him and he said he was on his way back to the office and would look into the issue and call me back. Friday afternoon another service technician was at the house and again after several hours of work determined that there was an issue at the central office and she would be entering a repair order with them. Still no service.
So now we're going into the holiday weekend with no phone service (I still have internet through Comcast). On Saturday I got a customer satisfaction survey call on my cell phone and told the guy my story – he couldn’t believe that they just “left me hanging” and put me on hold. While on hold, I had to chase Alex and accidentally hung up on the guy and he never called me back. I’ve tried calling the customer service number three times and after waiting on hold for 10 minutes got frustrated and hung up.
Anyway, all of this got me thinking about reliability. Any of the people I talked to (service techs, managers, customer service people) could have called me back and given me an update or asked me if my issues got resolved, but not one did. That was somebody else’s job. Most of the time, being reliable means doing something that ‘isn’t your job’ – going above and beyond, taking the extra step – you know, the kinds of promises you hear about on TV and read about in business magazines. The types of things that Fortune 500 companies have conferences and training sessions about. I’ve seen none of it in my interactions with AT&T.
So I wondered, how reliable am I? Do others know me as someone who gets the job done and done well? Or am I the guy who’s always shirking the responsibility – passing on the problem to someone else rather than seeing it through to resolution?
The challenge is to know my limitations – to realize that there are some things that I have to pass on, things that I can’t (and shouldn’t) try and fix without help. I must know my limits, without using them as an excuse. I must know where my work stops and someone else’s must begin.
However, that can only happen if I’m confident that I’ve done my work well – and I’m rarely certain of that. It always seems that I can do more, do better, work harder, longer.
So I’m not always the most reliable. I’ve dropped more balls than I dare to count. But I know of one who is -- I celebrate his grace and surround myself with his promises each and every Sunday in worship and then do my best to take them with me into the week that lies ahead. I rely on the limitless one, the one whose work doesn’t have a stopping point. The one who won’t hand off the repair ticket to the next person in line – Jesus IS the repair ticket.
So whether I faced with the challenges of work, school, family, or AT&T, my reliance is on Jesus, who is totally reliable. A good thing to remember as I start this new, busy, and challenging semester.
And who knows, maybe one of these days AT&T will call me back and prove their reliability…but I’m not counting on it.