Be specific, or be misunderstood

March 23, 2018


I had to pop into the supermarket the other day to purchase a few essential items to make a cheat’s version of birthday cake for my son’s special day. I collected a few decorating items to turn the pre-baked mud cake into a celebratory masterpiece, as well as a couple of unrelated objects.  

I was with my daughter and we were chatting away as the eight products were being scanned when, all of a sudden, the checkout operator thrust the bottle of nail polish remover I was also buying towards me and said, “Is this chocolate cake?” 

I looked at the bottle, looked up at the checkout operator, looked back at the bottle, glanced at my daughter and then replied slowly, somewhat confused and mystified, “’s nail polish remover.”

The checkout operator looked at me with even greater surprise at my seemingly obvious response, and looked confused.  For my part, I was looking back at her wondering why she would think that my pink bottle of nail polish remover would have any part in the production of the chocolate birthday cake, and why she couldn’t read the name of the product written clearly across the body of the bottle.

Well, my daughter and I couldn’t help but laugh when we watched her put the offending item aside, get out a cloth, and proceed to wipe some chocolate icing off the bottle. Neither of us had seen what she was referring to, and she wasn’t specific in drawing our attention to the problem. To her, it was obvious that there was chocolate icing on the bottle. To us, it was plain that the bottle was not, in fact, chocolate cake. Both of us were correct and incorrect at the same time. We were not on the same page in this interaction.

After my amusement at this miscommunication settled down, I wondered what could have made the encounter less confusing. I think a little specificity would have gone a long, long way. Pointing to the offending smudge, or asking, “Is this chocolate cake on the bottle?” would have helped my comprehension immensely.  

I recently spent some time reflecting on the need for my prayers to be more specific. While I believe that God is capable of knowing what I am talking about or asking from him, it is actually a helpful exercise for me to work out what I am asking for specifically. Instead of asking for a day to be blessed, I can think through what lies before me in my day that I would like his particular assistance with.  

It may be a reduction in anxiety, or an extra measure of wisdom and grace, or perhaps a restful night’s sleep to prepare me for the full-on day of activity, or an offering of grateful thanks for the specific provision he has demonstrated. There is no miscommunication when exact detail is involved.

I want to be on the same page as God, and not suffer from what will now forever be known as the ‘nail polish remover incident’, and so I will give consideration to what it is that I am really asking him and try to remember the value of being specific.


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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Vol. 139, No. 13 // 4 April 2020

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