We didn't mean to go there. We really didn't.
There are some shows on Food Network and similar programs that are pretty reliable guides to finding a great restaurant to visit. For example, if you visit an Iron Chef's restaurant, you can be sure it'll be top-notch (such as Mesa Grill, where we went Sunday evening). Shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives or Best Thing I Ever Ate profile a lot of restaurants around the country that are worth a visit if you're in the area. But one show profiles places that we would never intentionally seek out - Restaurant:Impossible.
We really, really didn't mean to.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the concept is pretty simple. A restaurant is really struggling, and doomed to fail if things don't change drastically. They beg for help from an expert chef/restaurateur, who has two days, a small budget, and free reign to suggest whatever changes are necessary. After a whirlwind of renovations to the facility, staff, and menu, the place reopens. (It's the same concept as Kitchen Nightmares, except without the perpetual vileness of Gordon Ramsey, so it's significantly more watchable.) It's a pretty neat show, but not one where I would ever plan to go to any of the restaurants or anything.
We were staying one night in the little town of Mystic, CT, and just went over to grab dinner at our hotel's restaurant. The name seemed familiar, but I didn't know why. The inside looked sort of familiar, which was odd since we'd never been there before, and there was something about the show kitchen that made me think I'd seen it before. And when I saw that the chef looked really familiar, too, it clicked - this place had been one of the renovation projects on R:I. Totally unintentional, but hey, might as well see how the turnaround went, right?
It was excellent. Some Chicagoans might not believe me when I say the calamari was the best we've ever had, better even than Harry Caray's, but it was. Everything we had was delicious. The place was fairly busy, and I noticed that on the walls, they had some awards displayed. They had won quite a few (Best in County/State awards from various publications), seemingly every year up through about 2007, but then there was a gap of a few years, until their proudly-displayed 2011 award. Once good, the quality had slipped and brought them to the verge of failure, but it's completely turned around. Good for them.
So what does this have to do with us, or you?
At the end of each episode, there is a quick update about how the restaurant is doing several months after filming. Some places, like this one, are booming. Others went right back to where they had been, and at least one of them had already closed. These restaurant owners put out a desperate plea for help, bring in an expert to straighten them out, but then it's up to them how to proceed. Those that make the suggested changes tend to do well. Others fight against it the whole way, revert to what they had been doing, and fail.
We are no different. Consider this familiar passage from James 1:22ff: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."
Or Proverbs 26:11: Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Or Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
When you go to scripture looking for promises to break the power of sin, when you beg your pastor and/or small group for help, do you intend to actually do what you're told? Or will you forget the authoritative word, and scoff at the advice of the experts?
32 minutes ago