Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Warning signs

Accident ahead. Expect long delays. Choose another route.

As if a driving trip from Illinois to Pennsylvania weren't long enough, this message greeted us just west of South Bend, Indiana as we traveled the Indiana Toll Road on our most recent trip home and back. By the time I pulled the map out, our first chance at an alternate route had passed. When the sign warned us again just before the second alternate route, my husband and I mutually decided to stick with the Toll Road and see what was ahead.

Lesson learned: If the department of transportation tells you to take another route, obey!

As we approached the final exit before the accident, traffic came to a standstill because both eastbound lanes were closed and all traffic was being forced to exit. An hour later, we had completed the two miles to the exit and were navigating our way through the South Bend/Elkhart area to find our way back to the Toll Road. Our traveling troubles weren't quite over, though. The local road was closed, so we needed to follow a detour, and while on the detour road we saw a sign that said "road flooded." We were beginning to think this was the black hole of Indiana and we would never find our way out.

Two-and-a-half hours later, with a stop for lunch included, we were back on our way, seriously delayed, because we had not obeyed the warning signs in time. It made me think of the warning signs in the Bible we often ignore or don't take seriously.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

I felt like this could have been painted on our car after the South Bend delay. We could have trusted the DOT signs and taken another route, avoiding the delay and the frustration of having to navigate multiple detours. Instead, we plowed ahead based on our own understanding of the situation, which at the time wasn't much. Life is the same way. God wants to show us which way to go, but if we choose to follow our own ways, we might end up stuck, delayed in our dreams, frustrated, regretful or far off the course we'd hoped we'd be on.

Here's the other verse that came to mind: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2, NASB) These were John the Baptist's words just before Jesus started his public ministry. I often think of the wild-eyed, long-haired, "crazy" guy seen in movies holding the sign that says "Repent" while standing on a city street corner and telling people they need to repent. That's not too far off the picture we get of John the Baptist. Either way, the key is the word "repent," which means "turn." Another warning sign we can heed or ignore. Jesus offers us a better approach to life than we can offer ourselves, but it's up to us whether we believe him or not. The result of this decision, though, is more serious than just disappointment with the life we live. It affects our eternity. To choose repentance is to choose to join the kingdom of heaven, both in life and death. To ignore the call to repentance is to choose eternal separation from God.

The good news is, if you're reading this and you haven't chosen a life of repentance, you still have a choice. As long as you live, God will continue to pursue you with warning signs about where your life is headed.

But only you can decide if you'll obey the signs or find yourself not exactly where you planned.

"... I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him ..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NASB)

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