“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner”Tesla
Tesla had it right…and, so wrong.
Recently, a new acquaintance made an observation about human behavior that was a little curious. I had to go see it for myself.
We have a quiet little place we keep our recreational vehicle along the Wabash River. The entrance into the campground is adjacent to a railroad. As you cross the main highway headed to the campground there are two large signs – one of which is in the middle of the lane – warning motorists that the road is closed ahead. Literally, the signs read, “Road Closed at Railroad Tracks”. That’s pretty specific, so I knew we’d be able to get into the campground, but wouldn’t be able to get into the nearest town using that road.
We proceeded on down and weren’t surprised at the lack of traffic heading in the opposite direction as we neared our entrance. Just feet from the entrance to the park, there were large barricades across the entire road, with yet another sign indicating closure. You could easily see why. All of the asphalt between the tracks that make it impossible for a vehicle to cross the tracks had been removed in anticipation of new tracks to be laid in the coming days. Huge gaping holes between the tracks made it absolutely impossible to cross. Maybe a horse could. A pedestrian. A dog. Not a car or truck.
Yet, car after car approached slowly, stopped, and just stared at the signs and the tracks looking for any way to get around that closure. My husband and I watched this procession utterly amused. These drivers must have not believed that the signs were for them. And, perhaps they also believed there was a way around the signs.
And, there it is: the human insistence that this couldn’t possibly be the end of the road with no option for moving forward.
To be persistent, to be willing to find a way around an obstacle – even the abstract kind – is considered a positive trait. Americans seem to be noted for this kind of dogged tenacity. There is a place for that, for sure, but occasionally, we are confronted with a clear message that we should not go any further. The consequences of forcing such a thing could be devastating, yet we seem to try anyway.
I have reached this “Road Closed” sign several times in my life and attempted to ignore it. Yes, I’m stubborn. That puts me in situations that weren’t so much fun. I would argue that most of the time, ignoring the signs that you need to change course probably is not life-changing, just pretty darned annoying.
I think of the time I played a little pick-up game on the basketball court with a 10-year-old. Other than how slow I was and maybe how much my breathing was labored, it wasn’t until that little twist in the knee that the idea of playing basketball with someone 50 years my junior probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. But, I ignored that “thing” in my left knee for days. I eventually took some ibuprofen, then more, then added ice to the aching knee. It might have been two years before I finally saw a doctor. By that time, I needed surgery. You would think that constant pain was a sure sign that it wasn’t going to get better.
And, that wasn’t the first time. A few years before, I was hurrying to my car after the day’s work with a computer bag on one shoulder. A slight run in wedged heels wasn’t my brightest moment, but I had done it many times before! The fall tore my shoulder so badly that I couldn’t open doors with that arm. Even getting dressed was a challenge. I put my arm out to break my fall and caused a rip in the rotator cuff. I gave that six months before I complained to a doctor and found myself in surgery that time, too. You would figure that not being able to open a door was a sure sign that things were bad.
Relationships are the hardest. We try to convince ourselves that the signs are not there. That maybe we are imagining the worst, maybe seeing things that really aren’t there. It couldn’t be true – he said he loved me! Do I have to tell you the gory details? I remember a book entitled “He’s Just Not That Into You” that began as an episode of “Sex in the City”. The book was wildly popular, so there was no surprise the movie got a lot of billing. (Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 41% for insipid stereotyping.) Why so much attention? Because we routinely miss these signs as well.
I retired in January of 2015 but continued to work part-time for a local university. I truly liked that job, but without a Ph.D. I was no longer useful to them. I’m glad that I wasn’t fired, but the signs were there. “Long, haired freaky people need not apply” And, I’m about as opposite a hippy or a freak (whatever that means) as I can get, but I had to respect the sign.
That led me to another adventure where I found my alternative education experience useful. But, there were subtle signs that this was not my place, nor my tribe. Sometimes the signs are hard to read, yet I felt them deeply. Maybe it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t supposed to be there, but rather I was supposed to be somewhere else.
Like, retired!! And, that brings me to what I think Tesla got wrong.
God IS here, and there are plenty of signs for sure. And, while God knows we are sinners, He is a God of grace and mercy. The problem is that we aren’t so full of anything but ourselves.
I forgot that He had better plans for me. I was watching (reading) the wrong signs. He gave me the beautiful relationships and experience of helping people better their lives – something that has always been important to me and fills my heart to overflowing. But meanwhile, I wasn’t spending as much time with my husband who was anxiously waiting for me to quit working so much so we could spend this amazing time of our lives together.
He put up a sign that read, “RETIRE!”
So, I did!