Didn’t You See the Signs?Blog / Produced by The High Calling
I was traveling with my grandparents down a country road on vacation one summer when we came upon a warning sign that read:
"What should we do?" we wondered. Clearly we were supposed to turn around, but we didn't know how to reach our destination any other way. This was back before everyone had cell phones and GPS units, so we couldn't call for help or plot a new route. And out here in the country, we hadn't seen anywhere we could ask for directions.
But then we had an idea. We figured that if the bridge really was out, there would be people working to repair it. So if we drove to the bridge, we could ask the work crew to tell us another way to get to our destination.
We continued down the road, and as we drove we came upon a second sign, and then a third, each with the same message:
As we finally neared the bridge, we could see that some workers were indeed busily repairing it. My grandfather slowed as he approached, and then stopped near the crew. He rolled down his window to speak with them. But before he could say a word, one of the them yelled at us, incredulously, "Didn't you see the signs??!!" He couldn't believe anyone had driven right past them. When we explained our predicament, the crew did give us good directions.
But sometimes in life we actually don't see the warning signs. We continue obliviously on our way and rush headlong into danger, like a car speeding heedlessly into a raging river.
Teaching from Proverbs about Why People Miss the Danger Signs
The book of Proverbs describes several reasons why people might not see the danger signs in life and work. If we can take its warnings to heart, we'll be able to anticipate and avoid many troubles.
A first reason is inexperience. The book of Proverbs describes the inexperienced person, who's just starting out in life, as "simple." Proverbs observes, "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it" (22:3).
In other words, those with more experience have discovered where some of the pitfalls are in life, and they've learned how to avoid them. A person with much less experience can make potentially serious mistakes simply because they don't know all the different ways things can go wrong.
And so each of us should actively seek to benefit from the experience of others. We should get the perspectives of veteran coworkers, ask our supervisors what they think of the approach we have in mind, and even read through the accumulated experience collected in the employee handbook. All of this will make us less "simple" and more likely to see the potential dangers around us.
Another reason we might not exercise sufficient caution is haste. We might be so eager to make something happen that we're tempted to skip some steps or cut some corners and try to create an "express route" there. But Proverbs warns, "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way" (19:2). There's nothing wrong with eagerness; we just need to convert the energy of eagerness into diligence and insist on everything being done properly, in sequence, and in keeping with established principles for safety and accountability. "The plans of the diligent lead to profit," Proverbs assures us, "as surely as haste leads to poverty" (21:5).
There's another reason why we might not exercise sufficient caution: presumption. "Whatever comes up," we may tell ourselves, "I can handle it." But Proverbs warns, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth" (27:1). We need to cultivate a humility that leads us to build safeguards into situations that appear, from where we stand now, perfectly within our capability. We need to know what people we will call on, and what resources will be available to us, if we suddenly find ourselves in over our heads.
If we take to heart these biblical teachings about inexperience, haste and presumption, we'll see the danger signs in life and find the safe route to travel.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Do you know someone who's "missed the danger signs" in life and suffered for it? How could they have seen the signs?
- Who are the people, and what are the resources, that are already around you that can help protect you from the dangers of inexperience?
- Do you feel pressure in your workplace to put a premium on speed? How can you help build prudence and caution into your organizational culture?