The picture below is of a sign on the Kalalau trail on Kauai, Hawaii. This is a beautiful trail that provides an unbelievable view of the Napoli Coast. I took this picture last year while my wife and I were hiking to the beach at the end of the trails first leg. The beach is beautiful, as are most things on Kauai, but as you can see from the sign it is also extremely dangerous. Because of how the beach is oriented there is a powerful undertow that has taken the lives of both experienced and novice swimmers.
While people drowning is never funny, I could not help but laugh at the need for such a sign. All along the trail, to include at the waters edge, are the “official” signs expressing how dangerous the water can be. Somewhere along the way though someone took it upon themselves to make the warning clear.
This hand made sign is communicating a simple truth; “If you do the same thing that a lot of other people who have come this way have done, you will become a line on this sign indicating your untimely demise!” The fact that this sign exists says to me that people continue to go in the water even with all of the evidence that they won’t make it.
What often amazes me as I consider my life is how many times I have seen signs like this before doing something that I knew was unwise. These signs were not typically posted on trees, but were just as clear. I wonder how many signs there would be, if they could be seen, with little lines indicating that I did not make it because I didn’t heed the warnings.
One of the things that I find frustrating as someone who ministers to others is watching this pattern emerge again and again in the lives that I am able to be a part. It is often easier with an outsiders perspective to see others doing things that are dangerous but discouraging to see those same people ignore the warnings from those who care about them.
We will always be the exception. Maybe they have drowned, but I am a better swimmer. Maybe those decisions have ruined lives but I am sure I can make it. Often in our pride or motivated by fear we run past the signs telling us to stay away only to look back with regret and loss. How much pain do we endure because we refused to listen?
Making decisions can always be hard but here are a few questions that are helpful to ask before doing anything potentially harmful:
1. Does this violate scripture? If it does, than clearly it is not a direction that God would want me to go.
2. What do those closest to me think? If we are afraid to ask pastors, counselors, confidants, or close friends what they think about this decision, we are probably running past a sign. Get the outsiders perspective. They will see things you can’t.
3. Who do I know that has done this? How did it turn out? History is a great teacher and by looking at the life of others we can get some insight into our own path.
4. Is this the right time? Perhaps your current circumstances or situations make this good decision bad right now.
5. Who else will be impacted by this decision? Your life is not all about you and even if you do not want to admit it, others will be impacted by what you do.
This list can be a good starting point when making important decisions. When you know that what you are doing is right, you should not let anyone stop you. If you are not sure though, you need to take the time to consider the warnings so that you do not end up a nameless line on a list of those who thought they would be different.