We can all watch for warning signs, and when we notice them, we can pay attention and respond.
Last weekend, an otherwise unremarkable morning quickly became a potent reminder to always be observant.
The car was fully packed, and you'd have thought Justin, Finn, and I were planning to be gone for a week. Alas, we only planned to be away from home for one night. It's best to be prepared, though, right? You just never know how many times you may need to change your socks in the course of 24 hours!
It was Saturday morning, and we were heading to northeastern Iowa to attend a birthday party. Amazingly, we were only 40 minutes behind schedule. Neither of us had consulted the weather, but the skies looked relatively clear, and we assumed driving conditions were fine.
As we merged from Highway 52 onto Highway 63 and headed south toward the motherland, we noticed a lot of cars moving slowly on the opposite side, the northbound lane. "That's odd," I said. "Why is everyone over there moving so slowly?"
We drove onward and noticed a few cars in the ditches and also in the median. We were perplexed and assumed there must be a clear weather-related reason for the traffic confusion but there was nothing obvious in sight. The sky was misty and gray but the roads seemed fine. And yet, every vehicle was moving under 5 mph.
As we approached the airport, the reason for the extreme slowdown become poignantly clear. The roads were not fine. Highway 63 had rapidly become a sheet of ice. A slight amount of precipitation mixed with temperatures that were just under freezing point turned the highway into a skating rink. In most cases of winter weather, we'd press on and travel with extreme caution anticipating the trip to take awhile longer, but not that morning.
"This is too bad," we agreed. "We just have to get home."
We took gravel roads back to avoid the frozen tundra that had become Highway 63. It took nearly an hour to travel seven miles home. Surprisingly, the roads within the city limits were perfectly fine. You'd have thought we made the whole thing up! The distance between the two scenes was minimal but the roadway realities were very different.
In weather safety and in a host of other areas of life, warning signals are useful. From climate change to the criminal justice system to the health of our bodies to gun regulation, humans around the world can observe when all is not well within each of these realms. There are warning signs.
Like the cars on the highway at a standstill, there are voices crying out in the wilderness. There are communities weeping and longing for change. There are teachers and guides with a calling to help us navigate these challenging realities in such a way that hope and healing persevere.
That Saturday morning, there was a span of time between when we observed the warning signs and when we actually experienced the problem for ourselves. Had we recognized the reality sooner, perhaps we wouldn't have left our home or maybe we could've turned back sooner. Or maybe we actually had to experience the frozen roadway for ourselves in order to change plans.
What about other challenges that are facing our planet and its plant, animal, and human inhabitants? What are the warning signs? What changes could we make now to prevent more damage and hurt later? What risks do we need to take? What voices do we need to hear? What healing and truth can we contribute to the mending of what has been broken?
Warning signs aren't meant to leave us utterly afraid and unable to respond. They are meant to propel us to prayer and thoughtful action. It takes awareness to notice the warning signs; it takes courage and wisdom to respond.