Signs are a helpful medium. If you are traveling they help you to know where you are going. For example, the highway signs with the numbers of the road, the speed limit signs and then the interstate mile markers, all tell the information you need as you travel. There are signs that tell you how far it is to the next city, not to mention the names of the cities and name of the state you are traveling through.
Signs to be useful must be clearly placed for ease of reading, but mostly they must not be confusing. They should be easily understood. There are other kinds of signs as well, besides road signs. There are political signs which are generally very confusing when verbally given by a politician. Then there are signs of relationship between family members and friends. A gentle squeeze of the hand from a loved one is a sign that conveys much more meaning than any written sign ever could. There are many such signs. These also can be very confusing if not clearly understood. We humans are great at sending conflicting signs that make our relationships more difficult to understand.
Several years ago I took a trip to Russia with a group from my church; I saw a lot of signs. Generally, if you don’t know a language you can at least figure out proper names, numbers when you see them written. Like the names of cities or the miles to them, or the price of something in the store that you want to buy. That is unless the alphabet is based on a non-Latin based alphabet. Like Chinese, or Japanese, yes, and Russian. It was very disconcerting to depend totally on a translator in order to know where you were, what the street names were, and how much something cost.
We fail to realize the importance of signs. Most of us have learned to read those around us, and really don’t think about them. Their importance to us is immeasurable. How many times have you taken a back road on a trip to save time and found that the signs were not to be found as often, or as well placed, as they were on the better traveled roads? Some of the small towns I have gone through don’t even bother to put up signs to let you know which town you are in. Everyone there knows, but a person passing through has no idea. If it is important enough to know where I am, I look for the First Baptist church as it will usually say the name of the town, and of course the old standby is to stop and ask someone the name of the town.
Signs are important. The ability to read them and understand them is even more important. If our child is sick and has a fever we know as parents that this is a sign of some type of infection or illness. We then do what is necessary to correct the problem. Many marriages fail because the couples fail to understand the signs that are warning them that something is wrong. They may see the signs, but simply not understand them or even recognize them for the warning signals that they are.
We all need to pay attention to the signs of this life. It could be an extra long, hard journey if we don’t. Several times during my life I have been traveling on the interstate and missed an exit because I was distracted. Sometimes I only had to go a short distance to the next exit to turn around and come back. Then there was the time where it was closer to 40 miles. Signs are no good to us unless they are heeded.
Matthew 16:1-3 “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” The signs of the times are telling us many things about our world today, form local conditions to national and international. Most importantly they are telling us that we should make our peace with God, for time is short.
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 12 of which have been for the Times.