The other day, a friend asked me if she could ask me a question. From the tone of her voice, I thought maybe we were going to have a "tough" conversation - like the kind where two people begin to reveal a little of their heart. Finding the parking lot of a local retail place a little odd to begin a "deep conversation", I still said, "Okay". One question was all she asked, and I have been thinking on it for days! Plain and simple, here's what she asked: "Why don't you use turn signals?" I immediately said, "I do!" She informed me I indeed did NOT. Okay, now if this is not an earth-shattering question to you, don't get your undies all in a knot here - it was to me! What I realized was the "value" of what she was asking me - this innocent question opened my eyes to the importance of the "signals" we give!
Look well at my handpicked servant; I love him so much, take such delight in him. I've placed my Spirit on him; he'll decree justice to the nations. But he won't yell, won't raise his voice; there'll be no commotion in the streets. He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers. (Matthew 12:16-21 The Message)
Let me just say she realized I did not signal because she was following me in her car! So, I have to ask you - how many people do you have "following" your signals in life? Probably more than you realize! There are some important things I would like to share with you about the purpose of the signals we might just not realize ourselves:
- Signals reveal our intentions. When we use our turn signals in our vehicle, don't they indicate to those following us which way we intend to turn? One way or another, what we "signal" gets interpreted as to the intentions behind our actions. Raise an eyebrow at someone's suggestion, and you are either showing the reaction of surprise, or are a little intrigued by it. My youngest grandson told me I was not coming to his birthday party this weekend. Since this was not my "intent", I began to "mock" pouting and crying. In short order, he corrected himself and said I could come! Immediate "signs" of joy over being invited began to flood my face. My grandson never intended to hurt me - he just misunderstood the importance of me being part of his big day!
- Signals commit us to a particular action. When we signal we are turning left at a busy intersection, the last thing the others around us expect is for us to turn right! We are "committed" to turn left because we are signaling as to our "planned action". Now, if we had no turn signal on, then swung into this lane or that based on our "feelings" about which way to go, others following us and those in head on course with us might just be a little caught off-guard! Going through life with no "commitment" as to the "planned actions" we might take is a little dangerous. It gives all those around us no clue as to our intent, much less our commitment! Intent and commitment go hand-in-hand. What we fail to recognize is just being in the right place does not signal commitment. Haven't you seen someone in the left hand turn lane merge back out into traffic and take off in a straight course instead? This may seem a little elementary to you, but it is not! When we commit, we are putting "skin in the game". We are investing something which reveals the heart behind the intention - actions speaking much louder than the words we speak.
- Signals warn others of danger. We also have those little "hazard" lights on our vehicles - the ones which flash both sides of our turn signals at once. When we are having car trouble, come upon an accident, or just need to pull off the road for a little bit, we might activate these little signals to warn others to slow down, avoiding collision with us and others in front of us! We also have some "relationship" warning lights which we need to pay close attention to. For example, when we see our friend showing "signs" of stress such as an inability to focus on the task at hand, constant fretting over small things, etc., these are signals we should not ignore. Left unnoticed, the tendency is for our friend to go into "overload" and begin to "melt-down". Then we see other relationship signals, such as snapping at others, finding fault with every action of another, or even just withdrawing into one's self. The danger comes in ignoring these "warning" lights. What these signal is the need for someone to come alongside and render the help needed. It may be a few words of encouragement, or maybe taking something off their list of "have-to's" to do yourself. Whatever the need, we need to meet it!
- Signals must be used to be of value. My friend was telling me more in one simple question than she may have ever realized. I was in the far right lane, and I knew I was turning right. She knew our destination, so "signaling" my intent, or commitment to turn right at the next drive did not seem important to me. Yet, to those who follow our lead, signals are quite important. We may never know just how many are following our lead - so being clear about our intentions and showing our definite commitment is imperative. I responded to my friend's question with a definitive, "I use my turn signals". Yet, she was telling me otherwise. What I came to recognize was I was only using them when "I" interpreted their was "value" - such as when I was merging into heavy traffic on the highway, or when I desperately needed to merge into another lane in order to make a turn which would allow me to reach my destination. The "value" is not subject to my own interpretation! Others see my signals all the time (or the lack of them)! When I only see value in giving "signals" at some times and not others, I will leave others constantly confused! I don't think this is good for either of us!
So, just a few lessons my friend was teaching me in one simple question about using my turn signals. One day, Jesus quotes from the Prophet Isaiah - in response to the religious leaders and those following him. He says clearly what God had given to the Prophet so many years earlier: "...the mere sound of his name will SIGNAL hope, even among far-off unbelievers!" Jesus is the name which gives such hope. No other name "signals" in quite the same manner - for his name signals hope, grace, and peace. His name is above all others. His intent is clear, his commitment sure. The value of his "signals" are well-defined in scripture - and I believe they are evident in the lives of those who have chosen to follow him! Remember, signals are of the greatest value to those who follow!
I hope to do a better job with the "signals" in my life - simply because I never really know who is following me at this very moment! Just sayin....