From a very early age, we start to receive warnings. Usually, it is our parents offering a warning first. They are worried we are going to get injured or harmed and their love for us causes them to warn us early and often. Sometimes the warnings are about things that we are just exploring. Don’t stick your finger in the light socket or don’t run around the fireplace. Other times they are trying to keep us from being careless with things like “don’t run with a pencil in your hand”. What parents are trying to do is keep us from consequences. It is not they do not want us to have a pencil or to run, but there is danger and the consequences could be costly. When those consequences don’t materialize, we start to discount the warnings.
This pattern will continue for the rest of our lives. We will hear a warning and then the consequences do not affect us and we start to discount and even ignore warnings. As I read through the Bible, I find lots of warnings. Warnings are not just relegated to the Old Testament. There are plenty in the New Testament and from Jesus Himself. When we do not see the consequences of not heeding the warning, we start to ignore the warnings. Other times they seem ridiculous or they appear to be for someone else. When we do not feel like they apply to us, we will often stop listening. Then when we have consequences, we want to know why no one told us.
There are some things that I know about warnings. Things that we must be aware of so that we do not become tone-deaf to the warnings that are pertinent to us. When we pay attention to warnings, it will encourage others to do the same. With the right attitude, we might be able to help others when warnings apply to them. This should not be our first priority but it does keep us alert to the warnings being expressed. Let me share a few things that I have observed about warnings and our response to them.
Some Are For A Small Percentage Of People
These are the warnings that when we see them we think “Who would do that?”. They seem so ridiculous that it seems impossible that it would apply to anyone. Things like the warning on hemorrhoid medicine that says do not take orally. Or on suppositories that tell you to remove the foil. Or the warning on a hairdryer that tells you not to use it in the shower. When you read these warnings you cannot believe that anyone would do such a thing. Most people would not. These warnings are for an extremely small percentage of the population. But they are there just in case.
You will come across warnings like this all of your life. You will even find some of these in the Bible. These warnings will stump you because you believe that no one would do such a thing. They are there for a small group of people. Be aware of the warnings (and the people) and move on.
Some Are For Other People
Recently we had a hurricane come close to where we live on the coast of North Carolina. Having lived in this area most of my life, it is something to which we have become accustomed. During the recent hurricane, we received two tornado warnings on our phones in the middle of the night. It startled me and I quickly looked at my phone to see what it was about. The warning was for an area that I did not live in, so I went back to sleep. Both times. My wife struggled to go back to sleep. Partially because we had been suddenly awakened by an alarm, but also due to worrying it might eventually affect us. I saw the warning was for someone else and I went back to sleep. The people in its path were in significant danger. We have had a tornado come through our backyard and the destruction can be devastating. However, this warning was not one that affected us at the moment so we could move on.
Some of the warnings we will hear over our lifetime are intended for other people. There may be a time when it would affect us, but at that moment it is not relevant. Imagine if everyone all over the world took cover when there was a tornado warning in northeastern NC. That is completely unnecessary. There are even warnings in the Bible that do not directly apply to your life at this moment. Understand that and just move on.
Some Are For Us
One of the dangers of hearing warnings that are for a small percentage of people or that only apply to others at the moment is that we start to discount every warning and then miss the very ones that are for us. There are some warnings that are directly related to us and our lives. If we are not careful we will become consumed trying to make sure others heed their warning and in doing so miss things that could cause us problems. It takes self-awareness to know where we face danger in our lives.
Do not be arrogant and believe that warnings do not apply to you. Some of them do. It is appropriate to ignore ones that do not apply to you. It is important to pay attention to the ones that do. Ignoring warnings that apply to you could have significant consequences.