By Curtis K. Shelburne
It had to be a government production, the sign I saw. Only a glassy-eyed bean-counting bureaucrat with common sense completely and laboriously expunged by years of mind-numbing training could have produced it. (Your tax dollars at work.)
Posted above a busy tramway, the sign proclaimed in large letters: TOUCHING WIRES CAUSES INSTANT DEATH. Good information, that.
But then in smaller letters was posted this message: “$200 Fine.”
Well, fine indeed. But I’m not exactly sure what to make of that.
I’m always as willing as the next guy to avoid shelling out two hundred bucks, but if paying up is presented as the alternative to sudden and gruesome death, I’d likely shell out a couple of C-notes.
Does the second warning belie the truth of the first? “Touch these wires, moron, and you’ll surely be quick-fried to a crackly crunch! But maybe not. In which case, you’ll be fined, and that’ll teach you!”
Or maybe there’s no contradiction at all. Maybe the long arm of the bureaucracy involved will reach right past death. The dead dumbo, smoky and smelling a lot like an electrical fire, finds himself waiting almost eternally (in a long line, no doubt) in front of a desk in the afterlife. He waits forever to file the forms in triplicate needed to remove the $200 lien on his account that’s got his posthumous processing locked up in limbo.
I’m not sure I get it. The sign’s message, I mean.
But I am sure I won’t be touching tramway wires if I should happen to run across any. I don’t like the sound of that stiff fine.
Some governmental signs and warnings can be a bit baffling. But it occurs to me that when God gives a warning, we do well to pay very close attention. Some things that we touch will hurt us worse than even an electrified tramway wire.
Touch adultery, God warns us, and we will get scorched. Count on it.
Grab hold of greed, and we’ll end up with some awfully bad burns. We can be sure of that.
Grasp bitterness and embrace an unforgiving and critical spirit, and, even if we’re sure we’ve been terribly mistreated and have a great excuse for the chip on our shoulder, we’ll still end up alone. Resentment is a very chilly friend.
Grip such tempting wires, and so many more like them, and we can end up with scorched souls and in deep pain. God knows it’s tempting; that’s why he gave us the warnings. And, thank God indeed, his grace and healing are real, available as often as we fail, as present as our next breath, as rich and deep and life-giving as our Father’s loving heart.
But the truth is that when we ignore his warning and choose to play with that which is deadly, pain is always the consequence.
Worse, if we hang on to those hot wires long enough and are burned so badly that we refuse to ask for healing, death can come even before we die.
When God gives a warning, it pays to listen.