Warning Signs

By: Kristen L. McNulty

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This past summer I visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park near Empire Michigan. What makes this park so spectacular is the large sand dunes that run alongside the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Throughout the park there are a number of look-out points where you can take a road near the dunes and get a spectacular view from the top down.

And while the scenery is gorgeous, there is a hidden danger that lurks even in the beauty. The danger? Climbing down. It's a tempting thing to want to do. Here you are at the top of an enormous mound of sand, overlooking crystal waters. Everyone who visits probably would love nothing more than to climb down to the beautiful waters and get a view from below. The problem? The dunes are made up of literal shifting sand. The sand is quite loose and while the climb down is easy and might only last a few minutes, it's a very different story coming up.

While you try to make your way back up the dune, it's nearly impossible to get solid footing, so for every step you climb, you could slide back a few. And there's no other way up. It's the sand wall or it's nothing. And for most, the sand wall might as well be Everest.

So the people who run the park have posted very large notices all around the sand dunes, warning people not to climb down. Even on the website for the Sleeping Bear Dunes, notices are posted, warning people not to climb down the Lake Michigan Bluff because "the steep grade makes footing difficult and there is danger from falling rocks." They then go on to say the return climb is extremely strenuous and some who have tried it could not get back up.

Yet after all of these blatant warning, what did people do? They decided that those warnings didn't apply to them and they climbed down anyways. Men. Women. Even a father with his kids. They decided they were above the warning. And so down they went.

To be honest, this shocked me. I couldn't understand why someone would deliberately try to do something so silly and dangerous, especially when they could see all of the warning signs and could see other people who tried to go down struggling to get back up.

And there while I stood comfortably on solid ground, I couldn't help but be reminder that I too have been trapped on the side of a hill similar to that one. No, I've never climbed a sand dune, but I have done things that I shouldn't have. Things that I was clearly warned against and decided to do it anyways. Things that I had seen other people get into trouble with. But no, their lessons weren't good enough. So I got trapped in my own version of a sand dune. And if you're anything like me, I'm sure you've found yourself sliding down one a time or two in life.

Maybe you were warned against putting a TV in your room, but went ahead and did it anyway and are now trapped watching things you shouldn't be. Or maybe you watched a friend slide down into compromising situations with their significant other, but instead of taking precautions you were convinced that it wouldn't happen to you and now find yourself having gone further than you ever intended.

We all face versions of sand dunes in life. It's a reality of living a fallen world. But just because other people find themselves stuck on the side doesn't mean we need to be trapped there. That's the great thing about knowing Christ. His Holy Spirit in us serves as the ultimate warning signs and of when not to go down. And when we do mess up and get stuck somewhere, He's like the coast guard who comes in with a chopper to rescue us. Sometimes we're a little damaged by the experience, but He's also a pretty good physician who can heal our wounds when we turn to Him.

So today no matter what sand dune is in front of you, tempting you to ignore all common sense and climb down, turn away. Instead enjoy the view from the top and let those that are trapped on the side serve as a warning of what happens when we don't listen to directions. And the directions we have in life are pretty clear. They are found in the word of God and they don't exist to overwhelm us, but rather to protect us from things that we're better of not experiencing!

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This devotional was aired as a part of the Making A Difference Christian Radio Show.