Signs. Every day we are bombarded by signs. They point us to something, someplace else. They give us information. They seek to persuade and influence us to desire things – food, cars, vacation spots, insurance companies, coffee shops, and more.
Once upon a time signs would have primarily told us street names, when to stop or watch for curves, or how many miles to the next nearest cities, but then it wasn’t long before advertisers discovered billboards could be used along major highways to draw us toward whatever they wanted to sell us.
Our family will never forget our first trip west on one of the northern routes. We began to see signs meant to intrigue on the long trek across the Dakotas. All of them were pointing to some little drug store in a place called Wall, South Dakota. One sign we saw often asked the question, “Where in the heck is Wall Drug?” Others would tell us how far it was to Wall Drug or spoke about ice water and ice cream.
We hadn’t planned on a stop there, but as the signs made it clear we were getting closer our interest was thoroughly aroused. The signs had succeeded in enticing us to locate this little dot on the map and guess what? From that trip onward, every time we headed west, and we were anywhere near South Dakota, we made a point of stopping there because this is definitely not your typical drug store and there is a great history connected to all the signs and culture around Wall. If you have trekked in that area of the United States, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you have another adventure ahead to explore.
Beyond all these signs along the road we look for signs that don’t come on street corners or billboards. We look for signs of spring, summer, fall, and winter. We see evidences in nature that every farmer recognizes that guides him or her when it is time to plant and when harvest needs to be finished.
Our calendars serve as signs as well and we dare not miss the signs that now show up on every media device we own, but we call them commercials.
There are also placards everywhere promoting one cause or another and political signs that promote candidates and divide neighbors.
Make no mistake about it – signs are meant to influence us in one way or another. They show up in us when silver streaks our hair and wrinkles are no longer smile lines, announcing to the world that we are getting older whether we feel or admit that or not.
But from the beginning of recorded time we see there were other signs meant to point to bigger happenings, things we shouldn’t miss. You have read about them – a flood, a rainbow, a burning bush, a sea parted, and a singular star that a group of magi followed to locate the birth of a future king.
On that last one, that special king’s birth had been prophesied about for hundreds of years, but when the time came no one was quite prepared because it didn’t appear he was a king even though wise men from hundreds of miles away brought grand gifts and believed the prophecy.
Sometimes seeing is not always believing and sometimes we don’t see the most important signs meant to bring hope in the midst of doubt, light in the midst of darkness.
2020 has been a troubling time for much of the world. It has been easy to be caught up in the tragic challenges caused by the pandemic affecting people in every corner of the world. What we once knew as “normal” seems to have disappeared. Lawlessness in diverse places has added to uncertainty for many. But it hasn’t stopped there. Every manner of disaster has been happening at the same time – earthquakes, floods of epic proportions, hurricanes and typhoons, fires and droughts.
Have we forgotten to look a bit beyond these things and consider how many news stories don’t appear on the evening news, or media news feeds, or all the places we get our news? Or just maybe we have stopped looking at the news because none of it seems good and hope is hard to come by.
Could it be the very things upending our lives are signs of another prophesied event? Have we considered what the prophets of old told us and Jesus pointed to during the years He walked the earth?
Our hope will invariably be disappointed if we put it in the wrong place. It will never quite match up if we put it in our idea of an ideal world or candidate or movement. Our hope, our very best hope, is in the One who created us, the earth we stand on, the very air we breathe. He has not forgotten. What has our heart looked to for hope?
Consider the words Eugene Peterson uses to translate a portion of Romans 5 in The Message:
“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. “