Back in the 80’s dad and I used to travel together frequently. On one occasion we loaded up in our 1980 Chevy Citation (what a piece of junk that was) and embarked from Phoenix to Joplin, MO for our denominational conference. For some reason we decided to detour through Arkansas and visit some friends which put us on U.S. Hwy 71 from Fayetteville to Ft. Smith.
There’s now a freeway that connects those two cities, but back in the day, old 71 was the only way to get there and this two-lane road took us on a lush, scenic route over the Ozarks which is one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever seen. What stands out to me was a sign that was posted as you entered the mountainous stretch of highway. I don’t remember the exact verbiage but in essence it read:
“Hairpin curves and steep grades ahead. Multiple deaths in the last 5 years. Exercise Extreme Caution.”
As a 16 year old behind the wheel, the sign sent shock waves through me. I asked dad if he wanted to drive, to which he replied “you can do it, just be careful.” I successfully navigated the road and got us safely to our destination. What a relief.
Days before his execution, Jesus was teaching his followers about what life will be like as the end times approach. As he vividly describes what to look for in world events and sociological dynamics, he issues this warning:
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34 NIV)
“Exercise extreme caution.” If you don’t, your hearts will get weighed down with stuff and you won’t be ready to face what’s coming. Jesus knew what we all know: carrying excess baggage in life will stall our growth as his followers and hinder us from getting where we want to be. Our journey can be rough, steep and full of hairpin curves. All of us know this. It’s not new revelation. We have to exercise extreme caution, lay aside every weight and run with patience what is before us. We can’t always go full speed. Sometimes we have to slow down, use lower gears and keep our eyes peeled for potential hazards – but at the end of the day, I hear Jesus saying something similar to what dad said to me on Old 71. “You can do it. Just be careful.”