Early Warning System

By Deb DeArmond

This Or That Way Directions On A SignpostThe lock on the high-rise restroom door seemed a little loose. I wasn’t sure I could trust it. So when I heard another woman enter, I cleared my throat, putting her on notice: this stall is not available.

She clearly understood the signal, passed by and entered the stall two beyond mine. The system worked. It got me to thinking about the unspoken language we all seem to understand. . .

Sitting in church when my sons were teens often produced another of those trust is thin moments. I could see them from my vantage point. They routinely sat with the youth group across the aisle, toward the front. On occasion I would see notes passed back and forth, or what looked like it might be the beginning of “sermon inattention.” A quick clearing of my throat carried the message: I see you. Knock it off.

It was usually met with a stiffening of the spine and a slight look over the left shoulder. Eye contact finished the job. Nailed it.

I’ve only recently connected trust with the universal sign of throat clearing. But once considered, I marvel at its power.

Marriage is the ultimate opportunity to throw the sign. How many times have we been in a social situation when the conversation began to travel a path one or the other didn’t trust would end well and the soft guttural clearing of the throat performed its magic, steering the interaction onto the safety of the shoulder? More times than I can recall.

Of course there are times when it’s ignored completely (a failure to yield), or mistaken for a hay fever itch. The resulting crash and burn is never pleasant. Sometimes we simply misinterpret the message. It’s an error. But the failure to yield is a conscious choice to rush on, despite the opportunity to pause and consider.

Initially, it didn’t seem like a godly principle. But I’m wondering, have you ever experienced the equivalent of a Holy Ghost throat clearing? I’m sure  you have. Involved in a heated discussion, you are poised and ready to hurl an angry retort when suddenly . . .you hear it. This is your moment. You are reminded. Can you trust yourself to respond in love?

Did God send us His Spirit because He didn’t believe we could (or would) make the right choices without some assistance? That seems to be the case; He knew we’d need guidance.

John is clear about the work of God’s spirit as he recounts Christ’s reassurance before His ascension:  “The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on His own. He will tell you only what He has heard from me, and He will let you know what is going to happen,” John 16:13 (CEV).

Isn’t that the same message we send in the stall, in the pew, or in conversations alongside our spouse? Consider it an early warning system from God: don’t stop here, straighten up, or change the subject, sweetheart. God’s rerouting our path, setting us straight, or sending us to safer territory. It comes softly, never outing us, the Spirit flying under the radar to redirect us. Amazingly gentle.

We all have those moments we need someone who loves us to say, “I see you. Knock it off.”

And you don’t want to miss that. Powerful stuff.

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