Are we too busy waiting for a sign?

We are all waiting for a sign. You know, the one thing that will make all the difference, the one that will show us our promised land and allow us to reach it. If we wait long enough it will come. So, let us sit down and wait.

It reminds me of a story I once heard about a preacher in a small town outside New Orleans that was swamped by Hurricane Katrina. The Preacher was alone in his church when the waters flooded in; unable to escape he retreated to the roof of his church, where he waited. He looked around at the water-covered town, the roofs of houses and trees rising out of this newborn lagoon like forlorn islands. It was, to him, divine chastisement. He was depressed, but looked up to heaven for a sign of what to do. Below him the water began to rise.

Later that morning a small boat containing his parishioners rowed into sight and moored at the base of the church roof. They asked the Preacher to come down and join them so they could paddle off to dry land. He would not, saying he was waiting for a sign from God as what to do next. After pleading with him they rowed away.

By midday the waters were still rising and it sweltering up on the roof. A police launch headed in his direction and an officer hailed him with a bullhorn offering assistance. He firmly said, ‘No, I am waiting for a sign and I am confident it will come.

Evening came and the waters were still rising, engulfing the church and were now they were lapping at the Preacher’s feet. An army helicopter flew overhead, dangling a rope ladder just above his head, and the crew begged him to grab hold of it and be lifted to safety. The Preacher refused, still saying he was waiting for a sign from above.

Eventually the waters covered the church roof and the Preacher drowned. He went up to Heaven where he was met by God. ‘Why,’ he asked in a despairing voice, ‘did you not send me a sign of what to do? I waited all day until the waters took me.’ 

Well,’ said God, ‘I sent two boats and a helicopter, what other signs did you need.

Like the unlucky preacher you become fixated wait and wait for the sign that does not come, while missing others that are in plain sight. This could be procrastination, waiting for the perfect answer before proceeding. It could be fear, it has to be safe before I act or it could be laziness, if I wait long enough the world will come to me. In order to move forward and not sink beneath the waves, you need to become aware of your life, look at what is happening around you, step back and look at the bigger picture. Do not become fixated upon one answer as the Preacher did, as that may become your blind spot. Unable to see the world around him, he drowned.

There are usually many choices; it is a matter of seeking them out or recognising them when they happen along. Options for action are rarely clear-cut, and it serves little purpose if you blind yourself to what is available to you. As John Lennon once wryly noted, ‘Life is what happens when you are making plans’.

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