Flagmen on road construction crews live a life of danger because of people like me.
It's not that I don't see the orange work zone signs when driving. I even take note of the one informing me of a flagman ahead. But between the time I see the sign and the flagman actually appears, my mind has moved on to a million other things, and I forget to look for a man standing beside a stop sign where one normally doesn't appear.
I sent one such workman flying into a ditch one day as a result. With no line of cars patiently waiting to warn me as the construction zone neared, I simply kept on driving, despite the flagman's increasingly frantic motions on the side of the road. Consumed with my thoughts, I simply didn't see him. The son in the front seat suddenly realized I wasn't slowing and said, “Aren't you going to STOP??!!!!” At the last second I saw the sign and came to a screeching halt. As the flagman emerged from the ditch into which he had jumped, I saw with dismay that he was a county sheriff in full uniform, working the road detail on that particular day. Only then did I notice the patrol car with the flashing lights in the work zone. Surprisingly, I didn't get arrested; the cop was too furious to speak and simply stood glaring at me for what seemed like an eternity, my teenager slumped low in the seat next to me in total mortification, Slowly he retrieved the flag from where he'd thrown it as he jumped, and still scowling, waved me on my way.
Since that day, God has taken a proactive role in my life to prevent a recurrence. When we pass an orange sign while driving now He whispers into my ear, “Oh, look! A work zone.”
“I see it, Lord,” I reply.
“Are we going to kill the flagman today, or let him live?”
“I think we should let him live.”
“Good choice.” On and on He talks to me, making me laugh and keeping my attention focused on the situation at hand until we are safely through the construction area and another life has been spared.
Yesterday, however, I didn't need the Holy Spirit's conversation to get me to notice the flagman; the worker in question simply gave me no choice.
I had only just passed the orange construction signs when I spotted the neon-yellow-clad figure standing next to a stop sign and waving his hands repeatedly over the top of his head. Clearly he was taking his life in his hands by standing in the exact middle of my lane rather than at the side, making it an impossibly long jump to the nearby ditch should I not have stopped. But obediently I slowed, so far in advance of where he stood that he actually motioned me forward and then raised his hand to stop me when I reached the exact spot he had in mind. Intrigued by how precise and intentional he was in all his movements, I watched to see what he would do next. He was all attention, counting the cars as they lined up behind me, looking ahead for the oncoming traffic to arrive, and motioning errant cars over if they strayed a little wide in the lane as they passed. When the one lane open finally cleared, he didn't just wave me casually on, like so many bored construction crew members have done before him. Very carefully he turned the sign, and then pointed to the word “SLOW” that was written on the other side. As if he knew that wasn't enough, he turned his hands over so the palms were facing the asphalt and pushed them repeatedly towards the ground, clearly telling me to take it easy on the gas pedal. Only then did he deliberately point to now-open lane ahead of me and wave me onward.
I've driven through hundreds of construction zones in my lifetime, and, as I've detailed above, I've barely given the flagmen at each end more than a passing glance, despite the fact that their devotion to duty has life and death consequences for me in those moments that I entrust my life to their direction. This man's excellence in even such a simple task caught and held my attention long enough for him to get his point across. I found that I was obeying his instructions and driving much more slowly through the site than I normally would, ignoring the pressure from the line of cars behind me to make up the time we'd lost in waiting.
Heading in to work myself that morning I couldn't help but compare my usual job performance in relation to his. No matter what our line of work, over time it's easy to let the level of performance we strive for slide from the-very-best-we-can-be to just-enough-to-get-by. And yet for us as Christians there is a reason beyond the desire for a great performance review to increase our attention to detail. God likewise has a message of life and death consequence to deliver through us to the people who pass us by each day. Yet it's easy for His voice in us to get lost in the daily barrage of opinions and attitudes our fellow travelers are hit with as they journey through life; we tend to blend in like so much passing scenery. His presence within us, however, should cause to us to approach everything we do with such passion and excellence that we stand out, causing people to pause in their passing and take note of what He wants to say through us that they might otherwise have missed.
God has a passion for saving people; sometimes He just needs a little help in getting their attention. That's where we come in. Simply be at your best and let God do the rest.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV)