I DON’T: SINGLES
Signs – Part 2
September 22, 2002
I have a confession to make. I am a directionally-challenged male. I have a hard time knowing where I am going. The other day, I was going the wrong direction. I at least figured that out. I saw a place where I could make a U-turn, so I made a U-turn and happened to glance in my rearview mirror while I was turning. When I did, I saw a cop riding a bicycle with a little light on it. This guy pulled me over. Now, it’s one thing to be pulled over by someone in a patrol car, but it’s quite another to be pulled over by someone riding a bicycle.
The officer approached me and said, “Sir, did you see the sign back there that said “No U-Turn?”
I said, “No, officer, I did not.”
He said, “Well, I’m sorry you missed it. I’m going to have to write you a ticket,” and he did.
As you find yourself traveling down the relational road, as you find yourself cruising down this avenue called life, maybe you need to be pulled over. Maybe you are ignoring some signs that God has put in your path. We can’t ignore the signs.
Hazardous Cargo Sign
I believe that God is telling us, through his word, “Don’t ignore the signs.” The first sign that we cannot afford to ignore is the hazardous cargo sign. [Ed reveals the “hazardous cargo” sign on stage]
All of us have hazardous cargo in our lives. No one here is perfect. All of us have some junk that we need to deal with. The Bible says this about the cargo in our lives and how hazardous it is in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” It says that there is no one righteous. I’ve got hazardous cargo and so do you.
I talked to a good friend of mine several days ago whose family owns a hazardous cargo transportation business. He told me that when 18-wheelers transport hazardous cargo, they label it, transport it in layers and they anchor it down. He went on to tell me that the drivers of these big rigs know that at any time, at any point in their journey, they can be pulled over for a “spot inspection.”
Wise daters give the people they are dating “spot inspections.” Wise daters know how to look into one another’s trailers, label the cargo, look at the layers and see how the hazardous cargo is anchored. It’s critical that we do that.
As you drive through a city, you will notice that there is a hazardous cargo route. Usually, that route is the longest route. It’s not the shortest route, but the longest. We need to be willing to take the longest route when we are thinking about the most important earthly relational decision we will ever make—who we will marry.
Maybe you’re saying, “Ed, that’s great. I’m glad you are talking about hazardous cargo and that’s cool. I’ve got it, and this person I am dating has it, but how do I know what to look for? Let’s get specific on the hazardous cargo.”
I’m glad you said that because I will. First, we need to look at our family cargo. Don’t you agree? We are who our families are. That’s where we learn conflict resolution. That’s where we got our self-esteem. That’s where we learned about marriage and relationships. It’s all from our family of origin. It’s critical that we put this stuff on the table. It’s critical that we show the other person what is inside our trailer. Just say, “Here it is. Here’s the cargo. Here’s the junk in my life. Show me the junk in your life.” You need to talk about your family of origin.
There’s another aspect of cargo that we really need to examine. It’s the temperament cargo. We are all wired in different ways, aren’t we? Some of us are wired to be very organized. Others of us are wired to be spontaneous. A young man once told me, “Ed, when I was dating my spouse, she used to say she loved my spontaneity. Now that we are married, she says my spontaneity drives her insane.” We’ve got to talk about these issues, these wiring differences.
When I say the word “temperament,” I also say the word “temper.” Think about the temperament cargo. Now think about the family cargo, once again. How did your family of origin handle conflict? How do you handle conflict? How is your anger management? In relationships, you have got sinners involved. Here is a sinner. There is a sinner. Everybody is a sinner. When you have sinners involved, you have got conflict. How do you handle conflict?
Maybe you handle conflict “Saddam style.” Maybe you grew up in a family who handled conflict like terrorists. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you would throw a dirty bomb this way or that way. Just throw a verbal missile toward that person out of nowhere. Then, they just go off on you. Maybe that’s the way you handle conflict today. You need to talk about it. Maybe that’s the hazardous cargo in your life.
Maybe you grew up in a family that handles conflict “Frappuccino style.” Have you ever had one of those icy Frappuccinos at Starbucks? They are incredible! They are great! They have a lot of calories, but they are good. Maybe, when you are involved in conflict, you do the Frappuccino thing and just ice the other person out.
They may ask, “What’s wrong, baby?”
Then, you respond by saying, “Oh, nothing,” and you just sip your Frappuccino. You could ice the person out for hours, days, and sometimes weeks. Maybe you handle anger Frappuccino style.
Maybe you handle anger “trash bag style.” We have a lot of trash bag people here. It reminds me of what happened when Lisa and I moved from a rent house to a house that we had built years ago. We pulled a U-Haul trailer into the garage of our rent house. I was hauling the last bit of junk into the U-Haul trailer to take it over to our new house. I saw all these trash bags lined up, and I figured they were full of clothes. Little did I realize, there was chicken from the previous night’s meal in the trash bags. I threw the trash bags with the chicken in the U-Haul trailer, locked it, drove it to the new house, and let it sit there in the boiling sun for hours and hours in triple degree heat. Several days later, when it came time for me to unload the stuff, I opened up the trailer and the stench just about knocked me over. It was horrible!
A lot of people here handle conflict that way. You get angry, upset, and your feelings get hurt. You stuff it in the trash bag, throw it in your U-Haul and lock it. Then, one day, your spouse or the person you are dating is walking along, they unlock the U-haul and you verbally explode. Those are major issues. It’s all hazardous cargo.
Basically, all conflict can be summed up in three letters. I have been married for 20 years now, and I have talked to a lot of people who have been married, so I’ve dealt with a lot of conflict. I think all conflict usually centers on PMS. Now, ladies, don’t throw vision daggers at me. I’m not talking about the PMS you are thinking about. Let me go over this.
P – Power issues. Who is going to call the final shot? Who is going to defer to whom?
M – Money. A lot of divorces, a lot of marital mayhem, are caused by money. Maybe you are drowning in a sea of debt. Maybe one person is a free-spender and the other is very tight.
S — Sex. I hear that’s an issue in marriage, but it’s just a rumor. What happens when one party is in the mood and the other party is not? How frequently will you have times of intimacy? You have got to talk about all of this.
Most arguments, most conflicts, can be boiled down to those three areas. We have got to take this hazardous cargo stuff seriously. We’ve got to do “spot inspections,” get it out on the table, process it, and talk about it.
What if you see some hazardous cargo in your life and you say to yourself, “I don’t know how to deal with this.” What if you see hazardous cargo in this person you are dating and you say, “Man, that kind of scares me. I see something that is really toxic.” What do you do?
The Hospital Sign
You follow the next sign—the “hospital” sign. [Ed reveals the “hospital” sign on stage] Isn’t it comforting to know that 24/7, if you are sick, injured, or don’t feel well, that there is a trained staff in hospitals to help you, to bring you back to health. You can just take the exit and go to a hospital. The same is true in relationships. Sadly, most marriages and most single adults wait too long to get help, to go to the hospital. I’m talking about Biblical Christian counseling. God has wired a lot of people who have the gift of counseling to help us, to give us coaching.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” What is keeping you from going to Christian counseling? What’s keeping you from it? Is it your pride? Is it your ego? Maybe you think, “Oh, I can just figure it out myself. I’m a self-made man. I can pull myself up with my own bootstraps. I can do it.” However, I’m telling you that you need to go to Christian counseling.
This past Wednesday, my ten-year-old son walked in and announced to me that he wanted to take up the sport of golf. I like golf. I play maybe twice a year, but it’s not my passion. The first words out of my mouth back to my son kind of went something like this, “You want to play golf? Okay. I’ll just get you some golf lessons. You need to learn from someone who knows what they are doing.” I have seen people who try to play golf, who didn’t start young, who didn’t start right, who learned the wrong way, and they have some funky swings. They can’t play golf. To learn the right way, you have got to learn from someone who knows what they are doing. My response was that quick. I said, “Son, we are going to find you golf lessons.”
If we are not shy about getting golf coaching, financial coaching, little league coaching or soccer coaching, then why are we shy about getting relational coaching? For the life of me, I don’t understand it. Most people wait too long. They wait for too much water to go under the relational bridge before they take the hospital route. My grandmother waited too long to go to the hospital. Had she gone to the hospital when she had some ailments, she would probably still be living today. But, because she didn’t, she is not here.
What’s keeping you, relationally speaking, from seeking Christian counseling? Are you asking, “Well, Ed, who do I go to? Where do I go?” You’ve got to go to someone who is operating from a Biblical basis. If you don’t go to a Christian counselor, then you are missing out on some really great advice.
Here is how you find a great Christian counselor. Go home and jump on your computer. Type in “www.fellowshipchurch.com,” keyword: “counselor.” We have a list of trained counselors, men and women, who specialization. That’s where the counselors come in.
Rough Road Sign
One of the reasons we need all this is because of this next sign. We have really got to pay attention to this sign. This sign is the “rough road” sign. [Ed reveals the “rough road” sign on stage] My friend, who is a Christian psychologist, told me something great about marriage. He said, “Ed, marriage is not the greatest thing. Marriage is the hardest thing.” Let me say that again. “Marriage is not the greatest thing. Marriage is the hardest thing.”
That’s true. People say, “Well, if I get married, that will be the ultimate; that will solve most all of my problems. If I get married….” Once again, you are a sinner. They are a sinner. Everybody is a sinner. If you get married, you are going to have a rough ride on a rough road. Marriage is lived out on the rugged plains of reality. However, when we do it God’s way, those rough roads will lead to some awesome peaks. It’s worth it. Marriage is a laboratory where the grace of God can be lived out. But, I am going to tell you something. There is going to be a lot of four-wheel driving in marriage. It’s commitment. It takes relational guts. It takes an attitude of focus. That’s the rough road.
Can you imagine trying to four-wheel drive on a rough road with some hazardous cargo? Here is what will happen if you try to transport hazardous cargo on a rough road [The sound of a car wreck is played over the sound system.] It’s going to be bad. So, you want to process this through the hospital and realize that you are on a rough road.
Signal Ahead Sign
Now, there is another sign that we cannot ignore. If we ignore this sign, we need to be written up. If we ignore it, we can end up in relational wreckage. It’s the “signal ahead” sign. We are going to park here for a second. The signal ahead shows me that there is an intersection coming up and that there is a signal that needs to be followed. This red light means “stop.” This yellow light means “caution,” but if you drive around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, you will realize that the yellow light means “accelerate” for most people. The green light means “go.” We must pay attention to this signal ahead sign. This is huge. It’s towering. Let’s talk about it.
If you are taking notes, I want you to write something down. Next to the red light, write down the word “character.” We’ve got to examine the character light. Ask yourself, “Is this person honest? Does this person have a consistent track record? Does this person produce the fruits of the Spirit?”
I talked to a woman who is 40 years old. She went out with this guy who is very successful and she thought he had a lot of potential to be a good husband. But then she said, “Ed, he tried to get us into a movie by using ticket stubs that he had used several nights earlier. When I saw that, I said, ‘It’s over for you, baby.’”
How about integrity? That’s all about character, isn’t it? The word integrity comes from the word “integer.” Integer means “a whole number.” The problem is that most of us date people too rapidly, get married too rapidly, and we think we are marrying a “whole number” person. But in reality, we are marrying fractions. Then we say, “Whoa, I just married a fourth!” That’s terrible. So, you have got to date someone long enough that you go through the four seasons of life with them—fall, winter, spring and summer. Then, after time has worn off the newness and the shine, you can make a great decision with great discernment. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “…be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent as doves.”
This next word you can put next to the yellow light—“relationships.” Look at this person’s relationships. Look at their track record. Do they have a consistent relational history or do you find a lot of relational wreckage back there? How do they connect with their family? What about their best friends? Who are their best friends? How long have they been with these people? You can meet my best friends and know what kind of person I am without even meeting me. The same is true in the person’s life that you are dating. It’s a very good thing to think about.
Now, next to the green light, you can write the word “maintenance.” We don’t want to hook up with someone who is a “high maintenance” person. Do you know what I am saying? High maintenance people are needy, whiny, and sing-songy people.
Before marriage, it sounds like this, [quietly] “Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha.” After marriage, the wah sounds like, [loudly] “AH-WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH!” You can multiply everything once you get married ten times. The needy type person says, “I need to wear this, need to live there, and need to drive this.”
What you need is to come in contact with the “Bentley or bomb theory.” The person you are marrying needs to be satisfied whether you are driving a Bentley, which is a very expensive car, or a bomb, just a clunker. If they have to drive this, do that, or have this status, then you better look at the lights. Look at the signal ahead.
Here’s something else. Put a lot of faith and a lot of confidence in what your family members and closest friends say about the person you are dating. Put a lot of faith and a lot of confidence in what your family members, friends, and especially Christian friends say about the person you are dating. You can get so mesmerized, so into this person, that you just ignore the signs.
Your friends may say, “Hey, don’t you see this person? Look at this weakness. I mean, they have a serious character flaw.” But you say, “What? I don’t see it.” They keep telling you, “Look at this guy. This guy is really messed up.” Still, you say, “What? I don’t see it.”
I have heard this for so many years. People will say stuff like, “Well, Ed, he just has a little gambling problem,” or, “Well, Ed, she just does a little bit of cocaine. It’s not that much. It’s just on special occasions,” or, “Well, you know, he does subscribe to Penthouse magazine but he just reads the articles.”
We’ve got to wake up. We’ve got to pay attention. We’ve got to drive with our hands at ten and two. We’ve got to look at this sign because this sign is warning us. It’s saying that there is an intersection ahead and you’ve got to make a decision. What are people saying? More important than that, what is God saying? Is He saying, “Red light—stop, caution?” Check everything out.
Maybe, God is giving the green light. Let me talk to men here. Men are commitment-phobic. Maybe as a single man, you have been dating this lady for over a year. You have gone through the four seasons. You’ve gone through hazardous cargo. You’ve gone to the hospital and processed that. You realize that marriage is going to be a rough road. Maybe God is saying, “Floor it! Go for it. Pop the question, walk down the wedding runner, have the Pastor bless you and your spouse, and have them throw rice on your head. It’s time to commit.” Maybe that’s where you are.
To boil everything down that I have talked about so far, let me just say this in one sentence. Are you ready? Here it is: “Don’t ignore the signs.” Once again, “Don’t ignore the signs.