Four weeks ago I was working in my garage on a project that’s been long overdue. Okay, true confessions, I haven’t been able to park a car in my garage since . . . who knows when . . . because it functions more like a shop and storage than a garage. Anyway, I was ripping some plywood on my table saw to build some storage cabinets and was having trouble with the blade binding up. Against my better judgment but in the attempt to expedite progress on a project (remember, it was long overdue?), I removed the blade guard to make the ripping easier.
In short order I had completed all but the last of my cuts when it happened. I was slightly distracted for a mere microsecond and . . . I brushed the saw blade with my left thumb. I’ll spare you the gory details, but needless to say you don’t brush up against a carbide blade rotating at 3400 rpms and walk away without some physical reminders that the saw manufacturer knows more about saw safety than saw users (no matter how smart they think they are) can afford to ignore.
My first thought as I clutched my left thumb with my right hand was: “Did I just cut my thumb off?!?! I saw the blood, but I didn’t feel any pain yet (that followed quickly). I had a vision of my father’s right hand–three fingers missing parts from a job-related accident where a safety devise failed to protect him. I’m thrilled to tell you that I still have a thumb. And I’m extremely grateful, because it could have been so much worse. Talk about a very close call that could have been disastrous.
So you might be reading this and say, “Tim, that was dumb!” And you’d get no arguments from me. It was dumb. But, at the time is seemed so reasonable. And why? Frankly, I was in a hurry (never a good sign) and I thought I knew better and could remove the safety guards placed on the saw for my protection.
While I was nursing my shredded thumb (which made typing and buttoning my shirts a painful experience for several weeks–but at least I still had a thumb) and reflecting on how stupid it was for me to remove the guards, I was prompted to ask some larger questions.
Why do we ignore the warnings that are clearly printed on the products we use? There could be any number of so-called good reasons–or at least they seemed good at the moment. And that got me thinking about how often we ignore the “safety guards” that God has placed in our way. How often do we remove those guards and plunge full-speed ahead without thinking about the disastrous results that could happen? Unfortunately–in my case–it’s more often than I’d like to admit. How about you? Are you with me here?
A quick search for “do not’s” in Proverbs alone reveals 72 times that God places safe guards for us. One in particular stands out to me that sums up the matter: “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it” (Prov. 8:33). Ignoring God’s warning labels is always to our own peril.
So why do we ignore or blast through God’s “do not” warnings? Here’s some of the reasons I came up with:
1. We don’t trust that God has given warnings or restrictions to us for our protection–our safety. We think that He’s into controlling us vs. loving us. And we have a natural aversion to anyone who tries to control us.
2. We’re too independent and self-sufficient. Boil it down, we think we know better about what’s in our best interests. Again, we don’t trust God’s intentions.
3. We think we’re smarter and don’t need someone else telling us how to live our lives.
4. We believe we can maneuver around the safe guards without serious incident.
To sum it all up, I was foolish to remove the blade guard on my saw. And I paid with blood and pain. Carbide teeth are not very forgiving. But fortunately for us, God is gracious and always willing to forgive, even when we foolishly jump over or around the guards He’s placed for our protection because He loves us. I feel like I got off with a painful reminder of what my foolish choices can do . . . and what I dare not ever ignore . . . even if I think I have good reasons. They’re not good enough.
So how about you? Ever ignore the warning signs in your life? Feel free to share your story. Please, no gory details, just what you ignored, what you learned, and how God was gracious to you in the midst of you jumping over His safety guards.