Have you ever driven along the cliffs along that breathtaking section of Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and Big Sur? The driver is faced with a difficult decision. He must choose between keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, and sneaking peeks at the indescribable beauty of the scenery. And, there are sections of this amazing, yet dangerous stretch of road that don’t have guard rails. Talk about death-defying driving!
Perhaps you’ve driven in a golf cart down a steep hill, and the cart didn’t have a governor to control the speed of the cart. There was no built-in safety device to serve as a precaution against hilly terrain. Ever gone straight downhill on grass in a cart? The brakes are useless!
Or, maybe you’ve been to a circus where you witnessed a tightrope walker who chose to cross the high wire without a net. I still have the image of Tony Curtis’ character in the 1956 movie “Trapeze,” who was almost killed when he fell while trying to perform a triple flip with no safety net below. Entertaining, yes. Wise? Not so much.
We could list off many more scary scenarios in which we make a conscious decision to make things more dangerous than they really need to be. And, while the rush of the danger may be exhilarating, missteps and an absence of guardrails can be devastating.
I don’t believe anyone sets out to fail. Nobody wakes up and says, “I think I am going to make a royal mess of my life and those I love the most today.” Or, “Today is a great day for a train wreck!” It just doesn’t happen like that.
You know how it DOES happen? Lack of planning ahead. No safety net. No margin.
This sounds awfully trite, but someone once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” We all set high hopes and dream big dreams. But, few people actually create and implement a plan. They don’t create the necessary margin to avoid catastrophe. Not only financially, but morally.
Instead, people say things like, “I’m going into this with an open mind.” Or, maybe you’ve heard someone say, “We’ll just see what happens.” These are famous last words for many who would desperately like to rewind the clock of their lives.
I’ve heard Mike Linch, the Senior Pastor at my church, say, “If you wait until you are alone with someone from the opposite sex to set your limitations, it’s already too late.” You’ve got to set boundaries well in advance, and you’ve got to make them even more radical than you think, in order to give yourself that extra margin.
The same goes for alcohol abuse, drug abuse, shoplifting, cutting, and a bevy of other dangerous and questionable activities that are often fueled by peer pressure or low self-esteem. If you wait until you’re with a group of people who do these things to try and make a wise decision, it’s going to be very difficult to resist.
Instead, take time to look ahead to the next 5, 10, 25 years of your life. By doing this, you will capture a vision for your life. According to Andy Stanley, a vision is “a mental picture of a preferred future.”
We all want things to end well, but it is rare that people actually choose to preserve their “preferred future” by putting the necessary safeguards in place. Yes, it takes a little time and a lot of discipline. But, no one ever regrets guard rails. You don’t hear people say, “You know, I really wish I had taken a more dangerous route to get here.”
After all, no one consciously sets out to lose it all or to make a poor choice that leads to life-altering consequences. But, many of us set out on a collision course with disaster by failing to make wise decisions on the front end.
Plan ahead. Take radical measures to preserve those things you treasure the most (your character, your integrity, your spouse, your family). And, pray for the discipline and perseverance needed to see your vision become a reality!