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This Is Not 89

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“THIS IS NOT 89” read the sign. Huh? What kind of sign is that?

I was driving with my wife on Route 89, a backcountry highway in Utah. We passed a town called Panguitch, the kind you miss if you’re not looking. From there Route 89 turns east. Going straight, it becomes Route 143. Apparently not everyone picked up on that.

A mile out of town we came to this sign: “THIS IS NOT 89.” I stopped, wondered, then turned around to get another look at the sign. It’s the first highway sign I’ve ever seen that told me where I was not. I had to take a picture.

I could imagine some drivers blithely driving for miles through the wilderness before they realized they were on the wrong road. Then they’d run out of gas and get eaten by bears, or the people in the back seat. No doubt some similar reason was why the odd sign was put there in the first place.

I wondered how many people must have gotten lost, how many minds panicked, how many blood pressures risen, before the highway department made that sign and sent out a crew to install it.

As I drove farther—down Route 143, not 89, checking the signs and map twice as much as I normally would have—it struck me that many people live their lives that way. Including me.

We go along in life, at school or work, professional or home life, and we don’t realize that the road curved. We cobble together our routines and comfort zones, and we settle into what’s familiar. Then our life situation changes, or the world changes, or we ourselves change.

And later we find that we’re on the wrong road, or that our road is going the wrong way.

We can get lost when we don’t pay attention to changes in our own path. Or maybe we just need to get off what we’re doing and change.

When that happens we can worry or fume, retreat or fall apart, because we don’t realize that God might actually be a part of the change, or that in the change God is working something in our lives. This happens a lot.

The Bible says:

“that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28 (NIV).

I’ve never found a version, including the original Greek, that says “in some things.” No matter who, what, when, where, or how our path changes, God will already be working for our good if we love him and seek to follow the calling to his purpose.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote that, should know.

In Acts 16:6-10 (NIV), Paul and his companions were “kept by the Holy Spirit” from going into Asia. Trying to enter Bithynia, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Then “Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision,” he and his companions left “concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

We should expect “This is not 89” signs in our lives too. They’re good for us. They may come as the slap of a sudden realization. They may be a gradual waking up to a new reality. They may hit as a major problem or loss.

They usually come because we were going the wrong way in the first place. Or maybe it’s just time to grow. So be thankful for them. They’re usually what it takes to motivate us enough to change.

Have you had—or do you have—“This is not 89” signs in your life?

“Father, I am yours. Guide me on my life’s path. I receive whatever sign you give me to lead me on the course I should take….”

Copyright © 2013 Peter Lundell. Used by permission.

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About The Author

Image of Peter Lundell

With a pastor’s heart, Peter Lundell connects people and their life issues to a real God so they can live well in the face of eternity. With a quarter century of missionary, pastoral, and teaching experience, he brings new perspectives to interacting with God that most people overlook. He holds an M.Div. and D.Miss. from Fuller Theological Seminary and resides in Southern California. He authors books on Christian spirituality. Visit him at

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