Ron Gilliard is a friend of mine from college days. He’s a few years older than me and is now retired in Bainbridge, Georgia. He had a book published in early 2017 titled Our Journey. It’s about the role that faith played in dealing with an uphill battle with cancer. He’s someone whose opinion I greatly respect.
Ron recently drove through middle Georgia on I-75, the part of Georgia that I call home. He later sent me an email about the numerous billboards that advertise sex stores and such. He suggested those billboards might warrant a column. I think he’s right.
For several years there were a number of billboards stating, “We Bare All.” I think there is only one of those left. When there were many of them close together, I had an idea for a different slant on that phrase. My idea was a billboard depicting Jesus on the cross, with the simple message that, “Only One Bears All.”
Like many of my ideas, I did nothing more than think about it. I didn’t share it with anyone, or even spend time praying about it. I just mulled it over quietly during my occasional trips on I-75. It’s amazing how effective procrastination is. It has the same effect as doing nothing, yet it feels so much better. It seems more acceptable.
Some current billboards read, “Strippers – Need We Say More?” I guess not. The message is clear. But maybe there’s a need to say more about stripes instead of strippers. A picture of Jesus bloodied from his severe lashings might get some attention. The caption could read, “Stripes – Need We Say More?” Another ad could reference Isaiah 53:5, “And by His stripes we are healed.”
There are multiple signs that advertise an adult superstore in Unadilla. That’s the town where I graduated from high school, a place of fond memories and good friends. Towns don’t have much legal standing in regulating such businesses. We have strict rules against polluting water, land, and air. Pollution of the mind, however, is scantily covered. I don’t expect such laws will ever be strengthened, but sometimes we use that as an excuse for not doing anything.
Maybe a billboard could read, “The Bible – Adult Content Included.” Or maybe it could pose the question, “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah?” Those would have been great places for adult superstores and strip joints. They would have been perfectly positioned for the big fire sale at the end.
In April of 1997, I drove north from Valdosta on U.S. Highway 41. Somewhere past Eldorado I saw what remains my all-time favorite billboard. The sign showed a smiling Jesus. His welcoming arms were stretched wide open. The caption read, “Jesus Loves You This Much!”
When I got closer to the picture, it changed. Jesus’ expression evolved from being serenely pleasant to one of painful agony. Blood trickled down his face. His outstretched arms were pinned to a roughly hewn wooden cross. His open hands were pierced with gruesome iron spikes. But the message didn’t change. It still said, “Jesus Loves You This Much!”
I don’t know if people of faith need to sponsor more billboards or not. Maybe the money is best spent elsewhere. But it seems like what we are doing is not working very well. It’s more than a problem of empty pews. I believe we have a problem of empty hearts.
I’ll probably just keep on procrastinating. I’m okay with that, because I have a lot of good company. We’re encouraged by one another’s willingness to stay quiet and do nothing. We slowly paddle the placid waters of acceptance and sit very still in the boat.
God sent Jonah on a mission, but Jonah said no and ran away. That didn’t work out very well for Jonah. When we procrastinate, we don’t have to say no to God. We can just put Him off. We can pretend He doesn’t understand what we are doing. It’s easy to get comfortable with procrastination.
I don’t know if today’s column will make a difference or not. But I hope it will foster some conversations, generate some ideas, maybe even result in a billboard with a worthwhile message. It may not get printed on a sign, but there’s one thing I know for sure. I know that, “Only One Bears All.”