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Guardrails

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April 2012
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GUARDRAILS

A guardrail is actually a system designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas. Now, nobody pays attention to guardrails unless you need one. There are all different kinds of guardrails, but guardrails are that invisible part of our driving experience. We’re glad they’re there when we need them, but for the most part, we pay no attention to them.

You generally find guardrails in one of three areas. You find guardrails on bridges, because on a bridge there’s very, very little margin for error. You also find them in medians to keep us from where we’re very, very close to people moving in the opposite direction. The closer we are to people who are moving in the opposite direction, the
more we need protection. The third area where you find guardrails, specifically, is around curves--unexpected changes in roadside conditions.

Now the really interesting thing about guardrails is that, generally speaking, guardrails are not actually located in
the most dangerous part of the road. Guardrails are actually located and constructed in areas where you could actually drive, if you think about it. The point of a guardrail isn’t to say, don’t drive on this particular piece of real estate. The point of a guardrail is it’s the piece of real estate just beyond the guardrail that’s a point of danger: oncoming traffic, curves, mountainsides, edges of bridges, or whatever it might be. So, generally speaking, guardrails are actually constructed in areas where theoretically and actually you could drive, but guardrails are there to keep us from moving into an area where there’s actual danger.

But when it comes to guardrails, nobody really argues the point and says, Hey, I don’t know why they put guardrails around the edge of the bridge. They need to take the guardrails off, because actually I could drive closer to the edge of the bridge if they would just move the
silly guardrails. We understand in driving that there needs to be some margin for error. The theory behind a guardrail is that you will do less damage to your body, and even in some cases less damage to your car, if you hit a guardrail than if you actually hit what was on the other side
of the guardrail, or if you actually went off the side of something that would cause damage to you or your car. So the whole idea is it’s okay to cause a little bit of damage in order to keep you from creating and experiencing a lot of damage, either to your physical body or to your car. So
that’s kind of the idea behind a guardrail.

The truth is, your greatest regret relationally--your greatest regret financially, your greatest regret morally, your greatest regret ethically, maybe professionally--chances are your greatest regret could have been avoided. And if you think of it in terms of driving, that ditch that you went off into, that cliff that you rolled off into relationally, however you want to describe it, your greatest regret could probably have been avoided and would probably have been avoided if you had had some guardrails in your area, in your life financially, morally, relationally, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your whole perspective on authority, whatever it might be. So
what we want to do is just take this very, very common imagery of the guardrail and apply it to several areas of our lives.

Now, our definition for guardrail is going to go like this, here’s the new definition: We’re going to talk about a guardrail in terms of a standard of behavior. This is your personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience.

(From a sermon by Andy Stanley, Direct and Protect, 8/23/2011)

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