People are sometimes like trains, often making unscheduled stops along the way, but always arriving at the destination God always intended. In an era when the railroads were feverishly laying new track and linking the country together, people’s imaginations were stoked. The mere idea of taking a ride on a luxury train evoked a sense of freedom and adventure. One of my favorite authors, Miss Eudora Welty, writes that it just such a ride on a train that gave her an insight that changed her life forever. She was a young girl riding cross country, and as she looked out the window, she thought how delightful it was that the world was passing her by. And in an epiphany, she realized that the world wasn’t passing her by, it was she who was passing the world by. That flash of reality caused her to embrace a maturity as well as a choice to never take life for granted.
Trains are like people in that they must always arrive at their destinations. They make scheduled and unscheduled stops along the way and move at their different speeds. Some trains can travel for days on end, mindful of only one destination; others go from stop to stop seemingly without purpose. The route and purpose of either can change as the years go by.
We’ve been looking at the process of forgiveness in our Sunday messages, and that, too, is one of the destinations God wants each of us to reach. Our lives stretch out in front and behind us like train tracks, and the way we choose to live our life, the goals and principles we choose to believe in, the people we allow into our lives, our willingness to be agents of reconciliation–all these things are helping determine how we get to our ultimate destination. And because we are the engineer of our own train, we have the freedom to find new routes, to choose new places to make a stop, or even to choose to stop for refueling or to rest in the glow of a place where we find contentment. Some days we prefer to fly through our lives as if we were the high-speed TGV in France; other days we are like riding the L, taking the same routes over and over.
If we feel something is missing as we move from station to station, it might be the still, quiet voice of God trying to get us to explore other routes. Perhaps God is telling us to slow down and not be so “destination oriented.” Or maybe God is trying to get us to experience this life more as an adventure rather than a ride that merely gets us where we want to go. Changing our route–getting us off the typical beaten path of our life– can sometimes give us a chance to get back on the right track. Our God is full of surprises, and we may even discover that something new, the very thing we’ve been waiting for, is just around the bend.