Riding the Rails

TRAINWhile reflecting on my earthly pilgrimage, I began to see my life as a locomotive riding on two iron rails. The two rails represent  two different unfolding stories.

Climb aboard, and I’ll explain.

The left rail rides on our circumstances.This rail is the world as we encounter it through our life experiences.The scenery outside the left window illustrates the left-rail story.

The right rail is the redemptive story God is authoring. When we look out of the right window, we are provided some perspective as to God’s internal work of heart transformation. We can see the fruit He is producing in us.

Riding on the left rail often troubles us because what see out the left window disturbs us. The enemy taps on the glass and points to the things that distress us –pains, struggles, dangers, and uncertainties. He knows that when we fixate on the left-rail story we become confused. We become vulnerable to his deceptive suggestions that our stories will not end well.

What does the enemy want us to see when we stare out the left window?

Perhaps we imagine we can clearly see imminent danger a few miles ahead. The bridge is out! THE BRIDGE IS OUT!  The brakes aren’t working. We’re on a runaway train barreling toward disaster.

Or maybe several miles back we entered a dark tunnel. As we listen to the steady clatter of the wheels under us, we can’t see anything, but it sure feels like we’re descending. We’re captives on a subterranean express train headed for the abyss.

Maybe when we look left we see nothing at all. We gaze out the left window and see nothing but miles and miles of barren landscape. We’re phantom riders on a ghost train going nowhere.

Sometimes when we look down we could swear this train has lost all contact with the track beneath us. The ride is unstable. This train is off the rails!  We’re careening down the hillside on a derailed train.

Fixating on the left-rail is disorienting when things don’t make sense. Take it from a guy who’s been entranced by the left rail, spending countless hours trying to make sense of its incomprehensible narrative while failing to recognize that God Himself is the interpretive key.

When we focus on the right rail–paying attention to what God is doing–we begin to see a coherent story developing. We see real progress. We see purpose and process and transformation and fruitfulness.

What God has been showing me lately is that the two rails are not two stories, but one. I discovered that the “soul train” is more like a monorail. The Spirit is leading us on an intentional journey through the circumstances we encounter in order to transform us along the way. God calls us to cooperate with Him by integrating the things we are experiencing with the reality of His Presence and supernatural working. Seeing the two rails together makes all the difference in the journey.

Are you tracking with me?

8 thoughts on “Riding the Rails

  1. Dave,
    Perspective can make all the difference … and your post today offers such a life-giving perspective. It reminds me there’s a right way — a healthy, God’s “got” this, God loves me — kind of way to travel through life, and there’s a wrong way — an “Eeyore,” “we’ll never make it” kind of way … one requires faith. The other requires doubt.

    • I’ve played the “Eeyore” role many times. From that vantage point–head down and looking at the ground–it’s impossible to see any good outcome. You’re right. Faith embraces eternal perspective by believing the truth about God’s character and His promises. Thanks for enhancing my perspective by sharing yours!

  2. Wow, Dave, you touched on my word for the year: perspective. Where am I looking? When my eyes are on God rather than those things out the left side of the train, I’m much more at peace. I love the way you used a train and rails to describe this. I’ve done my share of left rail pondering, and I’m learning to focus on God more quickly when circumstances seem overwhelming.

    • PERSPECTIVE is a great selection for word-of-the-year because it’s so easy to lose it! And I agree with you that it’s encouraging when our response time gets shorter.and we turn our attention to God and what He’s doing more quickly. Thanks for sharing your words and your word-of-the-year 🙂

  3. I don’t know Kim Henson, but I need to thank her for introducing me to you through her blog. Between your insight and artwork, I’ll be back. I wasn’t actually thrilled with your “Wanted Dead or Alive” post – with the challenges I am facing in life I am now concerned that “Jesus Wants Me Dead.” Ugh!

    • I’ve never met Kim Henson, but her personality comes through in her writing, and I really like her style. I am grateful to her for recommending this site to you, and I appreciate very much your encouraging comments. Dying can be a terribly uncomfortable and unpleasant process, especially when we do so reluctantly. As Kim put it, I die a slow death. But the life I’ve tasted on the other side of dying encourages me to try to die more willingly in the future. I am very sorry about the challenges in your life right now. If Jesus does want you dead, may He kill you to new life 🙂

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