One day I hope to board an Amtrak train with a ticket to ride. Not just from one destination to another destination of my choosing, but from wherever I am to wherever it leads me. I want to hop off and see different towns, meet new people, stay a bit, linger and laugh with newly made friends and then when it is time to move on, hop back on and continue to wherever the tracks lead.
Almost sounds like a hobo, huh? But not quite.
Actually, my Grandpa Cecil Zorro Cook did the train tramp stuff in the 1920’s. He told me stories about hobos and jumping the rails. Funny ones and scary ones. But the difference between my dream and his was that he wasn’t looking toward something. Sadly, he was a teenager running away from something – a painful home life with an abusive, alcohol addicted father. He didn’t want to surrender control of his destiny but to claim it, control it and break free of his past and present. And while he had problems at home, he created more by illegally boarding a rail car without a ticket and eventually he would always turn around and go back to where it all started. Yeah, that sounds more like the Long, Black Train and I don’t want a ride on that.
That is not my journey. I want an invitation to board and to experience the friendly, helpful welcome as I enter and am directed to my seat. I want to savor the scenery as we pass by. To engage with others who are sharing part of my journey. My only job is to take care of me and be mindful and considerate of others as I enjoy the way laid out before me.
When I ride, I won’t need to be kept informed, I don’t want to track their time, I won’t be plaguing the staff with 20 questions like the lil’ kid on the Polar Express. The railroad personnel are in charge. They are informed. They are trained. They know. I don’t have to… although I might be curious. I am a passenger not the conductor nor engineer. Plus, I don’t know anything about trains so that would be bad if I assumed responsibility over something, I was ill-equipped to handle also, unhealthy and a tad more adventure than I would sign up for.
I want to be a passenger. Period. Everything else is out of my control so whether we stop at a small-town hub or a metropolis area overnight I’ll embrace it. Whether the train is moving at 50 mph or 5 mph I’ll trust their reasoning with it. The journey is not an adventure if I have to make it happen, understand, give or direct all the details and schedules. I would call that work… yeah, that’s not the same thing.
Yet isn’t that what we do with life? Even as believers?
You know what I mean. As a young adult our future was going to be the adventure. We’d find the perfect job and use our gifts and every day, and with each passing year, things would get better and better as we journeyed forward into the beautiful unknown. But then we hit a delay in the romance department. An unexpected stop in the rise of the work force. We begin to watch the clock and the calendar hoping you can work long enough to make this month’s bills or save up enough for an early retirement. And as you drive home you are so consumed or tired that you can’t see the beauty of clouds as they hover over the mountaintops or the rainbow perched in the clouds above and thoughts of the beautiful family you have waiting at home doesn’t fill you with joy but looks like more work.
Oh, the train called life is moving but we are stuck in our head and heart and time is flying by only to be lost forever. I am afraid that what we would refer to as an adventure in our youth is more like a pursuit for independence, perfection and control. The reality is that in order for all of that to happen we have to take on the role of scheduler, conductor, engineer and station master because otherwise it won’t measure up to our expectations.
Sadly, there is no way we can enjoy life when we get so busy living that we forget there is a ‘Conductor’ and ‘Engineer’ already overseeing our journey. OR when we have assumed the role of God. Lord. Sovereign Provider. All-knowing one.
Yet it happens every day. Many people hold a ticket, purchased with the blood of Christ, and board the train only to be constantly wrestling against God’s timing, plans and purposes. They miss the rest. The beauty. The people. The experience. Simply because they can not release their right/need to reign.
Been there. Done that. Don’t want to ever go back. If I am prompted to leave the train then I will anticipate there is a reason for it and look for people, hearts and beauty that I can enjoy and capture in memories for years to come. When the Conductor says, ‘All aboard.’ Then I am back on and basking in being close to Him for not even Moses was allowed to stay on the mountain forever. Therefore, when the train once again pauses and I will be ready and step down and into today’s adventure wherever my feet have landed.
Life has been an incredible ride and although I am not rich in coin or cash, thus far in my journey I have collected precious people, friends who I consider family, memories, opportunities and invaluable time with the Father. I have experienced heights and depths and found God faithful. I have learned contentment.
How many days or years remain til my journey’s end? That I do not know and I won’t sit around trying to plot, figure or extend it. What I would do is live out however many days there are in the fullness of life’s journey and seize each day as a gift, an open invitation to experience the adventure in Him. Until the day I arrive… home.
In the same manner I live my faith, I will hopefully one day board that Amtrak train. No plan. No control. Just anticipating God’s hand to guide me towards beauty, towards people where we can be encouraged, celebrate all that is good, minister, laugh and walk in the cool of the day. And when the whistle sounds in the distance, calling me on, then I’ll be ready for that and counting my blessings as my journey continues.