On the Night Train

What cargo do you carry as you come barreling through?
Is it good or ill to seal my destiny desperately or in ecstasy?
What passengers ride along and do they belong to the night
Or to the light? Are they kind enough to mind themselves?
And do you bring grain for the hungry soul or only pain?
Nothing is plain to see in such numinous rain; it’s insane!
But, then, what should one expect . . .? It is the night train


Reflections on a Rabbit’s Foot, Train Tracks, and Living Life

Behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.  (Num. 32.23b, ESV)

At one time, trains moved America. In fact, it might be fair to say this nation was largely built on railroad tracks, and if that’s an overstatement, it’s not much of one. Powerful engines roaring across the great landscape of “my country tis of thee” is an important part of the very soul of the nation. Ask just about any old-timer and they’ll tell you.

It must have been during my fourth or fifth grade year that the railroad folks visited Northside Methodist Academy, where I attended school. Of course, by this time in the history of our country railroads were not nearly as important as they had been, but still… The presentation was quite compelling, especially the part about safety.

I remember well the “lucky rabbit’s foot” story one of the men told, and just how applicable it is to all of life, really. So it goes:

Way back in the olden days, this really cool guy with a racy car loved to fly down the road, around a slight curve and across the railroad tracks just before the train reached the crossing. He thought it was even more thrilling when he had a girl with him, because she’d get all upset and start screaming, which made him feel more like a man (stupid!).

Every time the girl started yelling and carrying on for fear of her life, he’d just smile and pull out his charm and say, “Don’t worry, babe. Look! I got my lucky rabbit’s foot. Works every time!” And sure enough, time and after time, it seemed to work … or, at least, he made it across the tracks without being hit.

One day, though, a few years later he was cruising down that same road with his wife, and there he saw it coming. The train! He couldn’t resist, so he floored it and his young bride started screaming. He looked over at her, smiled, held out his precious charm and said, “Don’t worry, sweet! I’ve got my lucky rabbit’s foot!”

He rounded the curve and sent his car sailing over the tracks … almost. The train hit them dead on and both of them died instantly. Thankfully, their newborn son was staying with grandparents, who ended up being really the only parents he knew, but anyway… Time went on and so did the trains.

Years later, a suave young man with a really sporty car was cruising down that same road with his hot, little girlfriend by his side. And wouldn’t you know, but here came a train. This daredevil guy with gleam in his eye floored it, racing to make it across the tracks ahead of the train.

His girlfriend screamed, “What are you doing? You’re gonna get us killed! Stop!” But he just looked at her, smiled and lifted something up in front of her face and said, “Don’t worry, babe, I’ve got my grandpa’s lucky rabbit’s foot!” And, of course, the end of the story is obvious.

I’ve since had reason to think about this illustration and indict myself for being so utterly foolish. No, racing trains has never been my thing, but in a sense I have raced just barely ahead of danger ~ all kinds of danger ~ time and time again, barely “crossing the tracks,” so to speak, ever so slightly escaping collision.

But you know what? That old scripture is true. “Your sin will find you out.” Eventually, you will get hit. I know. I’ve been hit. And I can’t say anything except mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! My fault, my fault, my own grievous fault! Time and time again I’ve raced round that curve, full speed, just knowing I’d make it across the track safely … just one more time. Just one more time.

Well, “just one more time” eventually becomes “one time too many,” and you’ve got to pay the price. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” You won’t make it across in time. The train will hit. The impact will be terrible. You might not survive. Damn thing about it is, someone else might suffer, too. And their only fault? Being with you…