He sits before me a 70-year-old man, slight build, with a shock of white hair sticking out from under his ball cap and tears glimmering in his eyes. He says very softly, “I’ve never been able to talk about this without choking up- the day I will never forget that changed my life forever- December 21, 1954- the day my Daddy died.”
He begins to tell me his story, the story of a little eleven-year-old boy who was at his grandmother’s house, studying for a history test. His Daddy stopped by before going to work and spent the afternoon quizzing his son to make sure he was prepared and knew all the answers. His father ruffles his hair before leaving and says “goodbye” for the very last time. You see, his father’s brand new car stalled when he was crossing the railroad tracks near their home and as fate would allow, he was hit violently by an on-coming train. His car catapulted 600 feet down the tracks and he died instantly. The boy’s mother, hearing the impact, runs immediately to the scene to be the very first to discover her husband’s body.
A widow was born that day and a young boy left forever without his father.
The events of that day, continued to impact his life and only 10 years later his mother dies from a heart attack or maybe simply from a broken heart -as she never got over the loss of her husband.
Now the story reveals a young man barely twenty-one years of age left parentless. Disappointment and anger are his rightful badge- a badge worn prominently on his chest for many years….. Who could blame him?
Until the day he comes to a crossroads where he is forced to make a choice- does he continue to ride this train of disappointment or take hold of a new path?
Some may say it was fate; I say it was God--God showing up in his life in a very real and tangible way- a God that intervenes.
The crossroads came in the form of an elderly 80 year old man, who happened to be dispatched to fill-in at the used car dealership that this young man was working. He recalls that he knew something was different about that particular day but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. The day was slow, business was bad and a storm came up forcing him inside and having to pass the time alone with this “temporary” worker. They spend hours together talking and finally the elderly man asks, “What is the single worst thing that has ever happened to you?” The man was quick to reply- “The day my daddy died.” As he tells the story of how his father was tragically taken from his young life the elderly man breaks down and weeps. You see, the elderly man happened to be a retired train conductor and he shares that the worst day of his life was when he tried valiantly to stop his train before hitting a young father that was stalled in his brand new vehicle on the railroad tracks! Yes, one in the same! God brought together the two people in this world that had one thread in common- the same tragedy that marked both of their lives!
Redemption, healing and forgiveness were given that day and the parentless man chose a new path. He chose to believe that God is good ALL the time and that the tragedy of what happened to his parents would not forever cause him to wear that badge of anger and disappointment his whole life.
God indeed revealed to him a new path! Today that man is richly blessed with a wife that has been by his side for over 40 years, a beautiful family and a long life marked by good fortune. God filled in the empty places in his life. He can now attest to God’s promise found in Romans 8:28- “And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 is actually my favorite Bible verse because it magnifies that God is not limited by the things of this world. He can take ALL things- the good, the bad, the ugly, the tragic, and the things that don’t make sense and turn them into your benefit. To bless you, make you stronger and oftentimes to make you a vessel of hope and healing to others.
What seat do you currently occupy on the train? What disappointments and hurts have marked your life- a death, loss of a dream, loss of a job, abuse, abandonment, divorce, or rejection?
The Bible is filled with story after story of disappointments and tragedies. The story of Leah is a great example of a life marked by disappointment. Leah forced to marry a man that didn’t love her and having to compete with her sister (whom her husband did madly love) lives a life desperate for love and acceptance. For years she tries to get her husband to acknowledge and love her by giving him sons. The names that she selects for her sons shows her desperate quest: Reuben- which means “see,” Simeon- which means “hear,” and Levi- which means “attached.” It isn’t until her fourth son that we see her final choice revealed- her son, Judah- that means, “praise.” Her circumstances had not changed; she was still married to a man that was devoted to another. Yet, it was her perception that changed- she chose to get off the train of disappointment and embraced a resilient spirit trusting God.
Leah never obtained the happily ever after, fairy-tale love that she so desperately wanted. But you know what? God not only blessed Leah with four sons she ended up woven into the very lineage of Christ. God took her disappointment and gave the world a Savior!!!
Disappointments, hurts, accidents, tragedies are simply a staple in our lives; we cannot escape them. The question isn’t how to avoid them but rather how to deal with them. Do we suffer them and continue to ride on the train of disappointment (a ride that derails us from having a relationship with our creator) or do we choose a new path (like this man, like Leah) that allows us to trust in the living God? Trusting that God will meet us right where we are and will take ALL things in our life and work them for good.
What will you choose? Will you stay in the seat of disappointment and ride that train for your whole life or will you choose a new path?
I’m praying for a defining moment in our lives. That when faced with disappointments and pain- that we will choose not to ride the train of disappointment but rather we will choose a new perception- a better path. That we will embody a resilient spirit that embraces God’s ability to turn our most tragic hurts and disappointments into blessings and that we will live the life that God intended for each of us- a life that always trusts in Him.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11