DayBreaks for 1/25/18: The Rails of Life
From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:
This past Tuesday night when we got back from being with our youth group, I had a phone call waiting on our answering machine. It was from the mother of a good friend of mine from high school. I’d not heard this woman’s voice for probably 38 years (could I possibly have graduated from high school that long ago??!!). She was calling to tell me that my friend, Lesley, who has struggled with cancer for years, is very near the end of her struggle, and that “we’re counting down the days.” What a contrast to the phone call we received just before going to youth group that night from our youngest son, letting us know that he and his wife are with child – their first. We were, of course, ecstatic!
As happy as I was and am for our son and his bride, I was crushed by the news of Lesley. This “girl” (I still think of her as I knew her in high school) has had a difficult life. Within a few months after we graduated, she was riding in a car when she was struck by a train and severely injured. It was touch and go to see if she’d live or die. She was left with some permanent issues from that accident, but she did survive and went on to become the mother of 3 boys.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her husband left her. He said he couldn’t deal with it. Eventually, she found another man – a good one – who loved her for who she was and in spite of her cancer, they married. For years, they fought her cancer side by side. Now, the end of the fight is near. Her mother asked me if I would do her daughter’s memorial service. Such things are the great privilege of a friend and pastor.
As I thought about this situation, in conjunction with the passing of a young girl from our community with cancer, I shared at the youth group last Tuesday night some thoughts about death and loss. God’s timing, though strange to us, is always perfect. Little did I know as I stood there with the youth that I’d get to put into practice so quickly the things I was talking about. We showed a NOOMA video that made the observation that we can choose whether or not we become bitter about life and what happens, and also that we can choose to focus on what we’ve lost instead of what we have. Good lessons.
Then, on Wednesday morning, I got an email from a DayBreaks reader with an interview from Rick Warren, whose own wife has been stricken with cancer. In the interview, he talked about life, it’s ups and downs, and how we often think of life as a series of peaks (the good times) and valleys (the bad times) – and how we move from one to the other so often. But then he went on and made an observation that I thought was really good. He said that he didn’t see life as peaks and valleys, but more like a pair of train tracks. One rail is good, one rail is bad, and they run in parallel throughout our life.
As I considered Lesley’s situation and the impending memorial service, I realized how true the words were from the video and Rick Warren, and how well they fit together. The train of our life runs on both tracks…the question is, which track are we going to focus our emotions on? There is always good and bad…simultaneously. Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul encouraged us to consider the good things and “think on these things.” If we don’t, the badness of the other rail can do us in and lead us into bitterness and depression.
For those of us who are left behind (and today, 1/21/2008, is the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing to glory), we can choose life over death, joyful memories over painful ones, happy times over sad, love and laughter over loss. We can claim once again and for all time the memories that mean so much to us of those we have loved and lost.
And one more thing: we can hold with confidence to the truth that God is busy making everything new, restoring all the loss – and that someday, we’ll see that with our own wonder-filled eyes.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for our friends and family. Thank You for the hope of all things being made new, and for the ability to choose to see the good and not just the bad. You are awesomely wonderful, Father! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.