Getting Off the Train

train1Over twenty-one years ago I was on an Amtrak train on the way to Los Angeles. I was underweight from not eating enough and living on caffeine, I was on two kinds of medicine to stop heart palpitations and tachycardia (stress-induced), and I was exhausted. I was producing and hosting daily controversy on the Crosstalk Radio Talk Show, a daily local show called Homefront and filling in sometimes on the issues TV program, In Focus. At the same time, I was raising two little boys in a very difficult situation as a single parent. I sat on that crowded Amtrak train, thundering through the darkness, and I had an epiphany, one of those moments when your mind reveals in a flash what needs to be done.

In the middle of Illinois, on a cold January night, I got off the train in a small town at a brief train stop. I saw a sign for a Days Inn out the window, got my purse, and coat and got off the train. Really. I didn’t need to take the trip. I didn’t need to be on a dirty Amtrak train. I didn’t need more stress at the other end of the trip at a convention. What I needed was someone to say kindly to me, “Slow down, stop, this isn’t good for you. You’re killing yourself. Go home, put on your slippers, make some tea, and smile a bit with your kids.” So I got off the train.

After I left my radio job in 2011, I knew that certain stories were being circulated to explain my sudden departure. I learned a few days ago that this funny train story was one of them, told with a malicious spin. It occurred to me the other day that “getting off the train” is an apt metaphor for what we often need to do in life.

We thunder down the tracks in a specific direction, never questioning what we’re doing, assuming our presuppositions are correct and right for us, not realizing that something is out of whack. At times like that, we need to evaluate our situation, and if necessary, get off the train. Getting off the train is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and clarity.

Many times in life, others will not protect you. They will use you until you collapse in a heap, and then they will walk away, shaking their heads at how you didn’t measure up. That’s why, with God’s help, internal evaluations of our own lives and priorities is crucial. We can’t count on others, even those physically closest to us, to do the job for us. It’s wonderful when they do act and guide in our best interests out of real love. But ultimately, we need to do the job ourselves and ask the Lord for honesty and humility in self-evaluation.

There is a time to stay on a train until it reaches its destination. As I jumped off onto that platform in Illinois, however, I knew I had made the right choice to get off, and I still laugh at my audacity and nerve at doing the right thing, even while being judged as a nutcase. Do what is best for your life and soul and don’t sweat the labels! Just smile, and find your way home.

Drop-off!

I was weighed down with two large bags of library books and DVD’s in one hand with Emmy’s hand in the other in the library parking lot yesterday.

After going clumsily, and for my arm, painfully, through two sets of doors, we finally arrived at the book and media drop. I felt the bags grow lighter with the removal of each item. What a relief it was to put the one empty bag inside the other and make my way with my daughter to the children’s room.

The thought struck me that I often carry bags of burdens with me unnecessarily. So many things to be concerned about, so little time, has been my life’s motto. Despite knowing intellectually¬†that God has given me a way to lighten the load each day, I often carry them myself anyway.

The old song says, “…O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” It’s true. How many hours have I wasted and how much joy have I forfeited because I was brooding over what I couldn’t change anyway?¬†Never once has a worry or concern that I carried ever gotten better because I had it in my possession. The heavy bags of care only sag my shoulders with the weight I am not equipped to handle.

But as we hand over each successive care to the Lord for His keeping, like my bags of library books, the weight grows lighter and lighter, and so does the state of our hearts.

We sometimes have to head repeatedly for the drop-off place for our burdens. Otherwise life will freshly load us down with troubling news or new developments. We have to refuse to carry them an inch. The drop-off slot is as near as God’s ear. In prayer, we can shift the burdens to the One who has promised us that His yoke is easy and his burden, light.

If you are carrying bags of care today, head for the drop-off spot in prayer, and enjoy the relief it can bring.