Sidetracked by a Train
Today as I was walking in our parking lot toward the building to work, I heard a train whistle rather clearly. Now, that’s something that doesn’t happen with great regularity here, as there is usually a lot of other noise downtown, and the atmosphere many times doesn’t carry those kinds of sounds very far. But today was different.
The whistle came from the southwest, which meant the train was on tracks that were in the Harry Street and Seneca/Meridian Street areas. That’s at least a couple of miles. The sound, however, was very clear and distinct, as if the train was just a couple of blocks away. And I knew from the sound of the whistle that the engine was moving slowly…probably doing some switching in the yard that’s down that way.
I was sorely tempted to get back in my pickup and find the train. I like to watch those large beasts as they work with loads beyond my comprehension. There’s a certain fascination with the noise, mechanics, and aura of railroading that I share with many others. I didn’t get in the truck, however. I stayed the course and went to work.
For just a brief moment, I was distracted from the work at hand. For just a quick second, I was sidetracked (no pun intended) from my responsibility to get to work on time and was pulled toward something that would accomplish no good purpose other than allow me to waste some time. For a fleeting breath, I was ready to abandon my schedule for the day and succumb to a flash-in-the-pan thought.
You might tell me that it’s OK sometimes to go off on an adventure. And I would agree that sometimes it’s a great way to enjoy life and learn. But today I had a schedule to keep, a meeting to attend, and other responsibilities that really needed to be done. Yet I almost threw all of that out in favor of chasing a locomotive horn.
What is it that causes us to lose our focus? Why do we fail to concentrate on the matters at hand? How is it that we get way off in left field when we should be on second base? Do we do this with spiritual things as well as the other “things” in life?
Paul said one time, “I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” I think Paul was probably sidetracked a few times, but he had the right idea. He realized that the prize offered by God is well worth the effort needed to obtain it. And he understood that diligence is needed to stay “on task” and complete the course.
Being the hands and feet of Jesus in this life isn’t a cakewalk. Sometimes it can be the most difficult thing you have to do. But the reward for faithfulness, diligence, and tenacity is greater than anything you can imagine. One translation of the passage above says, “I press on.” I like that even better, as it tells me I need to be putting my whole being into this business of being a
Christian. A half-hearted effort isn’t going to cut it. “Lord, work with me. Encourage me to whole-heartedly be the person you’d like me to be.”