As believers, our corporate and individual journeys might be likened to travel by rail. Our travel agent has planned a glorious, whistle-stop tour, promised to be the trip of a lifetime! By nature, however, most of us are not that adventurous! We can’t resist the temptation to let go of the journey, striving to settle at a destination - eventually letting our passports expire.
Somehow we’ve come to view God as merely the vehicle we use to reach these stops, instead of viewing the journey from God’s perspective. He is the track, the vehicle, and the destination, or as Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6 NIV) New life in him begins here and continues on throughout eternity. It is a supernatural destination, always in motion. Throughout the journey, we must pay attention to our conductor and guide as he shows us the sites and tells us when to move on.
Our itinerary is action-packed and leads us to places we would never go on our own, so we must keep with the tour. If we don't, we'll miss important stuff and we’ll likely have to wait until the train comes around again before we can get back on track. Every time we miss a stop, it effects the livelihood of the locals who rely on our visitation to sustain their lives.
To help paint this picture of life on a train, take a look at the post-apocalyptic movie Snow Piercer. The setting for the movie is a high-tech, self-sustaining luxury train - repurposed as a lifeboat for humanity amidst the onset of an ice age. The perpetual train engine, created by a technological genius, was built to circle the world on a specially built track. The whole train, including the lives of the passengers, served as an ordered ecosystem, balanced to maintain itself forever as it powerfully blasted away snow, ice and debris which fell or formed in its way. All worked together for the good. Certainly, this scenario is not a perfect metaphor for life in the Spirit, but it speaks to a needed shift in focus, putting more value upon both the journey and the one who conducts it.
Since life in the Spirit is a supernatural journey, it's helpful to view the train from a supernatural viewpoint. In this reality, the train operates more like the streetcars of San Francisco where passengers board and exit the train while it’s still in motion. Yeah, this is a little risky, but after a while, the passengers get used to grabbing a hold. As believers, this is what we did when we accepted an invitation to the Kingdom. We heard the call of “all aboard,” and grabbed on to this moving train, believing, that somehow, our future lay in holding fast to the promise. Jesus said that those born of the Spirit are to be in motion; they are like the wind. The wind blows where it will. When it blows, it moves and it moves things around. One of the things the wind moves around is sound.
The wind can carry the sound of a distant train whistle, and can rocket that sound straight to our ears and give us advance notice of its arrival. May the wind always be blowing in our direction. That’s just how the New Testament Church operated, but over time, we’ve come to operate our own trains by our own schedules, by what is predictable, and what seems safe. When we do so, the wind is no longer needed as we've already calculated and programmed our own path. In many ways, the church tends to get off track and miss listening for what’s blowing in the wind. Don’t get me wrong, God’s train is definitely goal-driven and runs by a schedule; but this schedule is beyond figuring out - it’s downright unpredictable! At times, this can seem like a deal-breaker for man and can sometimes prompt us to switch tracks that we might return to a place of comfort and comprehension. It’s best, however, to trust the way of the track, even when we can’t see or comprehend the journey.
So where am I going with this metaphor? Only this - we don’t get to choose when the train goes by. If we’re busy doing other things, we can miss the opportunity. The wind seems to be carrying a very distinct whistle to those who have ears to hear; but sometimes, the walls of our stations have become so thick, the sound can’t reach us inside. Oh, and did I mention that this is a cooperative journey? We are both passengers and servants upon this train and it only runs smoothly when we’re all listening to the conductor and are fitly joined together like the workings of the train itself. Each of our talents, abilities, and callings are needed so that together, the train can be focused upon the journey and not upon the stations built along the way.
This concept may be new to many of us, but it’s as old as the engineer himself. This has always been his operating procedure. His trains always run on time, even if we don’t always like the schedule. But as we adapt to this journey we become equipped for the ride. We must be those who have ears to hear what the wind is broadcasting and be ones who become expectant for the train’s arrival. It takes faith to board a moving train, and it takes faith to not know exactly where we're going. But, we’re promised that it doesn’t take so much faith as we might expect. Fortunately, as mentioned previously, we’ve grabbed a hold at least once before. So, next stop…there is no stopping - weren’t you paying attention?