Nearly two years ago, we moved. After months of digging in our heels, we were ready to pack up our farmhouse. Willingly, with intention and joy, my husband and I and our three young kiddos moved to the wrong side of the tracks.
You would think the actual train wouldn’t have come as such a shock to me.
My first night in our new home was spent lying wide-eyed in bed, trying in vain to rally a little empathy from my snoozing husband. “Can you believe this train?” It was more disruptive to my REM-cycle than an infant. I knew I’d never sleep again.
As impossible as it was to imagine, my body and brain eventually adjusted. I sleep just fine now.
But the train still inflicts daily angst. Beating the gates, crossing the tracks swiftly into the heart of our city is a rare and blessed occurrence, on par with winning the quilt raffle or having a neighbor drop by with a plate of piping hot tamales.
It always feels like a kicky stroke of luck.
Meanwhile, one street west? An overpass. I could choose to avoid this fist-shaking game of railroad roulette.
Truth is, I’m drawn to the short-cut, even though I know it might cost me in the end.
The past week has been a real heart-breaker. It’s one of those weeks that crashes out in slow motion, one collision after another, spitting shrapnel in the form of tears and snot, lit fuses and question marks.
Lives we have loved along some very hard roads are crumbling around us. There seems to be no end to the wreckage.
My husband and I spin through the first three cycles of grief – denial, anger, bargaining. The gears jam in the ditch of profound sadness. Acceptance feels a world away.
This is the pain of the Gospel. This is the risk we all take when we embrace the foolish courage of God’s economy and walk in the truth that He alone can carry hurting people straight from the lives burning down around them.
We know this because our own hair still carries the lingering scent of smoke.
So we invest and love and nudge and cheer. We dish out casseroles and hug these hardened hearts. Sometimes, they start to hug back. Over time, we build a make-shift family of people who live differently than us. We mine their lives for hope, sifting through each clod of dirt for one sparkly bit we can hold in our hands as proof.
Our job is to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as we are loved. Jesus shows us how. He yanks His lambs back from the cliff, hides us in His shelter. Sometimes we turn and run back to our comfortable filth, and it all begins again.
He says we’re worth this risk, so it just can’t matter that the job He gave us is slow or that it might leave us weary at the roadside.
My heart bending against the arc of each hair-pin curve, I’m learning there are no short-cuts to holiness.
I beg for grace. I plead for an overflow of mercy and love, for reserves never too dry to spill over my edges.
Like the whistle of the nighttime train, we’re getting used to the ruckus and laugh at the way it blends with our own. But the lights still flash and the gates slow us down. Sometimes the train derails.
And we wait.
Because it’s one thing to fast-track a Kroger-run, but when it comes to community, when it comes to learning God’s goodness and bearing witness to His grace, there’s just no rush. The best stuff is happening slowly, steadily, right here in our hearts, where the iron meets the rails.