The Raritan Valley Line
I’m still in Westfield this evening, and I just returned from a late dinner with my New Jersey client. I still have a conference call coming up and then I want to finish this post, because tomorrow I travel back home; and I will be busy most of the day.
Anyway, on the way back to my room, I happened to turn the corner on South Street just in time to see the train pull into Westfield Station. It’s a commuter train and although I can’t tell you much about it, the tracks border the hotel I stay in, and the sound of the train has become as familiar as an old friend. There are so many different lines out here that I can’t keep them all straight, but I know that the train is part of the Raritan Valley Line; so named because it goes all the way to Raritan, NJ – I guess that makes sense. But more than the name, the sound of the train intrigues me.
I grew up, as you know, on the south side of Chicago in Beverly Hills. We lived on Claremont Avenue, which was about 10 short blocks from the Rock Island tracks. When Dad worked downtown, he used to take the train, and one of the highlights of my day as a youngster was when Mom would pack us into the car to pick up Dad at the station. I remember how he got off, briefcase in hand, as the train left 99th Street Station on its way to 103rd Street. He always had a smile on his face and was glad to be back home.
The smile on Dad’s face became more memorable one fall evening as a classmate’s dad was walking between cars, getting ready for his stop, when his hat blew off and he reached down to catch it. He lost his balance and fell off the moving train as it was slowing down. He didn’t make it….
Depending on which way the wind was blowing, I could hear the train from my bedroom. I heard the whistle as the train approached the station, and because of where we lived, I could hear the trains pull into both the 99th and 103rd St. stations. In a way, the sounds of the night were lonely to me, but as I have grown older, I miss the sound of the trains. And it’s not the same when you hear trains in the rural communities. Because in the city, they’re starting and stopping all the time, and I remember how the trains chugged and puffed as they started out from each stop. Not quite the same when the train just crosses the landscape out in the middle of nowhere.
Anyway, as I sit here tonight, the methodical arrival of the trains bringing passengers home from Newark, and New York, punctuate the evening stillness. I’ve heard at least three of them since I have been writing here this evening. Kind of like the ticking of a clock, there is a kind of familiar, steadfast, dependable, even reassuring frequency throughout the day. Maybe I notice it more since we don’t really have any trains in Indy, and most of us drive everywhere we go. I miss the trains…..
But as I think about the constant sound of the trains in my life when I am out here, I can’t help but be reminded of God. For He is familiar, steadfast, dependable and reassuring – only much more so than the trains. On one hand, I think of all the folks who depend on the trains to get to and from their destinations each day. Of course, most of us depend on God to get us to our eternal destinations – don’t we? And while those locomotives appear to be some of the most powerful machines on earth, God is the most powerful force in the entire Universe!
When I hear the trains through the night, I can’t help but be reminded of God when he wakes me for a private conversation in the quiet of the “night watches.” And the familiar sound of the whistle calls to me like the whisperings of God – beckoning me to listen….
I don’t get to ride the train very often – once in a while as we head to New York. And then, that same familiarity returns that I remember from the years I used to join Dad, or my Grandpa, as they rode the train to LaSalle Street Station in downtown Chicago. Those times are ancient history to me now, but sometimes, like tonight, I think about the click-clack of the tracks and the swaying motion of the cars as they rode the rails. Still a comforting reassurance to me – like when God comforts me after a long, difficult day.
I wish that I could be as dependable and steadfast as God is – but that’s impossible. Because He’s God, and I’m not. But I do want to become more Christ-like in my behavior. And that starts with prayer – that God will stand beside me and do what has to be done in my life to help me be dependent on Him. So the verse for tonight is a short one, from Psalms 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Because with God’s help, I can do anything.
My encouragement this evening is for you to invite God to do a work in you that will help you remain steadfast in your commitment to Christ. Even as followers of Jesus Christ, it is important that we re-dedicate ourselves to His wish for our lives. My prayer is that He will honor your request and that you will continue on your journey to become more like Christ each day of your life. Have a great day in the Lord.