Well, the prophetic groundhog in Pennsylvania has apparently condemned us to six more weeks of winter, so there go our fantasies of an early spring. But the good news is that Valentine’s Day is still coming up soon, and we can forget about the weather for a while and focus on romance, roses, and heart-shaped exhibitions of our undying affection for someone. And because some love stories end up more like a train wreck than a Hallmark movie, we’ll save our candy hearts for a later post and take our first “love month” edition in a different direction.
Serious Events ~
And speaking of comparing relationships and train wrecks, even though I’ve never witnessed or been personally involved in an actual train wreck, I’ve seen more than my share of the interpersonal variety. I’ve walked through the twisted, painful, chaotic remains of wrecked relationships, de-railed partnerships, failed commitments, and head-on collisions between lies and truth. I’ve seen relationships get derailed, families torn apart, careers destroyed, ministries dissolved in shame, reputations left mortally wounded, and individuals reduced to a state of abject despair. Real train wrecks are serious events with extensive repercussions, but so are those relational disasters happening all around us that leave us with familiar questions and important reminders that emerge in the aftermath of both.
Surveying the wreckage of either kind of train wreck elicits familiar questions, like “How on earth did this happen?” Another natural follow up is, “Couldn’t this have been prevented?” Then our fallen human nature prompts us to look for someone to blame, so we ask “Whose fault is this?” We might not consciously acknowledge it, but there’s a realization underlying those questions. As we look at the chaotic debris before us, it’s natural for our minds to be drawn toward the other trains running on other tracks, totally unaware that they’re heading toward another disastrous collision. Not surprisingly, God thinks about that, too, and not only does He have some answers to our questions, He reminds us that we have a preventive role to play as well.
A Corresponding Paradox ~
As mentioned earlier, train wrecks, whether metaphorical or otherwise, are serious events. That may be an obvious observation, but there’s a corresponding paradox that may not be so obvious. When it comes to relationships, it is our glaring lack of seriousness in certain vital areas that allows the enemy to plant landmines on the tracks. Adjusting our perspective in those areas could prevent untold damage.
For instance, relational train wrecks can often be traced to a failure to take the Word of God seriously or personally. Imagine getting a personal letter from the Director of the IRS. Suppose that letter informed you that there were specific regulations regarding how you handle your income and the taxes involved, and that an audit would eventually be coming. Do you suppose you’d just toss it in with the junk mail? Would you assume that the Director didn’t really mean what he said, and that you had no obligation to abide by any of those rules? I rather doubt it. Yet multitudes of us regard the letters sent to us from God with just such a nonchalant attitude, if we even bother to read them at all. The writer of the Hebrews epistle made the seriousness of God’s Word clear:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13 NKJV)
Another Broken Heart ~
Two things, at least, are true about our communications from God. One is that He chooses His words carefully, and the second is that He takes them seriously. The living God who created us loves us intensely, and when our heart breaks, so does His. Because of that, He takes steps to protect us from relational train wrecks by providing clear warning signs about dangerous areas we need to avoid. But if we don’t think He really means what He says, or that it doesn’t apply to us, then disaster could be lying around the next bend.
The matter of sin and its consequences is another issue we tend not to take seriously. In a culture consumed with selfishness and obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure, the cries rising up from the emotional wreckage is almost deafening at times. Yet in spite of that, most of our churches still avoid identifying any bizarre perversion of God’s design for human interaction as sin, much less suggest that there might be consequences. The devil is masterful in convincing us fallen creatures that a brief excursion into forbidden territory won’t hurt anybody. The idea that a little harmless flirtation would be okay, or that a private digital exchange with some suggestive overtones isn’t a problem couldn’t be farther from the truth. What is often considered a harmless flirtation is really flirting with disaster. James made it clear how temptation progresses and where it ends:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13–15 NKJV)
Another Serious Issue ~
Finally, we often fail to take our responsibility toward one another seriously. It’s often easy to ignore those suffering around us because we’re busy. We may avoid reaching out to others whose train might be going off the rails because we don’t want to intrude. Jesus came to us when we were buried in the twisted mess we’d made of our own lives, sometimes more than once. He heard our cries and lifted us out of the wreckage. Now it’s our turn. He sent us to wade into the wrecks like He would, to embrace the wounded like He would. He sent us to pay attention to the tracks around us and respond when we see landmines under the rails. Jesus taught us to treat love as a verb, not a noun, and He was very serious when He gave us directions like these:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9 NKJV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NKJV)
… that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:25–26 NKJV)
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (Galatians 6:1 NKJV)
Another Valentine’s Day is coming, and it’s a time to indulge in a celebration of love and praise God along with all those who are blessed to be living out their own Hallmark movie. But it’s also time to look around us and see if there might have been a train wreck nearby with wounded victims … victims who need our attention and the loving heart of Jesus that lives in and through us.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “When it comes to relationships, it is our glaring lack of seriousness in certain vital areas that allows the enemy to plant landmines on the tracks. Adjusting our perspective in those areas could prevent untold damage.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God chooses His words carefully & takes them seriously. The living God loves us intensely & when our hearts break, so does His. To protect us from relational train wrecks, He provides us with clear warning signs about dangerous areas we need to avoid.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The matter of sin & its consequences is an issue we tend not to take seriously. In a culture consumed with selfishness & obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure, the cries rising up from the emotional wreckage is almost deafening at times.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The devil is masterful at convincing us that a brief excursion into forbidden territory won’t hurt anybody. The idea that a little harmless flirtation is ok or a private digital exchange w/suggestive overtones isn’t a problem couldn’t be farther from the truth.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus came to us when we were buried in the twisted mess we’d made of our own lives. He heard our cries and lifted us out of the wreckage. Now it’s our turn. He sent us to wade ‘into’ the wrecks like He would, to embrace the wounded just as He would.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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Let us be ever mindful of the needs of those around us, and be ready to serve in love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Ron!
I love your word for the year, Martha, and once again, I am blessed with your encouraging response. I was late getting to your last post but I just left a comment. I think it was one of your best, and the message is so greatly needed. I loved your encouragement about giving, and found it interesting that Diane and I also support the two organizations you mentioned and, like you, praise God for the work they do.
Lots of interesting thoughts, from lots of different angles as I read your post with rapt attention this morning sir. My first thought, beyond my amazement at your ability to share such wisdom week after week of course, was that “Failure to heed the warnings lead to most wrecks.” Trains have lights and numerous warning and safety systems. Aircraft have CAS (Collision Avoidance System) technology to warn of impending peril. And yes, personal relationships have their warning systems too (arguments, fights, resentment, etc.). Ignoring those warning often lead to disastrous results. Need a biblical example? “Don’t look back!” “Poof! You’re a pillar of salt!” 🙂
Another thought was how we often never see those wrecks coming because we don’t focus on “health”, we don’t “Inspect the tracks”. In the military, I can remember watching all those silly USAF or USN flightline personnel walking around the tarmac looking like everyone was searching for their lucky penny. It took years for me to learn they real purpose. They were on “FOD Walks”. I know, some just tilted their head and went “Huh?”, like my pal Bubba the chocolate lab does when I ask him to fetch me a 9/16ths boxed-end wrench. F-O-D stands for Foreign Object Debris, and if some FOD ever gets sucked into a jet engine, catastrophic results can occur. Back to your train, failure to inspect those upcoming tracks, or reliance that “it’s someone else’s job” can allow potential hazards (loose or broken rails, missing ties or spikes, etc.) On a personal front, our failure to do both physical and spiritual health checks can often lead to serious consequences. Ignore that blurry vision? Learn you’ve slowly been going blind over the past two years. Never take time to check your blood pressure? Await the coming stroke. Ignore that pesky cough? “How can I have lung cancer?” You get my point.
My take-away, and you always lead me to one my friend, is that too many times in life we employ a “Not my place/Not my job” approach to health and safety. Whether our own or another’s, it’s always our place to be watchful for the warning signs of impending danger and recognize the importance of keeping watch over yourself and those you care for. “Who is my neighbor, Lord?”
God’s blessings sir, and praying a full and fast recovery, and maybe a long break from the health maladies that have been dogging you of late old friend.
Opening your response once again brought some fresh rays of warming sunlight along with it, and some welcome and characteristically stimulating insights that I wouldn’t have thought of. I especially like the FOD illustration. I love things that fly–other than the living ones that want to feast on my blood or attack me with their little hypodermic needles, and I’m always intrigued with fresh illustrations and applications about life that have their roots in that arena. During our time in Alaska, I had some pilot training and even though we weren’t flying jets, I can appreciate the threat that debris on the runway could cause and the connection to our relationships is wise and practical advice.
I also resonate with the comment about the personal health checks. It’s so easy to avoid, put off, or just ignore things going on in the only body we have, and I’m guilty of doing that. Diane and I never forget that you and your wonderful life partner have health issues that are confronting you and we pray for you and join our faith with yours for God’s healing and sustaining grace. We’re always amazed at the positive and encouraging attitude you never fail to project She doesn’t say it out loud, but I’m pretty sure Diane wants me to me more like you when I grow up. 🙂
Anyhow, we’re hoping that you guys and the Cross-Dubya family survived this latest blast of winter and that a warmup is heading your way. And again, God bless you for making our “Shabbat” morning so much more uplifting and encouraging than it would have been without your thoughtful response.