When I was a lad my dad built a train table for us boys. It was a large HO scale set with tunnel, trestle bridge, and three different passenger and freight lines. I still have the special wooden snow plow my dad made. I had to sell the rest of the set when I moved to Australia, but it was a beauty! One of the nice features was that it didn’t just go around in circles. It had switches so you could turn a train onto different tracks or sideline some cars and pick up others.
I started thinking about those switches the other day. I suppose the switches are operated automatically in the real train world these days, but in my experience as a “train engineer” one had to pay close attention to throw the track switch so the trains didn’t get in a wreck.
Come to think of it, our thoughts sometime travel on tracks of sorts. The phrase, “having a one-track mind” comes to mind. You know the feeling, when you’re so driven and focused on one thing, that you can’t easily see another ‘track’ or way of thinking. Or something distracts you and you find yourself ‘sidetracked’ from where you were going in the first place. (Tell me this doesn’t just happen to me!)
Then there are those times when we get on the wrong track. We start to complain or judge someone. We focus on the trivial while forgetting the important. We find that we have picked up unnecessary baggage cars that strain our load. We’ve left important goals and values on the side tracks. Confusion sets in when we’ve lost our way and we wonder if there is any way we can get back on track.
There are some baggage cars that weigh all of us down. Paul names them in his letter to the Colossians: whatever belongs to your earthly nature, immorality, impurity, lust, greed (which is a form of idolatry) to name just a few. He says we need to switch other baggage to the sidelines too, including anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, lying (including ‘white lies’). Then switch on a new load that will seem light to carry: the knowledge of who you are as God’s child, a person of worth, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Pick up forgiveness, love, thankfulness, and wisdom that gives you the desire for unity, peace with others. (Colossians 3:5-16)
The good news is we all have the God-given power to throw the switch. Switch from negative thinking to positive options, from worry to faith, from bitterness to forgiveness, from complaining to thankfulness. There are so many switching opportunities for us each and every day!
Take a look at the track you are on these days and the load you’ve been carrying. Sideline the weight that is slowing you down, pick up the lighter load that will get you to your right destination. And remember – keep your eye on the switch!