Good morning Hump Day readers. Have you all changed your clocks? I’m glad we don’t change here in Arizona, trying to remember what time to call your family—or not to—can be a challenge! The fuss about daylight savings plans reminds me of optical illusions. Whether we make the change or not, the sun rises and sets, the moon comes up in the sky and for the most part, not much changes. For years we never changed and we knew that in fall we would wake up in more darkness and the days would be shorter. Is adding an hour make a huge difference or is it an optical illusion our minds have embraced?

A couple weeks ago I read the story of a train engineer. He was asked why so many people walk on train tracks or try to beat the train so they don’t get stuck waiting. He shared his many encounters, both good and bad, and wrapped the whole problem up with embracing an optical illusion. He told the committee: “Picture yourself walking on a set of train tracks when a train starts coming at you from behind. If the train engineer sees you on a track, they will blow the whistle. But at this point, you already have a few things going against you that you don’t even realize such as:

  • Large trains can’t stop the way motor-vehicles can because the average freight train usually has about 100 cars and weighs 12 million-plus-pounds!
  • It takes a full mile for a train to come to a complete stop. Even a small train would need at least a half-mile for a complete stop.
  • People lose their lives every year from others trying to beat the train or walk the tracks. Why? The engineer doesn’t want to hit anyone. In trying to stop a train quickly, the outcome often turns into the train going off the tracks which is tragic for sure.
  • Optical illusion happens with train tracks, that’s why you are told not to walk alongside them or on them. Why? When you turn around and see a train coming, it looks as if it is traveling half as fast and is about two times farther away from you than it really is. Also, a train traveling at full speed rumbles the ground underneath you and can shake you off your path and even suck you in.

My grandpa and my dad in his teens, worked for the EJ&E: Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.  Dad dubbed it “Egypt, Jerusalem and Everywhere” because it was a huge line at that time. As kids we were fascinated by trains but dad was strict—you don’t get close unless it is stopped at the station and never ever walk on the tracks. Wise words–did we listen? Not always. One time I decided to walk over the tracks in our little town of Mercer, WI where the train at that time still ran bringing vacationers to resorts like ours. I didn’t see the train but the ground was shaking so bad I opted to run the other way which was good because even though I couldn’t see the train, within a few seconds there it was!

Why is it that we tempt ourselves into something we know can be dangerous? Are we so filled with knowledge and confidence that we are living in an optical illusion? How many times do we potentially entangle ourselves in something we thought we could handle and the outcome was anything but we imagined—another optical illusion!

Our spiritual life is our life-line for living in this world. God’s Holy Spirit is always there to guide and direct our thoughts, actions, and relationships. Yet, many of us in this “you can do it, don’t listen to the nay-sayers” warnings are content to walk along the train tracks of temptation, giving Satan all the more wiggle room to sneak up on us and wreak havoc. The Apostle Paul saw this in the church at Galatia. His words of warning are relevant for us today as they were centuries ago! The Message Bible [5:16-18] speaks volumes of Paul’s warning:

“My counsel is this:
Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.
Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.
For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit,
just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.
These two ways of life are contrary to each other,
so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way
according to how you feel on any given day.
Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape
the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

Yes, our loving God has given us strength and confidence, wisdom and grace, and his mercy and forgiveness. It came at a high cost through the death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We do well to remember that cost when we are tempted to out-run the trains coming down the tracks in our lives, Amen.