The train was big and beautiful, and it carried in it the promise of a new approach to life.
Hurting young souls, my parents boarded it with abandon bringing a pile of children along with them. They read the manuals and obeyed the rules with fervor, always believing that this train was taking them to a land where life was easy and their hard work of the rule-life would pay off in great measures of success.
Life in the boxcar wasn’t so bad. We did odd things that made us “different”, but once you get the knack of it, being “different” can easily make you feel superior.
We had secrets in our boxcar that we did not tell anyone. We had secrets that we did share, but the ones that stayed concealed were far more poisonous.
Still, we wore our train clothes and lived out our train manual and sang the song of the train life without complaint, fooling those around us with exceptional ability.
One day, big sister was called up to the Big Engine. Later, little sister also received her call. The rest of the family lived in the boxcar only, but seemed to want the Big Engine life so badly that they feigned boxcar life for the Big Engine experience.
For little sister, much sadness happened in the Big Engine life.
She got off the train somewhere around age twenty, but it took another decade and a half to eradicate and undo much of the life she was forced to live while on board. After all, when a person lives in a way they were not meant to live for long enough, their walk becomes altered, and they have a bit of a permanent limp.
Having only been boxcar people, the family did not understand. Marked as ungrateful and rebellious, much of her life in the Big Engine was put away and laid to rest in the deepest parts of her soul as best as possible in hopes that leaving it behind was what was needed to finally heal.
“Odd” is probably the way I’d describe the person I have always been.
Alone in the crowd.
I recall being told when I was young and living on the train that I was “odd for God”, but somehow I always had this sneaking suspicion that the separateness that God wanted from me and for me was something altogether different.
My limp took me down bad roads of heartache and sadness. Living surrounded mostly by others whose sole existence has been the train life kept me walled in from any real progress and departure from those ways of living.
I never visited the train even though many of my family members still lived on it, and those who’d deboarded still stunk of the manual. For many years, I simply held my nose when mentions of the manual came around. It seemed to be the only way.
In my desperateness to leave that train life behind, I built deep, hardened scabs over my infected wounds and never allowed much cleaning to take place.
I dressed my wounds and applied bandages often, but the telltale signs of gangrene were abundant.
The infection became so great and so deep that it had spread to all parts of my body. I even saw indications that my children were becoming infected as well. They’d never been exposed to the train life or the manual, but because it had so infected me, they seemed to be becoming recipients of a sort of generational type of thing.
One day, my sickness had become so that the only means to survival was a radical amputation. The Great Surgeon cut off infected arms and legs and huge chunks of heart and cast them aside.
And when sacrifices that great are made for survival, suddenly the ability to hold one’s nose begins to fade. I developed a true intolerance for mentions and implications of the good of train life.
For a second time, I left my entire life in an effort to start a new one so that the train sickness that still infected those I was in close proximity with would not continue to leach onto me and re-infect the little bit of me that was still intact.
Bandaged, bloodied, and broken, I made my escape.
I sought out the care I’d never known how to find when I was younger.
I allowed surgery after surgery to be performed on my heart so that scar tissue could be removed and feeling and movement be restored.
In a very painful process where I traded my physical health for emotional and spiritual health and lost most of my relationships, I finally began to feel a real and true freedom from the train disease that once throbbed through every pulse of my blood.
Forgiveness found its way to my heart in a strange set of circumstances that only the Surgeon Himself could have ordained for me. It seemed that the longer I was able to Be Still there on His operating table, the deeper He was willing to operate on me.
Health began to return.
New relationships sprung up where old ones had died.
The deadness of my limbs was replaced by the beginnings of new mobility.
In the first year of my rehabilitation, word came to me that the atrocities of the train life were still happening in full swing. Nothing had really changed. In fact, the abuses not only continued, now they were fully unchecked as those who were left to guard such behaviors had all but fallen asleep.
A brand new generation of little sisters and were being harvested and slaughtered all in the name of the Big Engine. With no one to stand in the gap for them. With no one to speak up for them.
At first, requests for my participation were few and subdued. But within months, it was as though my door was being pounded down by a myriad of my fellow rehabilitated train amputees.
I looked down at my scars and scabs and wondered what good might come of them if I kept them all to myself. How could these ugly permanent features of mine be used for good if not to give me courage to speak out against the Big Engine?
And so, ever so tenderly, one day, I took a carving knife to my flesh and began digging deep, baring what only the Surgeon had seen during His many surgeries on me.
In fully uncovered nakedness, I climbed back aboard that train one day to share the true pictures of my gangrene-damage so that those asleep on board might see and take heed and wake themselves. I sat anxiously and patiently as the world-gone-mad around me began taking their first looks at my newly revealed image.
My nakedness was viewed ten thousand times in the first couple of days.
After that, I stopped counting.
The response was mixed.
Mostly, my wounds and ugliness were covered with words of tenderness and healing. But every now and then, there were those who thought it ok to reach their hands right into my wounds and manipulate them painfully just to see if maybe I’d lied about where I got them or if they were real at all.
Wounds that had been operated on and healed were torn open anew.
For the first time in years, blood flowed from those old wounds.
And as time passed, I saw that the bleed did not stop.
They tore at the scabs, demanding more blood than I’d originally been willing to give. Others mocked what they saw and spoke my worst fears back to the privacy and pain of my own heart. Some belittled the experience that caused my wounds, and still others said that it was fabricated.
In the end, the mob – made up of mostly family and old friends – pulled me to the back of the train and let me drag off of the back. I suppose this was either because they did not really know how to handle the sudden nakedness of their kin or because they were appalled that I, their own, would stand so flagrantly against the Big Engine. To them, it must’ve seemed blasphemy. To them, they must’ve seemed to need to show their allegiance. Not to me, but to the Big Engine.
After months of being dragged, I find myself asking why.
Why hang on?
Why keep trying?
I tell myself that this is my duty.
The only way to make good of the bad things that happened.
To absolve so much evil into the ultimate greater good.
I think somehow that there is more to be accomplished than what was done that day when I carved myself and stood naked on the train. That if I just keep standing up or if I just keep speaking out or if I just keep bleeding, others will take notice and hide themselves and their little sisters.
But this dragging has become too much.
The beauty worked on me in those surgical rooms is becoming undone.
Heavy scabs of unforgiveness threaten to return.
Scars are beginning to re-form.
One day it occurs to me that perhaps I ought to let go.
I ought to get back to the business of life and here and now.
That maybe I already did the thing I was called to do that day when I carved myself and showed it to everyone.
That maybe those who were going to hear already did.
And those who aren’t going to, never will.
One day it occurs to me that I am only being dragged because I feel such tenacity to hold on.
To not quit.
To try harder and think of new ways of presenting the truth of what happened in my train life so that more and more people can be aware and hide themselves and their little sisters.
But maybe it’s time for this to end for me.
And maybe it’s time for me to return to the operating table for some minor surgical repairs.
One day, it occurs to me that the dragging will stop when I finally let go.
When I finally detach.
When I finally let that train – filled with those I longed to wake – leave my sight and move away without me.
It’s funny how the prison we most long for freedom from can become itself a den of familiarity, so that, when given the freedom we ache for, sometimes, we hold on to those prison bars for dear life. Not because we want to stay, but because the pain of leaving the others behind who simply will not see that they have been fooled and are truly imprisoned is often most painful.
With all my might, I choose to cut myself free.
And as I walk away from the train for the second time in eighteen years, I am filled with a yearning to not allow my experiences to stay and die with me.
To make them count.
To milk them for every drop they are worth.
I must turn this page.
I must let go, or I will continue to be dragged.
The train will head wherever it will now.
My mission has been accomplished, and it will have no more of me.
And now I will busy myself with the work of taking the evil that was and letting its pain and blood-loss account for something good and something whole and something right.
There is a time for everything.
And this is the time for closure from the train life.
A time that all its sins and evils be laid to rest.