The Father & The Train

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Many years ago I heard a story that has stuck with me.  I heard it again recently as part of a sermon at our congregation.  Please allow me a moment to share it with you:

Every day, a hard-working father would walk to his job down by the railroad track.  He carried with him his simple lunch pail and a rag to wipe away the sweat.  The man was not well paid, but he made enough to take care of his young son.  He was often looked down upon by those who met him, but he knew his job was important.  He controlled the draw bridge that allowed boats to go under and trains to go across.

But this day was different.  Though he normally made the trek alone, today his son joined him for the first time.  The two walked hand-in-hand as his son asked him question after question.

“Hey dad, how far is it?  What will I get to do?  Do you see birds from your shack?  How many trains go by each day?  Are the boats big?”

The dad patiently answered each question for his young child as he enjoyed the experience with his son.

As they reached the small shack on the edge of the river, the two settled into the small space and enjoyed the early morning sunshine together.  After a couple hours of watching boats pass by, the faint sound of a train whistle could be heard in the distance.  The son got excited because he had never seen the draw bridge lower.  The dad started through his process of turning all the dials and engaging all the necessary locks.  Within a few moments, the draw bridge was down and ready for the train.  It wasn’t long before the train came around the corner.  The son stood at the window of the shack and waved at passengers as they went by.  To his disappointment, no one even saw that he was there.  The dad simply patted him on the back and smiled at him.  “Come on son.  We have a few hours before the next train will come.  Let’s take a walk, and I’ll show you how the bridge works.”

The dad raised the bridge again so the boats could pass by, and they started toward the large gearbox.  The son’s sadness quickly vanished as he laid eyes on the gears inside the pit that were as big as he was.  He had never seen anything like it before!  The dad showed him all the different components and how they all work together to keep everyone on the train safe.

All of a sudden, the dad heard a noise he had not been expected: a train whistle.  He looked at his watch.  It was about an hour early.
“Come on son.  Hurry!  We have to get back and get that draw bridge back down.”

As the dad quickly turned to run back to the shack, he heard the gut-wrenching sound of his son’s scream.  When he turned back, he saw that his son has fallen into the pit of the gearbox.  It was too far down for his dad to be able to reach him, and the only ladder was back at his house.  His son laid there lifeless, knocked unconscious from the fall.

The dad didn’t know what to do.  If he went back to the shack and lowered the draw bridge, his son would be killed in the gears.  If he took the time to get his son to safety, there wouldn’t be enough time to lower the bridge and countless people would die.

The father looked through tears at his son.  He told his son that he loved him, then he turned to run quickly to the shack.  He had an obligation to the lives of the people on that train.  Through the sobs, the father grabbed the dials and began the process of lowering the drawbridge.  His son was gone, and he knew it.

Within moments, the train was passing by as if nothing had ever happened.  He stood at the door of the shack and wept bitterly as he looked at the passengers.  They were smiling and laughing.  They were playing games.  They were reading books.  They were catching up with friends.

Not one of them looked out the window and saw him.  Not one of them knew he was going through the most tormenting moment of his life.  None of them seemed the care.  They simply went on with their peaceful, merry lives as if he didn’t exist.

None of them knew he had just sacrificed his only son to save them from a fiery death.  This simply made the father cry even more.

Maybe you’ve heard this story, and maybe you haven’t.  Whether it’s based in truth or is completely fictional, it doesn’t change the meaning to us as Christians.  We have a heavenly Father that gave up His only Son.  Jesus the Christ died in one of the most torturous ways known to man.  God the Father made the decision to allow His Son to die so that we could be saved from a fiery death.

Do we even notice?  Or do we go on with our peaceful lives, all while God stands to the side looking at us through tears asking “Don’t you know that I just lost My Son for you?”

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'”  [Matthew 27:46]