Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Ticket to Ride

One of the major themes of the novel, The Runaway Pastor, is commitment. Promises are broken, yet reconsidered. Vows are reassessed, wrestled with. A train whistle haunted my writing of the book.

I've ridden trains, mainly brief commuter trips, or European city to city hops. And all trains everywhere have one thing in common: Once you board and the train begins to move, you have no power to change directions on a whim, no matter how much you might feel the need for such a turn.

While in the former USSR, our children were very young. My wife and I spent a great deal of time planning what we would do, should the rapidly opening and closing doors of the subway cars somehow separate us from one another. The nightmare scenario-- which thankfully never took place--was the possibility of our children exiting at a station, and the train moving forward with us still aboard. Imagine the panic of a parent, longing for the train to return to the station, yet knowing there is no stopping until the next.

During my years as a pastor, I've had the privilege of helping a hundred or so couples promise their lives to one another. Are there ever moments in married life when one partner or the other believes they might wish to go back, and reconsider their vows? Of course. It is at those moments, that vows are like a train ticket. No couple wishes to pledge themselves to love, cherish, have and hold one-another for the "next little while." Brides and grooms hold a passionate belief that each is committed to forever. You buy the ticket planning to arrive at the other end of the line together. It costs you your sacred promise. And you board the train when you make those vows.

My October 1979 promises have landed me 29 years down the track, riding with the same love. We've gone through storms that rocked the carriage. We've struggled at stops here and there. But we bought one ticket, and boarded one train. I'm so grateful for the promise that has carried us to this place. Without our vows, we each might have criss-crossed our lives in short bursts one way, and then the other.

Where are you going? What have you pledged your life to? Why not land in the place you committed to go in the first place? To where have you purchased a ticket?

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