Posted in theology

On life, death, buses, and trains

By Elizabeth Prata

A man died in his car after a collision with a train last week. His small child was airlifted from the scene to Atlanta and was listed in critical condition.

He was the father of four and 3 of his children attended our county schools.

I have a love-hate relationship with trains. 50 years ago, the town dump was just that, a dumping ground. Old fridges, lawn chairs, lamps, trash and the like were just dumped onto a landfill. My dad took the trash every weekend and always asked if me and my brother wanted to go. We always did. The dump was at the same time scary, spooky, alluring, and fun to pick around at the dump. You never knew what you might find.

The dump was fun but there was terror in going because of the train.

You had to cross the railroad tracks to get there. My father used to stop on the tracks and turn off the car and pretend we were stalled. He’d yell that the train was coming and we were all going to die. We’d scream terrified in the back seat, peering wild-eyed up the tracks to see where the train was. Then he would laugh hysterically at his joke and turn the car on and we’d go.

Yeah, I know.

The church I attend is down a main road that parallels the tracks for a good 7 miles. I get really nervous around train tracks, even to this day. There are a lot of crossings. Most of them have lights and gates. A few don’t. It was at one where there were no gates or lights that the accident happened.

As I approached the scene on my way to church that night, I saw that the train had stopped, and the train guy in reflective jacket had descended the steps and was running alongside the train. His face looked terrified… Anyway, I wondered what he was running toward, because the train doesn’t stop there and the train guy doesn’t usually exit the train, usually. I looked ahead and spotted the vehicle in the ditch. I winced, the car was pretty wrecked. Ambulances hadn’t gotten there yet. I said a prayer as I passed.

I was saddened by this tragedy, pretty deeply. I thought about it all week. I prayed for the family. I wondered of the man was saved.

Then another tragedy struck. Not in our immediate area like the train accident, but in Indiana. A mother/church-goer/children’s minister, had her life turned inside out in a flash. She struck and killed three small children as they crossed the road to their bus. A fourth child was gravely injured. The three children were siblings, twin boys and a girl, from the same family.

“I haven’t seen first responders and troopers cry in a long time” said Indiana State Police Sergeant Tony Slocum. It was a heart-rending scene. It is one I cannot contemplate too long if I am not going to cry.

A mother somewhere in Indiana lost her three children in a flash. The last thing those children saw was a truck grill bearing down on them. It is awful thought. Investigators do not yet know why the wreck happened. The driver had stopped and had his flashing lights on and the arm out. He doesn’t seem to have contributed to the accident. The mother alone has been charged, three counts of reckless homicide and failing to stop at a school bus.

There is a lot to absorb regarding this incident, if one wants to mull it over. I don’t blame you if you don’t. We all know that our lives could be changed in a moment, but we don’t really think about it. When it happens, it often happens fast, like the father who was killed by the train. One moment you’re trundling along and the next you’ve arrived at your eternal destination.

The man’s wife was suddenly widowed, and her children fatherless, all in a moment. The mother who ran over the three kids at the bus stop, will never be the same, she has felonies on her record and never mind the insane grief and guilt she will bear forever.

I got to thinking about all that is done under the sun. What God must think of us, going about our business…lost sheep who have all gone astray

This may seem trite but it is true and applicable to how things are on this earth.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

And this

For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

My Lord and My God ordains all. He knows what goes on under the sun. He allows sin to permeate a life, its effects to take a life, innocents to be killed, wives to become widows, mothers to become childless, children to become motherless.

It is a world full of sorrow and pain, heartache and tragedy. This isn’t such a positive essay, and I am sorry if you were looking for that today. But in this world, unexpected events happen which defy our comprehension but still hurt our heart. Trusting God is the only answer.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he has made crooked? (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

The work of God – The scheme of Divine Providence, the course of events which God orders and controls (compare Ecclesiastes 3:11). It comprises both events which are “straight,” i. e., in accordance with our expectation, and events which are “crooked,” i. e., which by their seeming inequality baffle our comprehension.

God sent His Son so that even when baffling things happen, we can turn to Him for comfort. We know that He knows. He is working things out to the good for those who love Him. He has reasons and ways and plans that we don’t understand, but we have the Light of understanding that He does, and that’s enough.

Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

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