Many years ago, I heard story about a train wreck that took place back in the days when there were no automated systems….
Those were the days when everyone was dependent on the lone railway worker, with his lantern, to illuminate the intersection where train tracks met roadway. His ability to stay alert at all times meant the world to those who traversed the route at night.
On the night in question, he was weary and nodded off because – as we all know – there is no real cure for drowsiness but sleep. In the stillness of the night, a loud blast from a train jolted him back to consciousness and he awoke to find that a family car was also approaching the dark intersection. Like the faithful worker that he was, he grabbed his lantern and ran out waving it high with all the vim and vigour he could muster, but it was an exercise in futility…
There was a collision, and the family perished.
An investigation ensued and the railway worker was asked to give his recollection of the details of that fateful night. He spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… from the time he clocked in, to his nodding time, to his faithful waving of the lantern…
“I grabbed my lantern and held it high,” he said. “I waved it vigorously but… I did not realise that there was no light in it.”
The origin of the story is unknown (at least to me) but the lesson it teaches cannot be ignored…
On a daily basis, we hold high the lanterns of our lives and wave them for all to see. Our words, as well as the actions that follow them, affect all who fall within our sphere of influence. Prior to the hyperconnected Internet age, only those who encountered us face-to-face comprised that ‘all’, but today we have the privilege of interacting with neighbours across the globe with whom we may never share ‘face time’.
With great privilege comes great responsibility and we owe it to those with whom we interact to ensure that we are actually illuminating the world, rather than contributing to the gross darkness that prevails.
Francis of Assisi once said it this way:
“Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
We tend to associate preaching with oratory skills of some sort, but, the way Francis of Assisi tells it, even the mute could preach. No lofty platform is required… just the daily taking up a cross and a commitment to laying down our egocentric lifestyles on the altar of sacrifice.
Christ-followers are not called to a mere gospel-telling but to an intentional ‘rubber-meets-road’ gospel-living.
May we ever hold up lanterns fueled and set ablaze by the Spirit of God, so that none may perish at our hands.
*Image credit: Wikimedia Commons