Deep in the heart of New York City a few weeks ago, I discovered that several trains going different places run on the same set of tracks. There are lots of tracks, that is true. There are layers of trains. But you can walk to the same point on the platform, and look at the same set of tracks, and still have to make a choice about which train to ride, about where to go.
I talked with a person today who was struggling to choose whether or not to talk with someone who had (unintentionally) hurt them. There was a set of tracks of reaction and response. But there was a choice about how to handle the situation, whether to confront in love or confront in pain or overlook in love or overlook in bitterness.
A friend resigned from a position this week, presenting a boss with the opportunity of climbing on the train of betrayal (“You are abandoning us”) or of celebration (“What a great opportunity!”). Another friend is looking at a serious situation with a child and trying to decide whether to accept the child’s behavior as right or God’s behavior as right. Another friend stood at the platform next to the tracks of death and wrestled with whether to climb on the train of grief with stops at despair and depression, or the train of faith with stops at short-term pain and celebration.
Usually the trains are pretty clearly marked, but the destinations aren’t always clear. And in the moment, when the train pulls into the station, there isn’t much time to decide. So we have to spend some time picking the right platform, look at the map, deciding where we want to go. That way, when the crisis happens, we have pre-decided our response.
Or we could just pick random stations and random tracks and random trains. Somehow, however, that feels like a huge waste of energy. Especially when the difference between wildly different parts of Manhattan (or life) is the difference of 4 minutes and one step.