The train chugged its way through Indiana at twenty-four miles per hour. That doesn’t seem like a frightful speed. That is, until you take into account how long it takes to stop a 6,200-ton train… and what lay upon the tracks ahead.
“That’s a baby!” yelled Robert Mohr, the attentive conductor.
The engineer, Rodney Lindley, had thought it was a small dog, but the thatch of blonde hair and the colorful clothes made it all clear.
Emily Marshall, a child of nineteen months, was playing on the rails. She had strayed from safety as her mother picked flowers in the garden.
It was all chaos and shouting at the controls of the train. The engineer hit the brakes, but there was no way the train could stop short of disaster. Mohr, forty-nine and a Vietnam vet, had to think quickly.
He threw open the door, moved along a catwalk to the very front of the engine, and leaned precariously forward, steadying himself with one arm as Lindley continued to pull frantically at the brake. The train slowed to about ten miles per hour—still much too fast. Lindley said, “It felt like we were just eating up the rail, going faster and faster.”
As the great locomotive approached, Emily heard the noise and sensed danger. “She sat up and watched us for what seemed like an eternity,” said Lindley. Then she began to crawl off the rails, but not fast enough. Just as the train was about to go over her, Mohr, at the leading edge of the locomotive, stretched out one leg as far as he could and, like a field-goal kicker, booted the baby over the edge and down the soft embankment. Then he leaped down, picked up the crying child, and comforted her.
Emily came out of the near fatal experience with cuts on her head, a chipped tooth, and a swollen lip.
We know how deeply grateful the mother was—remorseful, too, I’m sure. But I wonder if that little child truly comprehended how blessed she was that a stranger with a big foot kicked her down a hill. She was trying to play, there was a lot of noise, and suddenly something jarred her and sent her tumbling like Jack and Jill. It hurt!
Perspective makes a difference. What seems hurtful from one vantage point can, when seen in full perspective, turn out to be an act of compassion. That’s how it is with discipline and correction. Sometimes we have to hurt a little now so we won’t hurt a lot later. Some lessons come only through tears. We know this as parents; we also need to know it as children of God.
C. S. Lewis had a lot to say about the pain of discipline. He noted that some of us have a shallow view of God’s correcting love:
We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven… whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”… I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since its abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.
As Scripture points out… it is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.
What brand of love would keep that conductor from rescuing a happily playing child on the grounds that a good boot is rude and painful? What brand of love would have kept your parents from scolding you for not doing your homework, since scolding would have put a damper on a pleasant dinner? As Lewis points out, the willingness to administer pain to prevent a greater harm is a mark of true love.
David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).
Good Questions Have Groups Taking
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: God Loves You: He Always Has; He Always Will, by David Jeremiah
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
God Loves You, Lesson #1
God Is Love
God Loves You, Lesson #2
God Carved His Love in Stone
God Loves You, Lesson #3
God’s Love for You Never Quits
God Loves You, Lesson #4
God Wrote His Love in Red
God Loves You, Lesson #5
God Loves You Even When You Don’t Love Him
God Loves You, Lesson #6
God Loves You Even When He’s Correcting You
God Loves You, Lesson #7
God’s Love Will Never Let You Go
God Loves You, Lesson #8
God Loves You and Wants You to Live with Him Forever
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.