We’ve all heard it said that life is like a roller coaster, a series of highs and lows. It gives the impression of regularly spaced mountaintop experiences followed by corresponding lows. That’s not an accurate image.
In my experience, life is much more like train tracks with highs and lows in close proximity. Pain and pleasure, joy and heartache are experienced together.
Never was this analogy more apparent to me than this weekend.
Sunday began with excited children rushing into mommy’s room delivering eggs and bacon along with homemade cards to celebrate Mother’s Day.
At church, we celebrated the baby dedication of our friends’ daughter. Wearing an adorable white dress with pink sweater and bow, she was presented by her parents who dedicated their precious gift back to God. The dedication was all the more meaningful as our friends had waited a long time for her.
But in the afternoon, I attended the funeral of my friend Pastor John Layman. John was gregarious, full of life. No one did a better job of loving people than John. He has been a constant supporter of HOPE and our family. Yet his life felt too short due to cancer. He left his precious wife and family at age 64.
Heading to bed, I couldn’t shake the train tracks analogy and it made me want to:
- Seek joy amid pain. At John’s funeral, I felt the need to text Laurel to tell her how grateful I was for her presence in my life. Pain and loss clarified the things that were important—relationships, faith.
- Look for pain amid joy. Conversely, even on the highest mountaintop experience, there still are challenges all around us. As joyous as Mother’s Day is, there are some who long to be mothers and that day has not yet come. Even as we celebrate, we want to find ways of becoming increasingly aware of others’ needs and actively enter in the pain of others.
A train tracks approach doesn’t negate the pain, but it helps us live fully and celebrate until the day we experience full joy and there truly is no more suffering. At John’s funeral, we sang the timeless words that are a constant reminder for us in times of joy or in times of pain:
“Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”