Failure Can Never Be Forgotten

"...failure can never be forgotten."

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"The people of those cities ignored Wisdom and could not tell right from wrong. Not only that, but the remains of their cities still remind us of the foolish way they lived, so that their failure can never be forgotten." (Wisdom 10:8) (One of the books of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament)

Not long ago Patti and I were hiking along a trail that paralleled the river on one side and an abandoned railroad track on the other. Up ahead we noticed some wreckage along the trail. At first I wondered if we were seeing the remains of an airplane since we were also hiking near the airport. As we drew closer we were able to determine that the wreckage was most likely that of a coal car that had jumped the tracks above us and tumbled near the path and river. I found it interesting that the twisted car remained beside the tracks for so long. It almost seemed like a grizzly monument to remind the next engineer not to make the same mistake at the throttle as one of his predecessors. Better yet, can you imagine how the train crew might have felt if they passed the mangled car and they recognized it as part of one of their earlier trains, a silent but perpetual reminder of their mistake, a failure that could never be forgotten?
We've all had a few train wrecks in our lives - mistakes we've made that resulted in hurt or even painful events that we experienced but didn't cause. Sometimes folks have told me that part of the fear of moving forward after having caused or been part of a train wreck is the thought that the wreck will never be forgotten. They're afraid that there will always be a reminder somewhere close to the tracks they travel every day, burning the memory of some failure or crisis deeper and deeper into their psyche with unbearable pain. Why bother to struggle through rebuilding life and relationships if the mangled remains of the train wreck remain at the side of the track as a constant and perpetual reminder of their failure or painful event?
There's a spot on Route 50 in West Virginia where I totaled my very first, beloved car because I fell asleep at the wheel. There were four of us in the car who all miraculously walked away from the crash without a scratch. It turned out that for the next thirty-five years we lived in places that required me to pass that spot every time we went home to visit family. At first it was a spot of shame. I even had a couple of flashbacks, momentarily reliving the rolling of the car. Eventually the awareness of forgiveness and purpose of being alive won out. Now I no longer pass that spot on the guardrail and think, "How could I have been so stupid?" Instead, now when I pass I wonder and pray, "I should have died that day. I know I'm alive for a reason. What is your purpose for me today, God?"

We can and do have reminders of painful train wrecks in our lives. Maybe they truly are never forgotten. However, they need not control us. With time and God's grace the reminder of the wreck can be changed from pain to hope, from shame to wonder and thanksgiving. I pray that God will help me show others that it's safe to get back on the train again, even if they encounter a few reminders of wrecks along the way. How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Gary
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, WV


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