Chronicles of Sadie

I Think I Can! I Think I Can!

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My little girl is only nine weeks old, but that hasn’t stopped us from preparing for the brilliance we expect to soon flow from her inner being. Thus, we have signed up for a program in Tennessee that sends Sadie a free book every month. I’m sure she’ll be turning pages in no time—or trying to eat them. Either way, there’s more than one way to “digest” a good book.

The first book we received in the mail was one of my childhood favorites, The Little Engine That Could. Even though Sadie can’t quite yet understand everything we are saying, we went ahead and read it to her anyway—just for fun. The story was first published in 1930 and is a staple of American culture.

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If you don’t remember the story, it’s really quite simple. A line of train cars loaded with food and toys is destined to be delivered to a town of good little boys and girls. The only problem is the town is located on the other side of a huge mountain and the engine that is supposed to pull the train over the mountain breaks down. So the little clowns begin begging trains passing by to pull them over the mountain, but time after time, each engine refuses their request. Some claim they are too important. Others say they are too old. Whatever their excuse, the train cars and the food and toys for the children who need them have no way to make it to the opposite side of the mountain.

But just when all looks hopeless, a little blue engine comes their way. Now the little blue engine has never pulled a real train, but has only worked in the train yard. However, compassion overcomes the little blue engine’s fears and she agrees to try. Hence, the famed ride up the tall peak begins—slowly. As they climb, the little engine keeps repeating “I think I can. I think I can.” Huffing and puffing, tugging and pulling, the little engine drives with all her might until she finally reaches the peak and starts back down the other side with all the toys rejoicing behind her. That’s when she begins chanting, “I thought I could. I thought I could.” It’s a great story children have and will continue to cherish for generations.

To children in the early Twentieth Century, trains were a more common form of transportation. Our children are more familiar with cars and airplanes. But for must of our nation’s history, trains were essential. Train tracks crisscrossed our landscape long before interstates or airports were ever thought of. They carried supplies, passengers, and other cargo from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, making the vast geographic expanse of our country navigable to businesses and families alike. To put it mildly, the train was one of the foundations of our nation’s successful settlement.

The differences between trains and cars are easily identifiable, but I would like to focus on what runs beneath them: the tracks. Train tracks are permanent pathways that leave room for only one train at a time to pass. Streets, on the other hand, leave the travel options more open to the driver. Streets have multiple lanes, multiple exits and turns, and infinite possibilities of directions to travel. Train tracks? Not so much. If you’re on them, then it’s very clear where you are going.

Proverbs 4: 10-11 (NLT) teaches us the nature of Godly wisdom as Solomon pleads with his son to listen to his advice and to follow it.  “My child, listen to me and do as I say,
 and you will have a long, good life. I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.” Besides a “long, good life” (which doesn’t sound too shabby,) he also promises that wisdom will “lead you in straight paths.”

It’s as if Solomon is telling his son that following God’s wisdom is really more like getting hooked up to train tracks than driving a vehicle onto the highway. Much like the railroad, those who follow God’s “track” in their life will continue straight ahead, allowing the Designer of the train tracks to determine their course. Over mountains or sometimes through them, those of us who choose this track must simply push ahead with all the strength we can muster. The promise is that when we are connected to God’s wisdom, he will “lead us in straight paths.”

Being behind the wheel of a car puts the responsibility of our direction in our own hands. We are subject to drowsiness. We sometimes text. We hold drinks in one hand and cell phones in the other, while simultaneous switching gears and dodging road hazards. Especially when the road is unfamiliar, missing an exit is an easy thing to do.

But when we are hooked up to the tracks of God’s wisdom, he determines the course and we can just focus our energies on moving forward by his grace. Yeah, there a lot less room for error here.

It really gets good when we compassionately hook others up to our engine and begin making the climb up life’s mountains with them in tow. I think I can. I think I can. Others may have passed them by, opting to follow their own paths instead. I think I can. I think I can. But we were designed to be connected to a straight path, scaling seemingly impossible obstacles by the power of God within us.

When we keep climbing and never give up, we will eventually pass over the peak of whatever challenge we are scaling and begin coasting down the other side, still attached to the “straight path” of God’s wisdom and more confident than ever that “we thought we could.”

I pray that my Sadie listens to this wisdom, even as Solomon pleaded with his own child. There is a track leading us to the right place. We only need to get in it and move.

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