Parker T. Hall Houghtaling was struck in the head by a New York subway train four years ago as he leaned out to see if the train was approaching. Amazingly, he suffered only bruises, cuts, and a shoulder injury.
On Friday, November 22nd, 2005, Houghtaling was waiting on the platform of the Poughkeepsie train station when he stuck his head out and, you guessed it, he was hit by the 6:26 p.m. commuter train. The Poughkeepsie Journal reached Houghtaling by phone and he confirmed the 2002 incident. He said he didn't remember much of what had happened in his latest brush with the New York subway. You could say he is developing quite a “track” record.
It is so easy to shake your head and wonder how in the world this guy could do this once, let alone two times. I would hope that getting bopped by a subway train would teach me a lesson. I would hope that I would be grateful to have escaped serious consequences and I would stay far, far away from oncoming trains.
But I suspect that Mr. Houghtaling could be an amusing metaphor for how I live my Christian life. I make a mistake (that is politically correct for sin) and I am convinced I will never do that again. I am grateful that the consequences were not worse. I am determined to stay far, far away from that sin. And then before I know it I forget the lesson and get clobbered by the same sin express in the disgustingly near future. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very thing in his letter to the Romans.
I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. Roman Chapter 7 The Message
Wow...can I relate to that. A bit later Paul writes…I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
That is the real question. And there is a real answer offered by Paul.
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
To avoid sticking our thick craniums in dangerous places requires a moment by moment submission to the spirit of God. And if you are anything like me perhaps you have noticed that such submission is not a natural response. Further advice from Paul follows in Chapter 8 of his amazing letter to the Romans.
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.
Ouch…I feel a little like Mr.Houghtaling after the truth of that verse hit me. I am learning daily to recognize that the Spirit of God has taken up residence in my life. I am learning that I am the one who limits His power by restricting access and control to my thoughts and actions. I am learning that I don't need to get clobbered again by the same old train but I likely will do just that. And when I do I will pick myself up and thank God for His amazing grace.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com