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Plan for a train
Linda Buxa
by Linda Buxa
June 5, 2023

Plan for a train

One of my daughter’s track coaches was known for being that kind of coach—the one who set a high bar and expected kids to rise to the challenge. The high school athletes dug deep and developed grit. They didn’t want to let him down, not because they were afraid of him (well, maybe a teeny bit) but because they had such deep respect for him and knew how deeply he cared for them.

Every person he ever coached has a story, and a friend recently shared this one. Her freshman daughter was on the team headed to the state meet and needed to make the bus on time. So my friend calculated what time they needed to leave the house.

“No, Mom, we have to leave earlier,” her daughter said. “Coach said we need to plan for a train.”

“But we don’t cross any train tracks on the way to school,” she replied.

“Mom! Coach said we have to plan for a train!”

So, obviously, they left early in anticipation for the train they’d never encounter, which gave her daughter peace that she’d arrive on time. We laughed because it is an iconic story about an iconic coach, but then I realized we all need to plan for a train.

I work at a high school. As seniors graduate, they hear how they will change the world. They see the freedom that comes with getting a job or heading off to college. Maybe we need to encourage them lovingly to plan for a train. Nobody wants to be a downer, but it’s dishonest if we don’t tell them they will face relationship, financial, physical, or emotional challenges.

This is not just a message for high school students, though.

Instead of telling young married couples they will automatically live happily ever after, we can encourage them to stick together even as they plan for a train. Maybe the pregnancy won’t happen easily or the young groom will develop a life-altering autoimmune disease or that endearing quirk will become a major point of contention.

Your career may face a train delay because someone else gets the promotion or the boss is a poor leader or the slow economy means profits (and therefore raises) slow waaaay down.

Any experienced empty nesters out there? I’m guessing you’ll tell my husband and me to plan for a train too. Our youngest is one of those graduating seniors. We drop him off at college in mid-June, so our home will be pretty quiet in just a few weeks. Maybe we won’t immediately get to see more national parks or travel to visit our kids (who can’t seem to choose a school close to home) or take a nap (um, that’s probably my goal more than my husband’s). Those of you who are a little older might share that your body is the train that slows you down because you aren’t as mobile or doctor visits get in the way of seeing your grandkids.

These proverbial trains are why I’m thankful for Jesus. See, he doesn’t tell me that everything will be all right all the time or that the world is my oyster or that I deserve only good things or that every single one of my plans will work out. Even though I do prefer that my life have no car problems, anxious thoughts, furnace issues, injuries, struggles with other people, illness, or days without naps, Jesus tells me the truth: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Why did he tell us this? Well, the first part of that passage explains it: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

 Ah, that’s it. Planning that we will face problems—and knowing that Jesus will always be with us—is why we can have peace in the middle of train delays and even peace in the middle of train wrecks.

So plan for a train. Because in this world you will have trains. But take heart! Jesus has overcome the trains.

Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who loves seven-minute naps.