Last month, Norman Heldon wrote a short article for the newsletter that included poem titled, “The Spiritual Railway.” The poet compares the path to heaven to travelling on a train, and stresses that without repentance our journey will not be successful. Here’s the poem:
Repentance is the station then,
Where passengers are taken in….
God’s Word is the first engineer,
It points the way to heaven so clear
Through tunnels dark and dreary here
It does the way to glory steer,
God’s love the fire, His truth the steam.
All you who would glory to ride,
Must come to Christ, in Him abide.
In first, and second and third class,
Repentance, faith and holiness
You must the way to glory gain.
Or you with Christ will not remain.
I for one really really liked the imagery in the poem, and it is especially timely as we’ve just started learning and adding Josh Turner’s song, “Long Black Train” to our musical repertoire. While “Long Black Train” gives similar imagery, it is given in the opposite sense. Whereas “The Spiritual Railway” presents the railway as leading to God and repentance, “Long Black Train” presents the railway as one driven by the devil who tries to lure us in by appealing to our base desires. “That train is a beauty, making everybody stare, but its only destination is the middle of nowhere… Watch out brother for that long, black train.”
The Word similarly uses imagery and presents it a good light and its opposite sense. To the casual reader this can be quite confusing, but the answer to the meaning of the image can be found in the context that it is presented in. For example, water means “truth,” which makes sense when you consider that baptism is done with water. However, in the opposite sense water can mean false beliefs and understandings as evidenced by the great flood that wiped out humanity in the Noah’s Ark story. Humanity wasn’t wiped out by truth, but rather it drown in a sea of its own delusions.
Since the Word is describing our spiritual lives, it shouldn’t be surprising that we see this good/bad dichotomy in our dealings with others. Just about any action we do can be taken as good or bad depending on the intent behind it. Are we giving money to gain a person’s trust and confidence so we can use them later, or did we give them money to help out a friend in need? Same action, very different intent. Getting on a train likewise can look the same, but just be sure it isn’t the long black one.