When I was a little girl one of the things that my brothers and I loved to do was to play Runaway Mine Train with our daddy. The game was simple; daddy would load all three of us into the little red wagon and run all around the yard, yelling, “Runaway mine train! Watch out! Runaway mine train!”, pulling us in this direction and that direction until ultimately we were “tumped over” into the grass. This crazy game was an odd mixture of heart pounding fear, and laughter producing joy! Let’s be honest folks, I grew up in the days of metal wagons and no helmets. No smooth plastic wagons molded to cradle and protect its cargo; nope, our little red wagon was metal and rusted; and if you didn’t get in just right you were sure to skin your shin on the metal lip that ran around the edge. It was perfect! Sometimes daddy would even put our big old sheep- dog – mutt mixture of a dog into the wagon with us. If the ride got too rough, the dog would bail out one way and send us kids soaring out the other way; fur and laughter flying in the air.
We loved this game! We would sit in the wagon, clinging to the side rails and to each other with a combination of anticipatory dread and gleeful delight; never knowing what was coming next. You would think that daddy was going to zig, but he would zag! You would brace your body to be thrown out on the left, and most assuredly get “tumped over” to the right. No matter how long daddy ran us around the yard, the game wasn’t over until we got turned out into the grass in a wriggling, giggling heap of pointy elbows and sharp knees. Then before any one of us could catch our breath, including poor daddy who had been doing all the running and pulling, we would call out, “Do it again!” And just like good daddies do, he would pick us up, brush us off, and load us back in for another wild ride.
Sometimes, when daddy was at work, we would try to play this game on our own, but it was never as much fun. None of us were strong enough to work up any real speed, and most of the time we just got tired of pulling each other around and called it a day. Once there was even a feeble attempt at harnessing the dog to the wagon; but she was having none of that and just sat unmoving in the yard until we released her from the harness contraption that we had made. Nope, without daddy the game was a complete failure.
We must have played this game hundreds of times during my childhood; and never once was I truly afraid of getting hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I was overwhelmed with the unpredictability of it all. For that matter, I always tried to outguess my daddy as to what would come next…he will run left next and then right and then around the house…but I was always wrong, and I always was left reeling from trying to right myself in that little red wagon that was out of control. But no matter what, I ALWAYS knew that daddy was in control. I knew, like you do when you are certain that you are loved beyond reason, that no matter how many zigs and zags he put us through, no matter how hard we hit the ground, he would ALWAYS pick us up, brush us off and set us right back in the wagon for another ride. Even when I couldn’t determine which way we were going and had no ability to maintain my balance; daddy knew. He always knew. He was always in control.
All too often, our lives feel like a runaway mine train. How many times have I been fully prepared to zig when out of the blue a zag came along and knocked me completely off balance? So often I have found myself clinging to the sides of the life wagon, desperately trying to see what is coming up next; only to find myself “tumped out” into the grass in a place I was not expecting to be.
Career change: Zag
Raising children: Zig-Zag- Zig
Cancer: Side-of-the-wagon -clutching-Zag
Stress and Strife: Zig
Confusion and Pain: Zag
Friends who weren’t friends after all: Zag
On and on and on…unpredictable direction changes that I was ill prepared to handle and utterly unable to predict.
There have been times in all of it where I stoically determined that I was going to take over in directing the wagon of my life. With focused resolve, I picked up the handle and set my face to a smoother more predictable route; all to no avail. I just wasn’t strong enough to work up any real speed when pulling on my own. And even if I could, the path ahead was never as clear as I thought it would be.
And yet, my heavenly daddy knew where I was going all along. He always knew. He was always in control. No matter the number of times that I found myself flung far from the path I thought I was to travel on, he was in control. When I was prepared for a zig and faced instead a life tumbling zag; he lifted me up, brushed me off and set me back in the wagon. Just like all good daddies do.
Here is what I know to be true; this life will always be a crazy combination of heart pounding fear and laughter producing joy. We will never be able to predict the zigs and zags, or keep our balance when the ride gets crazy rough. But if we will just trust that our daddy who loves us beyond reason is in control, if we truly learn to walk by faith and not by sight, we will be able to trade our fear and dread for unfettered delight! We may even find ourselves in joyful laughter at being “tumped out” into the grass, gasping out a gleeful plea to do it all again!