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Those New Antique Locomotives

I spent much of my childhood in the empty spaces of Western South Dakota. While this land supports some fine people and has a beauty all its own, it sometimes seemed desolate. I’m afraid there were even moments when the world I read about in books seemed more civilized. One might say that even at a very early age, the lonely prairie left me restless.

An example would be my reaction to the freight trains that clattered along isolated prairie tracks. They were pulled by boxy diesel locomotives. My books, on the other hand, pictured streamlined diesels pulling the matching cars of passenger trains. The streamliners looked so modern. The clunky old prairie locomotives just plain lacked culture.

Many years later, I discovered that my books had glorified obsolete metal. The boxy old trains of the 1970’s were actually newer than the "up-to-date" streamliners that had come out in the 1930’s. Lack of culture had nothing to do with it. My prejudices grew from inadequate information.

I’m hardly alone in such errors, though. Many people find it easy to assume that anything unfamiliar must be bigger and better. Such restlessness is part of human nature. We’ve coined the proverb, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," to describe this tendency. Restlessness is often a good thing. It causes us to overcome old problems and to seek new and better lives. Unfortunately, as seen in my distorted boyhood opinions, restless people too often become victims of bad information.

This tendency to snatch after bad information is especially tricky when we get spiritually restless. Like all restlessness, spiritual restlessness can be good. It drives people to look to their Creator for the meaning of life and for the joys of eternal life. God has put that specific unrest in our hearts to encourage us to relate to Him. But there are times when spiritual restlessness grabs the wrong information and takes us where we’d be better off not going.

Spiritual restlessness too often includes the temptation to move away from God and the Bible. Maybe other theories about the meaning of life sound superior. Maybe the few pleasures God’s law forbids appeal as the height of culture. Maybe it’s just the desire to see things from someone else’s perspective. Whatever the case, the world away from God stirs up a desire for change.

Sadly, such change usually plunges people into a life of bad information and poor decisions. Just as the locomotives I thought were superior were really obsolete, many ideas and life choices that seem very contemporary are really worn-out rebellions cropping up in slightly retouched form. The eternal God alone can remain constant without becoming obsolete. All other approaches to life are just attractive memories of previous human failures.

Exciting things from other places can never replace solid and reliable things—except to a misinformed mind.

Photo: This tired old locomotive is the exact style that I mistakenly thought was up-to-date.

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


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