The Railway Signalman

The living God suffers from a bad press, and His PR agent is… the Church.

What image do you have of God?

It does us no good to harbour bad pictures of Him, no matter how understandable and true to our experience they may be.



High up above, in fact, way above the clouds,

In a railway signal box an old man is busy.

It’s God, pulling the levers of our destinies:

Some shunted to sidings, others get priority.


Here’s Sir George’s pullman flying quickly through,

But there’s wee Jimmy, waiting up Cancer Junction.

That’s a dead end line, but no time for niceties;

Lots of levers to shift if the network’s to function.


Are people tied to their fate like trains to rails?

Is God really some sort of scary controller,

At best distant and aloof, whose decisions

Are just way beyond our ability to decipher?


Does God really ‘take’ our loved ones from us?

Does He truncate the life span of some, while

Others live in prosperity to a ripe old age?

Do we have a case then to put God on trial?


If a child is stillborn, has God decreed it thus?

If someone is dying from some dread disease,

But we’re healthy, are the ‘points’ in our favour?

Is there any point in folk submitting their pleas?


God did not invent death, no more than He

Created sickness, suffering, cruelty and sin.

This most loving of fathers does not rejoice

In the woes that afflict His wayward children.


When we turned aside and cut our own path,

God didn’t turn away and lose our tracks.

He comes with us, respectful of our free will,

And quietly, gladly, stays close to our backs.


Life has its vicissitudes, that’s for sure,

And we can sulk, surmount or succumb.

God isn’t pulling the levers or the strings,

But He will support us till kingdom come.


God will not, cannot, work us as puppets.

He yearns for our free assent to His call.

For nothing we do, or that can happen to us,

Will break that covenant, no, nothing at all.


So reject that image of the old signalman.

Rather, hold to the one Jesus recounted:

Know that the Eternal is also your Abba,

And every hair on your head is counted.