I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I screamed at my mother as I ran out the door. I was a rumbling, erupting, human volcano spewing hot magma and toxic gases from my volcanic vent. Years of pent up rage, feelings of betrayal, broken promises, confusion, pain— overcame my self-restraint. I was shocked and terrified when the words came spewing from my mouth.
At 17 years old, I was full of anger, despair, hopelessness. At the time there was no one to turn to. My family had recently moved into town, a step in their process of leaving Canada to return to the United States, so I was not in my familiar environment within my known community. Once my parents left, the plan was for me to return to the community and live with a family who would take me into their home. But for now, I felt trapped. My nearest friends and mentors were a 45 mile drive north on the Alaska highway. Too far to walk! And I had no car to drive!
Tears blurred my vision as I ran as fast as I could through overgrown, grassy fields into the aspen-spruce forest. I didn’t ever want to stop running. In unfamiliar territory, I had no idea where I was going. I was just running… as fast and as far as I could. Finally, I stumbled into a clearing, surprised to find a railroad track running along the edge of the forest. I climbed up the embankment and collapsed exhausted on the railroad ties.
My rage had calmed by now and I returned to my normal state of stuffing all my feelings back down into their underground volcanic chamber. Earlier after a different devastating event, I had vowed to never cry again. To never allow myself to feel.
To be honest, I never really cried. But there were times hot tears leaked from my eyes. I felt I had betrayed myself due to that fact that I had broken my own promise… since clearly my eyes were leaking tears, again.
A cool breeze blew across my face as I sat perched on the rail, knees pulled tightly to my chest, wondering how long I might be able to survive without a jacket or food or water. Then a thought popped into my mind. “You should lie down on the railroad tracks, between the rails and let a train run over you”.
I had heard a story of a kid doing that once… and he survived. The train had enough clearance under its belly to pass over the boy without causing harm.
I stood up from the rail and looked down the tracks. I had no reason to live so if I didn’t survive, it wouldn’t matter anyway. In that moment, I laid down between the rails. I don’t know how long I lay there before a train whistle pierced through the fog in my mind.
“What if the train doesn’t kill me? What if it’s worse than that? What if it mangles me and I survive?”
The thought of surviving and living mangled snapped me into reality. I jumped up from the tracks and watched as the train moved towards me, whistle loudly blaring. Quickly, I slid down the embankment and sat next to the tracks in a daze as the train roared past me. I was shaken to the core.
Years later, I returned to the U.S. and settled in the state of Georgia, not too far from a railway. The bike route I often ride runs alongside a railway. Whenever I see train tracks or hear the train whistle blow, I remember that terrible day. A day that is still so difficult to describe. I knew I had to forgive my mother. I wrestled with many emotions but finally I knew what I needed to do.
Snatching a small piece of paper and grabbing a nearby pen I wrote the words, “Mom, I forgive you. Please forgive me.” I signed it with my initials, J.C. Then I wrote a verse someone had given me after my parents left Canada.
Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will adopt me as his child. Ps. 27:10 AMP
I stuffed the note into my pocket, picked up a hammer and some nails, hopped on my bike and headed for the railroad. I searched for a secluded area surrounded by trees so I could be alone. Upon finding a suitable location, I hid my bike in the trees, walked up the embankment and onto the railroad. I stood staring down the tracks as waves of memories and emotions washed over me. Tears streamed down my face as I gathered a few rocks, knelt down and built a small memorial. Next to the rock memorial, I nailed the note to the wooden railroad tie.
It was finally over. Now, when I hear the train whistle, it reminds me that I have chosen to forgive. It also reminds me that I’m His adopted child.
Recently, I was praying and asking questions about that day. “God, you said you would never leave me. Where were you that horrible day when I felt so lost and alone?”
I heard Him whisper, “I was there. I sent Rex to you. To bring you warmth, to give you comfort, to let you know you’re not alone”
It was true. While I was sitting there alone on the tracks, after the train had roared past, I saw a dog off in the distance running toward me. I didn’t recognize him at first. But when he came near, I recognized him. He was my brother’s dog, a big Alaskan Malamute.
Since I had never been around his dog, let alone developed any bond, I was surprised when he found me there. He came and sat on his haunches right next to me. I couldn’t believe it. I put my arms around his massive neck while my tears soaked into his fur.
At the time, I didn’t recognize Him. But Jesus was there. He was there when the train whistle blew, and when He created the urgency in me to get up off the tracks. He caused Rex to run through the fields and the forest, and to sit down beside me. He never left my side. He sat with me while I soaked his neck with my tears and sat with me in my silence—, until finally, when the sun had set, we walked home together.