The humble leaf

As you might know I hold a train driving licence. It was a very long hard slog to learn all the rules and regulations and ultimately pass my test to be allowed out on my own to drive passenger trains. During the practical side of this training, I was trained to drive during the dreaded leaf fall season. Yes, there have been many derisory comments made about the fact that a mere lot of leaves can wreak havoc with trains. Well, it’s nothing new, even the Rev Awdry wrote a story about it in his Thomas the Tank Engine series called ‘James and the leaves.’ The thing is that you have the two surfaces of polished metal in the wheel and the rail and then you add to that a collection of wet leaves. As the train runs over them it naturally squashes them and leaves behind an invisible residue which causes the wheels to lose traction.

Trains have safety systems (one akin to ABS on a car) to mitigate against this as well as sending out specialist trains being sent out to clean the rails. So, how does a driver know when the train is slipping? For a start the train judders in most cases as the wheels try to gain traction. However, the most dangerous time is when you apply the brake and nothing at all happens, you don’t slow down and continue at the same speed (or faster) unable to do anything. This is what happened at Salisbury on the evening of 31st October this year when one train crashed into the back of another just outside the station, miraculously nobody was killed. All as the result of a few leaves.

This reminded me once more of what we see time and again in the Bible and Paul puts it so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 1 v27:

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

This thread is something that runs all the way through scripture, even when it comes to the prophesy of the messiah, we read in Micah 5 v2:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

When Jesus came, He did so in the form of a helpless baby at first and the to grow into a man who lived and plied His trade in the town of Nazareth. Yet, coming from that town conveyed negative connotations to some people as we read in John 1 v46:

‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.

Let me just ask you something. Do you feel that you are of little use or purpose in either this world or in the fellowship you belong to? Well, it is certainly something I wrestle with, but the best part of it is that God through Jesus understands that too. This world’s perception of greatness and significance is quite a warped one, it all seems to be full of noise and artifice for the most part. As my wife once commented ‘It’s like a barren cow, full of promise on the outside, but nothing but wind and water on the inside!’

We wrongly measure ourselves by the standards of significance this world wants to impose on us, but that is not God’s measure. He loved us before this world was brought into being, He delights in us being in relationship with Him as we were made for His purposes above all else in whatever area He has placed us. Yes, sometimes I really struggle with that too. We may even be involved in a work for Him that leaves us feeling down and despondent when we see nothing visibly happening, but we know deep down God Himself has called us to it. Zechariah 4 v10 teaches us that this is not the way that God see’s the work He has placed in our hands:

‘Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?’

We all need encouragement when we are in times when we are struggling with something, and I just want you to realise that God see’s this and can use the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things (certainly in the worlds eyes) to bring about His purposes if we truly commit the work we are doing to Him.

Image credit: Sandis Helvigs via Unsplash