Reframing the Message when life is not going our way

(Photo: Caetano Lacerda)

I am not sure why it mattered so much, and why this time, missing the train connection seemed to sink me to my boots, and leave me full of frustration and self pity. Tiredness perhaps was a key ingredient, but also the feeling that, 'Everything is going wrong today.'

It had started at the moment when a lady on my train helpfully informed me that we would arrive at Preston ten minutes after my connection to Glasgow had left! There was nothing I could do and that feeling of helplessness surfaced a shadow of old patterns of panic, from my years in war torn Liberia, that I thought had long departed.

On this train, I felt hard done by, angry with the whole of the rail network, and despairing that I would reach home at a decent hour. I imagined that I would have to pay for another ticket, because in my haste I had made the mistake of boarding the wrong train. There were two options for Preston, only minutes apart, one fast, and one slow. I got on the slow one, of course. It was a miserable moment.

The first glimpse of light came as I approached the train company's information desk. Miraculously the helpful representative changed my ticket at no cost so I could get the next train from Preston to Glasgow. Suddenly there was hope. Not for long, however. I boarded the next train, which clearly would not start and was not going anywhere.

We were all told to disembark, and wait on the platform. After about 30 minutes, we were instructed to get back on the train, which was now repaired. We then chugged two miles up the track and came to a gentle stop, where again we waited. Finally information trickled through the carriages that four trains were in a queue on the track because a car accident had damaged a bridge further up, leaving it possibly unsafe for trains to go underneath. Investigation was necessary and would take time.

At this point in this crazy day, I started laughing. What else could go wrong? I was still alive, the world had not ended and God still loved me. Plus, I had a home to go to. I decided to take hold of my thoughts and reframe this event, surround it with another narrative, infuse it with another world view, speak some truth into the lie that everything was falling apart.

So right there as we were stationary on the rail track, I spoke to my own soul, where the self pitying emotions were rumbling around.

"You are not a victim, Sue Pratt, you will get home and Jesus is in this situation. Nothing bad is going to happen, and even if it does, God is still there."

Then I prayed and asked the Lord to step in and bring order out of this mini crisis (being somewhat over dramatic), and get me home safely. Within minutes, the engines started and we slowly began to move northwards. Nothing more dramatic happened that day and I arrived back home to Ayrshire less than two hours overdue.

I thought that this journey was worth an application for compensation, so duly sent off my report on the journey to the appropriate office. Lo and behold, three weeks later I received train vouchers worth £50 and a heartfelt apology! I felt a bit sheepish then and looked round to see if anyone had noticed my journey of emotions and attitudes! No-one had, of course, but it made me think about how easily one can reframe a message to something life giving and positive.

I know that many people live through difficult circumstances where it would be almost impossible to reframe or restate the impact of an event. My life journey is no exception and I could tell you a much more dramatic story of reframing a negative message.

However, even in the humdrum day to day ups and downs, I have discovered that it is possible to see a redemptive light, a positive interpretation, and an infusion of hope. Somehow, God is very good at taking my hopeless moments and turning them back to where they should be - hope and faith in a God who is good and who answers prayer.