You remember the story, don’t you? In this 1954 children’s classic, the big, black engine, shiny and powerful, puffed and chuffed leading the way. Then a mixture of box cars, oil cars, coal cars, and flat cars, all important with their substantial loads, trudged faithfully behind. But the little, red caboose always came last. Children would always wave at the big, shiny engine and all of the freight cars. But by the time the little, red caboose came along, they had lost interest and turned away.
The little red caboose wished with all his might that he were one of the other parts of the train such as a box car, an oil car, or especially the big, black engine. But no amount of wishing made it so. He was simply the caboose, and nobody cared for him, or so it seemed.
Until one day, the train traveled up a daunting mountain. The mountain was so steep that even the big, black engine wasn’t powerful enough to complete the climb. The train began to slide back down the mountain. In a show of strength and resolve, the little red caboose slammed on his brakes, preventing the train from falling back down the mountain, and held it there until help arrived. The little, red caboose saved the train and saved the day.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like the little red caboose. At times it seems like I find myself at the end of the line choking on the dust and smoke billowing up from the more special train cars in front of me. The esteemed engine leads the way. The box cars are strong and carry such a tremendous weight. The oil and coal cars carry such vital cargo. By design, the flat cars can transport such a wide variety of freight. And then, there’s the caboose. Then there’s me.
What about me? What am I designed to do? How can I make a difference? It’s tempting to look around at others and want what they have. It’s easy to wish you were like someone else, gifted in the same ways of someone you admire. We observe bright and shiny engines and want to be powerful and influential. We gaze about and see robust and mighty freight cars and want to be vital and significant. We look at another’s successes, relationships, gifts, talents, and even their stuff and desire what they have. When we begin to base our worth by how we seemingly measure up to others, it’s easy to feel insignificant or unworthy.
But here’s the thing: we were not designed to be like anyone else. We were not created to achieve someone else’s milestones. We have a path, a journey, and a calling that is uniquely ours. In 1954, before the advancement of technology, the caboose was indeed a crucial part of the train. It was the caboose that provided shelter for the crew, an office and accommodations for the conductor, as well as projections to the sides of the car that allowed the crew to observe the train for load shifting, damage to cargo, and overheated axles. The caboose was critical.
We are also critical to God’s work in the world. Our calling may never be proclaimed from a podium. Our calling may never be the recipient of medals, awards, or accolades. Our calling may not seem important, garner attention, or even be popular with the masses. However, if we follow God’s calling for our life, it will indeed lead to an abundant life in Him.
Today may we learn from the little, red caboose that we are uniquely made, unequivocally equipped, and unconditionally loved. Just as we are.