In our book Never Ever Be the Same, Larry and I talk about a concept we call, “The Railroad Tracks Syndrome.” We see this occurring both in ourselves and in the people we give soul care/counseling to. 

For instance, I say I trust God (one of the RR track rails) but my behavior proves I don’t (the other RR track rail). 

I might say, “I trust God’s sovereignty but I’m worried about the choices a family member is making.”

Another example is, I say, “I know God loves me and wants what’s best for me, but what He’s allowing in my life right now isn’t acceptable.” 

In those two examples and in many others, we think we have a monorail in our thinking and behavior (that they are congruent and mesh), but it’s not true. Our behavior reveals the lies our heart is committed to. (Tweet that!)

God worked on one of my Railroad Track Syndromes last week. I attended a book convention and had met another author there named Heather. When I was waiting in the hotel lobby for the shuttle to take me to the airport, I saw Heather sitting near by. My first reaction was, “Oh, I won’t go over and talk with her because she wouldn’t want to talk with me anyway.”

I flashed back to an incident when I was in 9th grade. Christine was one of the popular girls in our school and didn’t really pay any attention to me. I tended to idolize anyone considered popular and never would have approached her because I felt inferior. But one day, lo and behold, we started talking. I think she asked me about an assignment in one of the classes we shared. 

As I began giving her the information, I thought, I can’t believe she’s listening to me. This is amazing! Am I actually going to become popular because of this?

I was so flabbergasted that she was talking with me, that I became very nervous and began talking and talking and talking about anything I could think of. (Tweet that!)  I felt compelled to try to keep her attention because it felt like the longer I had her attention the more the possibility that we would become friends. Then I could enjoy the popular group.

But then to my horror, her face began to look bored, her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth as if in shock. She said, “Ok,” and turned her back on me and walked away. I knew she would most likely quickly tell someone about my faux pas. 

In mid-sentence, I stopped talking and berated myself, “See? No one is really interested in anything you have to say.”

I walked away devastated, knowing that my worth and value had just been trampled. Plus what I suspicioned was true: No one really wants to hear what I have to say.

Of course, I know now that that was a lie. But at the time, it seemed as true as the sky above me. And once I believed the lie, my Vow became, “I must protect my image at all costs.”

That contributed, along with many other experiences and lies, to my self-protective sinful strategy: “Don’t ever talk to anyone unless you know they won’t reject you.”

You may wonder why I would call it “sinful.” Isn’t that just a wise idea to protect myself?

The reason it’s sinful is because I’m saying God isn’t trustworthy and doesn’t love me. How?:

  • I’m not allowing God’s view of me as His Princess to define me. I’m looking to the opinions of others to declare my worth and value. (Ephesians 1).
  • I’m pre-determining what I’ll do regardless of how God leads me. (Philippians 4:13).
  • I’m protecting myself from hurt when He might want to use something hurtful for my good. (James 1:2-4).
  • I’m saying I will control what happens to me because God can’t be trusted with what’s best for me. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • I’m assuming that I could read Christine’s mind when only God knows her motives. I don’t know her heart. (Proverbs 20:5).
Because God has been challenging me to repent of my distrust of Him and to have a changed heart about those lies (2 Corinthians 10:5), I saw Satan’s accusation in that moment of seeing my friend.
And guess what? I went over to her and we had the most wonderful chat. She said how much she appreciated it and even wrote about it on her blog. Her name is Heather Riggleman. Check out her posts, you’ll be blessed by them.
Plus, because I risked and trusted God, she met an editor friend of mine. He happened to walk by and stopped to chat. I could introduce her and they exchanged cards. God knows how He might want to use that connection that wouldn’t have happened if I had disobeyed God.
And the important thing is, even if Heather had reacted the way Christine did, that doesn’t define me or say whether the idea of going to chat with her was God’s will. Regardless of what happened, my value is “in Christ” and the outcome doesn’t determine whether I heard correctly. 
Can you recognize a “Railroad Tracks Syndrome” in your life? 
Or is there anything in my post that is confusing or that you don’t understand? 
Or how does it “hit” you? 
I’d love to hear from you. 
(And yes, if you want to learn more about these ideas, they are explained in our book, Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today.)