Many years ago, a wise friend shared with me an image of the two rails of a train track. One rail represents all the good things in life and the places we easily experience God. The other rail represents the places in life we struggle to name as “good” and the places where it seems hard to find God. The reality is the two rails run alongside each other simultaneously to make up the track.
At times, one rail may feel more obvious in our life. Perhaps we are overwhelmed with love, with joy, with kindness, with beauty, and it is hard to notice that the other rail exists. Other times, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with pain and suffering in our life or in others’ lives, so that we cannot see that the other rail exists.
What connects the two rails? On a train track, it’s the crossbeams that make sure the two rails are connected securely so that the rails come together to serve a larger purpose—providing a train the capability to continue on its journey.
What about in our lives? What provides a connection between joy and suffering? Prayer allows the two rails of life to be connected securely. It is through prayer that we can find and name moments of joy and grace in our suffering. It is through prayer that we do not become so blinded by our joy that we forget about the suffering of others. St. Ignatius was wise to have us name the movements of our hearts (consolation and desolation). The two rails of our lives come together as we offer all aspects of our lives to God through prayer and God begins to show us how both rails are necessary to move us forward and continue on a deepened journey of faith.