Perhaps you did not know it, but the U.S. Standard Railroad gauge, the span between the two rails, is exactly four feet, eight and one-half inches. Now, that is an odd number and you may wonder how it got to be that way.
Well, it seems that it was English expatriates that built the U. S. railroads and they just copied what was done back in jolly old England. Ok, but where did the British get that measurement? Well, it seems that the early tramways reused the same tools and measurements that had been used on wagons. And middle age wagons had that same spacing, four feet, eight and one-half inches.
Those wagons apparently were spaced to fit into some old rutted roads built by the Roman Empire. That span was due to the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. It seems that they were made just wide enough to span the rear ends of two warhorses.
Sixty percent of the current railroads in the world today run on a rail gauge of four feet, eight and one-half inches because of the ruts left thousands of years ago by Roman chariots! Those are some powerful ruts!
You and I have ruts too. Oh, sometimes we like to call them traditions, or customs or the way-we-do-things-around-here, but often they are simply ruts. When we mindlessly repeat a behavior enough times, it becomes a rut. These kinds of habits can eventually start to sandpaper our lives. Often the “edges’ of surprise and the joy of new things are lost in the patterns we lay down.
I think Isaiah might have understood that dimension of the human experience. In Isaiah 43, as he discusses God’s mercy for an unfaithful Israel, he writes, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah had the coming Savior in view, but the principle applies to our everyday lives. God promises that His mercies are new every single morning (Lam. 3:22-23). We do not have to live our lives meandering through life bumping into the walls of ruts we have built.
This week, take a new way to work. Wear a color that you don’t usually pick. Eat breakfast for dinner. Reorganize your closet. Move things around. Reorder your priorities to include some new things. Try a new hobby. Make a new friend. Shock your family and friends and consciously react differently to a situation. Try on some unpredictabilities for size.
Let’s not pattern our lives any more after the size of Roman war horses!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel