amy patton

the lady on the train

amy patton
the lady on the train

My daughter has always had a fascination with public transportation. When she was little, we lived in a town with a historic railroad that did events for kids once a month. One Friday morning, I surprised my little monkey with a ride on a real, live train. She lost her 2 year old mind when I gave her the tickets. It was awesome. The catch was that we had to be there, ready to board, at 8:30am. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to normal people, but we are not normal. Other than my husband, we are bunch of night owls. I only grunt before 10am. But my boo wanted to ride on a train so we were going to ride on a train.

Game day! We set the alarm, scarfed down food and dressed our sleepy selves. I was rocking the fresh face (code for too lazy to put on makeup) and a ball cap. The boo looked adorable as always. We stood on the platform as the big, powerful locomotive pull into the station. When it was time to board, we handed the conductor our tickets and picked seats. This fabulous fun on a Friday just so happened to fall in the middle of a long wilderness season in my life. As we waited for our adventure to begin, I found myself preoccupied with my pain.

Onto the train walked a lady with her kids. She was tall, thin, and perfectly dressed with 3 little cherubs that were the same. Their designer clothes and matching bows made me slump a bit in my seat. They were meeting some friends and as the group laughed and chatted with excitement, I immediately felt a flash of anger. I had never met or even seen this woman before, but I was certain I hated her. She was everything I was not and found it easy to judge her. I sat there, making up stories about her fabulous life in my head. My mental diatribe was interrupted only by a loud whistle and away from the station we rolled. In the midst of entertaining a VERY excited 2 year old, I was also busy finding every possible crack in the armor of perfection with this woman a few rows up. I was judging her HARD.

It was here the Lord had just about enough of my nonsense. I felt Him say to my heart in His loving but firm way, “You have no idea what battles she is fighting at home. You have no idea what her life is like.” I looked up and noticed the woman was now sitting alone, staring out the window with tears rolling down her cheeks. My heart sank as I was moved with compassion for her. My heart broke for her and I could feel her pain in my bones. I asked the Lord to forgive my ugly and let me see her as He sees her. Actually Lord, I want to see all your children like you see them. I recognized a critical spirit operating within me and I gave Him permission to work that out. I desperately wanted my heart’s response to the people who cross my path to be “isn’t she lovely?”

When talking to Samuel about anointing the next king in 1 Samuel 16:7, The Lord says:

“People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”


In an uncomfortable place in my life, I chose to tear another sister down with the sword of comparison and a spirit of criticism rather than find comfort in the One who brings peace to the storm. When we compare ourselves to another human, we automatically lose because we are comparing our insides to their outsides. The problem is that for all of us, our outsides aren’t WHO we are; they are just the carrying case to get our authentic self from place to place. And whether comparing makes us feel better or worse about ourselves in the moment, neither are truth. It is always apples to oranges and it always takes our eyes off what is important. A critical spirit robs us of seeing people’s pain and keeps us from loving them well.

It has been a long journey with the Lord as He works the comparison and the critical out of me. I still catch myself making snap judgments based on appearances in an instant. But the Holy Spirit is so sweet to quickly remind me that all His children are precious and it is my job to love them and pray over them. This work of the heart is hard but necessary if I am to make a difference in this world. My deepest desire is to leave people better than I found them.  My goal is to love others well. Lord, help me see your people like you see them and plant seeds that give you an opportunity to grow something beautiful in their lives.