Really Useful Engines?

I wrote a few weeks ago about some of the books I’m currently reading: I didn’t mention that I also read about five Thomas the Tank Engine stories each day to Small Boy. He is in ‘The Thomas Phase’ – we play with trains every day, watch Thomas on TV as part of his screen-time ration, look up the names of engines, boats and cranes on the Thomas Wiki, and, as I’ve mentioned, read the stories (the original ones – which I prefer – and the more recent creations).


Googling ‘The theology of Thomas the Tank Engine’ brings up a number of different and interesting pages so my thoughts aren’t new or original. My pile of books to read is now as high as my knees (with the superlative Just Living by Ruth Valerio at the top) so I’ve not read the biography of Rev. W. Awdry, the author of the Thomas books. It would be interesting to know more about his faith and theological views but I don’t have the time or the inclination to develop this particular ‘just reflection’ into something more substantive!

Is ‘The Fat Controller’, the stout gentleman who runs the railway, meant to be like God? I want to grab Small Boy, hold him close and tell him Father God is not obsessed with him being a ‘Really Useful Engine’ (the highest compliment an engine can receive). God – and I – love him because we love him not because of his ‘usefulness’ or achievements. Maybe Awdry was heavily influenced by the Protestant work ethic with an emphasis on hard work and discipline?

Yet, I am encouraged by the many stories where the engines go on a journey of self-acceptance. Stafford, an electric engine, wants to be noisy like a steamie but learns to appreciate his quietness when he is able to round up some frightened sheep. The focus is still on getting a job done though!

In a world with a emphasis on appraisals, achievements and awards, how do we remember that not only are we loved because we are loved but those around us are as well? Who in your life needs to know they are loved because they are loved because they loved? How could you express God’s amazing love to them?


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