Catching the Wrong Train

by Jason M. Karampatsos, Ph.D.

Recently I had the chance to once again travel into Washington DC to participate in the Potomac Ministry Network’s NEXT Conference. This time around John May and Mark Batterson had invited Darren Hileman to join them in challenging young leaders take the “NEXT step in their life and ministry”. As has been the case over the past few years, I feverishly took notes in the Moleskine I received as a gift during my first two-day NEXT years ago, and I coordinated with a close friend to meet me at Union Station early in the morning to debrief on life and ministry.

I left with writer’s cramp from trying to write down Darren Hileman’s one-liners and from trying to keep up with Mark Batterson insights on National Community Church’s “18 years of runway”, but there is one thing that I took away from the day that was never spoken of in the meeting space below Ebenezer’s Coffee House: I have never taken the wrong train.

The close friend that I mentioned is actually far more than just a close friend, he is a kindred spirit that has journeyed with me in ministry for close to 15 years. We were both youth pastors in central New Jersey for four years creating our own brand of trouble as we touched young lives for Christ before going our separate ways for graduate school. The miles never seemed to matter and our friendship grew until God’s providence brought us both to the DC Metro area separated only by the length of the orange line.

I woke up that morning at 5:30 in order to meet up for breakfast before the day began. I checked the route, Metro times, and verified I had the correct amount loaded on my Metro Card. (to be honest, I added extra just to be safe). I brought a book to keep me company, a book that my friend and I were reading through together, but I also had my Metro app open on my iPhone and frequently checked to make sure that I was on track for my morning commute.

I also had chosen a seat in the first car right beside the instantly recognizable Metro map that I also kept checking to make sure that I wouldn’t miss my connecting train to the red line at Metro Center. I enjoy taking the Metro, it is far easier than driving, and I have taken it so many times I can almost feel what stop we are at intuitively, but yet I am still driven to check my app and the map more times than I should.

My friend on the other hand got on the orange line as planned, but then got on the red line heading in the wrong direction. It wasn’t until he was nearing the National Zoo that he recognized the error of his ways and had to double back. When he shared this with me I think I literally laughed out loud, but not as hard as when he shared that he had made a similar mistake on the way home and found himself on the newly opened silver line.

We both made it home ok, traffic outside of the beltway was manageable and I made it home in time to see the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on TV with my kids, but I took something away from that day that I haven’t been able to shake. I summed it up this way in a text to my friend, “I’m not truly a bad friend, I just was struck by my being stressed out about not missing my stop and you catching the wrong train twice and wondering which one I would prefer.”

He graciously replied that good friends can laugh at each other like that, to which I added, “On my ride home I was wondering if I’d enjoy life more if I were willing to catch the wrong train from time to time. For now I fear I don’t allow enough margin in life for it though.”

I don’t know about you, and I honestly don’t even know what I’ll do the next time I find myself on the Metro, but something about the idea of catching the wrong train sounds like fun. I might start small and only spell check this post once or twice, or perhaps I’ll answer a call from an unknown number or sign for a restaurant bill without double checking it first.

Getting to places on time, without getting lost is nice, but perhaps some of us (like myself) could benefit from allowing ourselves to get lost from time to time. We, that is I, might just do more than arrive at our destination, we may enjoy getting there more and learn something else along the way.

“Not all who wander are lost.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website

About Safe Harbor Christian Counseling

Safe Harbor Christian Counseling serves local communities by providing Christian-based, clinically sound counseling so that people experience the recovery of their hearts. Our unique approach to marriage counseling, family counseling and individual counseling includes offering an inviting atmosphere whereby a healing relationship is experienced in the counseling room. Safe Harbor consists of 7 partners with over 70 counselors trained in the mental health field.
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