Today it took me 3 hours to get out of Sydney. I zipped through all the toll roads, avoided Shopping Centre’s and wasn’t riding a camel so there was no discernable reason for it to take that long to drive the 32kms from Clovelly to Wahroonga, except for the whole Good Friday thing. And as I sat and raged in my car, it felt like it wasn’t very good at all, as the inconvenience of the delay sucked away my sanity.
See, before I moved to Sydney, when people asked what I was most nervous about, I said traffic. I mentioned a proclivity toward road rage and made jokes about God using Sydney to help with my sanctification… Oh. How. Droll. Until today when the rubber didn’t so much hit the road as gently, s l o w l y run along it with the tip of one finger, while I inched forward in my small red bean.
At first, I deflected the rage by making phone-calls. I called my two favourite homes in the world – my sister’s and my parents. Both of them sympathized. Both laughed with me. Both passed a considerable length of time chatting. But by the end of two phone-calls, I was at my (wits) end. So very angry with people who zoomed in from side roads and jumped in front, almost apoplectic at the thought that my precious Easter weekend was being eaten up in a car. Ah yes. Easter. No matter how I tried to suppress that thought, it kept surfacing amongst the rage, beating like a drum in my head.
In the course of those two conversations I said “this is the worst thing in the whole world”, “I’ve never seen anything like it”, “I don’t know what to do” and “I’m so angry – I’m beside myself”. As I heard the words come out, others followed them in my brain, tapping a gentle rhythm. “Really Laura? The worst thing? Are you sure”? “This is your Everest – a two-hour delay?” “This is all it takes to break you – make you lose all sense and reason?” No. Yes. Yes.
At the same time a verse from our Easter Service this morning kept swimming around my head. It was a verse from an old hymn, and as I thought about my reluctant answers to those questions, I realized it perfectly summed up what we remember today, the Good in the Friday.
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place, condemned he stood.
Sealed my pardon with his blood –
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
You know, Jesus bore more shame than the shame of being nailed to a cross like a criminal. He bore more spitting than the spitting in his face from those who lined the road to Golgotha. It wasn’t merely the weight of the sin of those who were physically present to smell the sweat that condemned him. It was mine too. My scoffing. My spitting. But also the sin of my today…
My self-centeredness – to think that my time was worth so much. My indignation and outrage at something so tiny, and unimportant – a small delay, heightened to unimaginable depths in my mind. The sin was not the hold-up, but my response to it. I behaved, in some of my moments today, just like someone who had never heard that Jesus died for her. Or like someone who heard but didn’t care.
I think that’s the worst.
I think it’s the worst that on a day of remembering, I could forget so easily. That an hour after singing, and praying and being thankful, I could behave as though my traffic jam was the most terrible indignity anyone could ever suffer.
Was I serious? I’m afraid yes. But Jesus suffered indignities such that I could never fathom. And he did it for me, because my reaction today shook a fist at my maker that could not be forgiven any other way.
And so it turns out on this Good Friday that I need to be reminded of Jesus death on my behalf more than ever. I need to be reminded because his death – and life – means that I am not enslaved to sin anymore. Not only has my sin been paid for in full – “oh the bliss of this glorious thought” – but it is no longer my master… Jesus is. My reaction today does not have to be – should not be – my reaction anymore. And by God’s grace it won’t be next time. By God’s grace one day it will never be again.
And until that day I pray that traffic jams and inconveniences and whatever else it takes keep reminding me of how very much I needed Jesus to die on that cross for me. Until that day I pray that I will be reminded always to fall at my feet before the cross, a pilgrim with a burden no more, and sing his praises. Until that day.
“Lest I forget Gethsemane
Lest I forget thine agony
Lest I forget thy love for me
Lead to me to Calvary”.