It’s Sabbath morning and as usual, I am in a mad rush, grabbing last minute items for the kindy Sabbath School lesson. I am almost at the door and I remember to order my daughter, Amarina, to get some apples and muesli bars for a light lunch. Collecting spare clothes and nappies for the baby, I lumber downstairs. While I load my belongings into the car, I see the dog has tipped her water over – another order is snapped out for Amarina to do the job of refilling the bucket.
I do a mental inventory – Bible: check; bag: check; blanket for bub: check; water bottle: errr… it’s in the car somewhere.
Sitting in the car, we all buckle up and I check the clock: 9:15 – way too late. If we make it in half an hour the kids will just be separating for their age divisions and I have to be there to lead out. The wheels spin as we race up the driveway. I’m frustrated and cranky at this late start. I’m resentful and feeling hard-done by, seeing my day as a stressful event, trying to juggle all the demands placed on me.
The dirt road winds ahead of me and I try to get a grip of my thoughts. “How about we pray,” I suggest to my older daughter. I ask for Jesus’ blessing on our Sabbath day and that we use the time to draw closer to Him. I want to be sincere but my tense attitude reminds me I’m just churning out clichés. I finish off the prayer while I drive along a rise which gives a view of the surrounding hillsides and pasture. The sky in front of me has an unusual cloud pattern – light white cirrus in the background with delicate wisps of grey cloud laced in front of it. The picture is striking and it occurs to me that it would make a good photo – if only I had time to stop.
I come down into the hollow now; the trees close in over me and the skyline disappears. I need to focus on the road with the narrow bends coming up. We cross the causeway of a vine-draped creek and tear up the hill. Leafy embankments shade the car and block visibility of any oncoming traffic. As I pass, cattle watch with thoughtful faces; wallabies dart away from the roadside. Once we are at the top of the hill and the vegetation opens up again to reveal broad paddocks, the road becomes wider and easier to negotiate. My speed increases and I check the time again. 9:22.
Now I can relax a bit and listen to music. A cassette of Phillips, Craig and Dean is in the stereo and I turn it on. Worship music fills the car and we sing along. Soon we are on the bitumen and flashing past all the familiar properties of people I know, mostly by face, some others just by name. Five kilometres are covered in a few minutes and my mind wanders to tasks I’ll soon be doing. I start going over how I will present the story for the children. There’s a picture from a previous quarter which I can use for the activity– if only I had time to get into the Sabbath School room beforehand to check it out.
9:30 and I have turned off the main road onto the connecting road, which takes me into town. Amarina tries to tell me something but I have the music too loud to hear properly. I look at her in the mirror. “What did you say?” I ask. She tells me again. I can only make out some of it and I am annoyed. I really like this song and I don’t want to turn it down to hear her talk. I know I am being selfish but I just want some ‘me’ time before I get to church and all my responsibilities start.
A Matt Redman song is playing and I sing along with the harmonies: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, Jesus, it’s all about you…”
God’s Spirit interrupts me: 'What are you singing?' I feel guilty; I know I am hypocritical. I feel pleasure in singing the songs but I am not singing to God, just singing about Him. I try to concentrate more and think of God in a personal way.
Sorry, Lord. Help me, help me.
By 9:40 I am approaching town. I know it is late. I resent having to slow down to 80 km/hour, then down to 60 km/hour. I know I will not be able to get there on time if I disobey the speed limit anyway. The traffic irritates me - people who don’t indicate and people who drive erratically. Normally these quirks are part of what I love about a small country town but this morning I project my frustrations onto them. If only they’d let me cross the intersection, I wouldn’t be late! I know it’s a lie and I berate myself for being so irresponsible.
I putter along the streets of town towards the other side where the church is situated. 9:42, 9:43. I wonder what is going on at church. The song on the cassette now describes salvation and I sing along. “Amazing love, how can it be? That you my King would die for me…”
God’s Spirit calls me: 'Listen… listen to the words.'
My brain stops its frantic worry and I think about it. Imagine if, out of all the people scurrying around the planet, God leant down, pointed His finger at me and said, “You - you are my chosen. I died for you”. I drive past the show-grounds and as the road straightens in front of me, I lift my eyes to the sky. I have an epiphany - the blue expanse flashes and God says, 'It’s true – I died for YOU.'
I feel like Saul of Tarsus blinded by the light. My heart thumps and I am overwhelmed. The world slows down as I grasp this intoxicating truth. God communicates to me, an insignificant person wrapped up in self. My cloak of church-righteousness crumbles to dust and I am stripped bare. All I can do is open my heart. My pride, my frustration, my petty thoughts, drop away and I am humbled at the feet of my Saviour.
Amazing love - how can it be? God died for me.
9:45 and I pull into the church carpark. I am ready to worship.