lessons in commuting

I’ve spent the last few weeks with fingers impatiently tapping at keys and at a total loss for words. I feel torn between a desire for life to slow the freak down and speed up fast enough that my days blur by until boarding a plane. It’s hard straddling those two desires, that’s for sure.

But what I want to write about – no, need to write about – is not my life right now and all that is going on in it. I need to write about Jesus. About the fact that He is good and He likes me. Because in the midst of transition, questions, goodbyes, and bitter healing hearts, I really need Him. Pretty much more than anything else.

Which brings me to this epiphany I had the other week, which was a total reminder of all that.

So I spend every week day commuting from Boulder to Denver on a bus. I also spend every week complaining substantially about said commute (even though I know most of America does this every day). I’m thankful for my job and I’m thankful for where I live – I just wish they were closer together.

Now, let me tell you about my bus rides every day: they are never as expected. Whether it’s getting stuck trying to crest a hill in an atypical April blizzard or sitting next to some of the most unique individuals on the planet, it is never dull and never predictable. But one thing that is consistent, especially in the mornings, is that the bus always takes the good old HOV lane. ‘Cause we’re all carpooling, I suppose.

Taking the bus in the morning is a bit rough. First, I am not a morning person, so my mornings typically consist of repeatedly hitting the snooze button, groaning loudly, and eventually tearing my tired limbs from the warm embrace of my comforter. It involves a shower that always tends to take five minutes longer than it should, hot steam caressing my sleepy brain into a slightly more cognitive state. Stepping out of the shower usually entails a quick look at my clock, which invariably causes a “Dangit!’ to slip from my lips as I rev into hyper-panic-getting-ready-mode. I tug on my shoes of choice, run up the stairs and dash outside into the crisp Colorado air to my car. From there I drive like a crazy person to the bus stop (driving to go take the bus always seems sort of redundant to me, by the way), keeping one sleep-encrusted and wide eye on the ticking clock on my dash, watching the moments until my bus’ departure slip by. I race to the parking garage, whirl my car into a space, slam the door shut and sprint to the bus stop.

Generally I make it just in time to join the quiet, orderly crowd of multi-generational professionals, tightly-lipped and carrying brown shiny briefcases as we shuffle up the few, steep steps onto the bus.

I typically greet the driver, slip on by and sit down, crowded up against the window in anticipation for the stranger about to sit by me.

Getting to the bus is stressful. But once I’m on the bus, I literally have to let someone take the wheel (because on a bus, backseat driving just gets extreme – believe me, I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty). I’m not in control of when I get where I need to go, or even the route that I’ll be taking on the way there. I’m just along for the ride with a bunch of strangers, who hopefully got on the right bus and were planning on heading the same direction as me. I watch the word flash by a large, tinted window, and take a deep breath every single time.

The bus takes the express lane every day, and my gaze always lands on the parking lot of cars in the main lanes. More often than not, I dismiss the long line of stressed commuters whose wide-eyed faces are lit by the reddish tone of brake lights and acoustics of talk radio. Because regardless of how annoyed I am about taking the bus, I am pretty dang thankful most days that I’m not one of those people sitting still and stressing over the next two feet of forward motion.

And here’s where my epiphany comes in (get ready).

One such morning, I’m staring out my window at the honking mess as the bus speeds past and a Bible verse floats into my mind like mist, a barely formed thought that I noticed just enough to try and reach out a grasp as it loosely tangled in my mind:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

(matthew 7:13-14)

And as I’m observing through the glass the five lanes of stopped traffic, I see out of the corner of my eye the clear and empty road ahead of the bus I’m sitting on and it clicks. Not that all those people in their cars are going to hell or some crap – nothing like that. But having been one of them, I know that they are stressed, impatient, concerned, and carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders wedged beneath that tightly fastened seatbelt. And there are a lot of cars occupying space across four lanes of highway just on I-25 in Colorado like that, much less across the whole country, filled with people who are not content.

But on the bus, I’m free. I literally cannot add a single ounce of effort to force the bus to get where it’s going any faster. And ultimately I don’t really have any control over where it ends up anyway. When you’re on a bus, there’s also only so many seats as compared with the hundreds of people stuck in traffic. And in that moment where the world sort of shifted into place, I realized that it’s a lot like faith.

I have been sifting through a bunch of lies and garbage stuck in my head about what I need to do to be a good person, a good Christian, a worthwhile existence on this planet. And in realizing that that garbage needs to be thrown out, I’ve been mad and sad and tired and confused about what fits into place instead. I’ve been at a complete loss for words and anything else of how to even try to begin to explain what just hasn’t been sitting right. And in that moment on my bus ride commute, the words came.

Riding the bus is a lot like faith. I hand over the control of my life to another and hang on for the ride. All I had to do is get on. The driver will take me where I need to go and give me the rest, the safety, the direction I need to get where I’m going. I don’t need to fret, force anything, make myself busy for busyness’ sake – I just need to be there. And it’s exactly the same when it comes to my walk with the Lord. I just need to show up and let Him do the driving.

And that, my friends, is grace upon grace.