“How long, O Lord?” – me stuck in peak hour traffic
How long does it take you to travel from home to your place of study or work? In 2017, Sydney had the longest average daily commute (71 minutes) followed by Brisbane (67 minutes), Melbourne (65 minutes), Perth (59 minutes) and Adelaide (56 minutes). If I could add another line to Ecclesiastes 3 ‘A Time for Everything’, it would be ‘a time to commute and a time to sleep in/exercise/make proper breakfast/walk the dog’. These are the possibilities the pandemic might have shown us. Those of us who worked or studied from home suddenly found ourselves free from the commute and those of us who continued to travel to study or work found ourselves free from peak hour traffic. What a gift!
But now that our patterns of work are recalibrating once again, have you noticed the faces people wear on their commute to work? That blank expression that pairs particularly well with black or grey clothing. When I first began working, I wore this expression permanently on my 56-minute commute (each way) for three years straight. These days, my commute from the kitchen to the study at precisely 8:56am for a 9:00am meeting sees a different, more manic expression take over my face. Somehow, I am still as restless as ever as the first meeting collapses into another one and unattended emails grow. How does being a child of God help us redeem our commutes…. or lack thereof?
God is with us in our coming and going
By the third month of commuting from Templestowe to the city, I unknowingly began a life-long habit of acknowledging God’s presence in every commute. It was birthed out of desperation really. The fatigue of movement, the lack of personal space, and the urgency of responsibility which waited on the other end became all too heavy to bear alone. Passages like John 14:16-17 remind us that Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and in us. Wherever we are, God is present with us.
So, I introduced alternating rhythms of meditating on God’s word (often a short Psalm or passage) and prayer into my commute to help me embrace this reality. Sometimes I deliberately prayed, ‘Lord, help me delight in your company on this commute’. Other times I simply forgot, but gosh did God answer that prayer anyway: from feeling His peace, to feeling inspired to text someone with a word of encouragement, to being caught in wonder as a fiery sunset graced our journey home. If you ever drive down the Eastern Freeway (M3) at dusk on a clear day, check your review or side mirror between the Chandler Hwy and Burke Rd exits. It might just make your commute a little brighter and remind you that the Creator of the universe is with you, right there in the traffic.
God is our keeper in our going out and coming home
One of my favourite Psalms concludes with this line, ‘The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore’. Ps 121:8 (ESV)
Not only is God with me during my commute; He is also my keeper. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen on my commutes is within God’s control. Whether I use that time to nap (as is often the case on Monday morning), listen to a podcast, get lost in some music, or chat to a friend I’ve bumped into, I do within God’s watch. He knows precisely whether I’ll get on the 12 or 109 tram up Victoria Parade tomorrow to head into the office. He also knows whether I managed to get enough sleep the night before. He knows what will be required of me at work – and at home. He knows the exact number of interactions – good and bad – I’ll encounter today. He knows the lies Satan will tempt me with and promises His grace is always greater than my weakness. With that in mind, I desire all the more to let God direct my commute for His purpose by praying, ‘Lord, thank you for this gift of time and help me prepare for the day or evening ahead’. This prayer has helped me to carve out buffer time before and after work for the days I’m working from home too.
It is worth saying that our commutes may not be solitary activities. Those of us who regularly take public transport may know all too well that the trip can be disrupted by unsafe or rude behaviour of others. In these moments too, knowing that God is my keeper has helped me regulate my breathing and on occasion, be a safe presence to others who are shaken by such moments. Lights always shine brighter in darkness.
God is the redeemer of every moment of life
Over time, I am learning to rest in the assurance which God offers us in Jesus. I am offered the gift of making my commute intentional, but my worth is not dependant on it. Perhaps the responsibility of redeeming every moment in life is not mine but God’s. In Jesus, He has made every moment we walk with Him, holy. Every trip we make to and from work. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually bringing our whole self to the act of honouring work and honouring rest. In our coming and going, let us remember Christ.