by S.M. Chen | 21 February 2023 |
In my commute between home and workplace, a distance of something over 150 km, I pass a weigh station. I pay it little heed, because, driving a passenger car, it does not directly concern me.
Or maybe it does, in a sort of way.
Part of the whole
In 1623, British poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” What concerns another man concerns me. If I am optimally sentient, I feel his pain. Maybe taste salt when he weeps.
If we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we believe we have a common Father. Which means we supplicants are all members of the same family: the family of man. And every other human I encounter is my relative.
If I subscribe to this notion, I become more aware. And patient. And forgiving.
Some have observed we get to choose our friends but not our family. But what if everyone were part of our family? I am far from perfect, as is every other human being. Might I be willing to cut them some slack? The same slack I cut myself?
Version 2 of my operating system is hopefully more enlightened than version 1.
Weigh stations are designed for trucks. The station takes into consideration how many axles the truck has, and what it weighs. 40 tons seems to be a federal cutoff. Special permits are sometimes required for heavier vehicles.
It seems the authorities want to know which trucks are responsible for the cracks that develop in the highway.
I returned home the day after Thanksgiving. Traffic was surprisingly heavy. All it takes is one accident, one person running out of petrol, one person with mechanical trouble, to slow the flow of traffic. Rubbernecking seems contagious.
The viscosity of traffic flow transitions from water to molasses on a cold day. Rather than become upset, I’ve developed a resigned attitude: I’m rather surprised it doesn’t happen with greater frequency. Rather than say, “Why me?” I now ask, “Why not me?” I’m grateful when it isn’t bad, for my commute then is closer to 1.5 than 2 hours.
This sign flashed outside the weigh station as I passed: SCALES CLOSED.
I did a double take. Synapses fired.
Weighed in the balances
In the book of Romans in the New Testament of Holy Writ we are told all have transgressed. If weighed in the balances, all will be found wanting (Daniel 5:27).
One might think, of the billions of people who have lived on Earth there might be a handful of people who managed to escape the wrath of the Almighty on their own merits. But no. According to the apostle Paul, not one.
The New England preacher Jonathan Edwards described the plight of humanity as sinners dangling by a thread above the fires of hell, and were it not for the reluctant beneficence of the Almighty, that thread would snap and there would be no hope at all. We would be plunged into the abyss.
If so, we might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Forever.
But wait. Something happened. A bit over two millennia ago, the incarnation happened.
And, like a truck that has gotten a free pass, we don’t have to be weighed. The scales are closed, as it were. Not for a day. For as long as there is breath. For as long as our heart beats, and there is life.
And the scales (different, but used as another metaphor in Holy Writ) fall from our eyes, and we see clearly.
The scales are closed
No one knows how long the heavenly weigh station will be closed. Tomorrow is not promised to any. Even if we are young, a bus could strike us as we step off a curb in a city crosswalk. Or we could be discovered to be harboring a life-threatening condition—perhaps a tumor lurks inside our head or somewhere else in our body, one that could shorten our life by years, if not decades. Or we could succumb to COVID.
We are fortunate its fatality is overall low, as compared with the Black Plague, or the Spanish flu of 1918. But for those who do succumb, the fatality rate is 100%. It seems there are an infinite number of ways to die. Perhaps more than there are ways to live. It is sobering but true: everyone now alive will die unless, if one believes thusly, the parousia happens in their lifetime.
But for believers, the scales are, as it were, closed. They will not be weighed. Or, if they are, they will not be found wanting. There is Someone there to lighten their load. His righteousness conceals their own rags. (For no matter how hard we try, our righteousness will always be rags.)
Jesus came to close the scales. Not for a day. Rather, for as long as the Spirit sits on one’s proverbial shoulder and whispers in one’s ear.
S.M. Chen writes from southern California.