A short quarter of a mile from the home I grew up in is the intersection of Sterrettania and Caughey Road. I remember the days when this intersection was marked by stop signs, now it has a traffic light. When the traffic light was installed everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. That intersection had been plagued with a number of accidents due to a slight hill that made those traveling North on Sterrettania come up on the intersection faster then those crossing it realized. The traffic light was a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.
Now the intersection is like any other, complete with electrical poles at each corner with wires running in between them all. Nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about that. The polls are thick and wooden. The wires dangle sway in the wind like they do in any other town, at any other crossroads. I have seen this intersection a thousand times, probably more, yet for some reason today it took on a whole new light.
As I sat at the intersection, waiting for my light to turn green, I gazed about, enjoying the cloudless sky, low humidity and perfect temperature. As my eyes surveyed my surroundings they landed on the electrical pole to the right of my car. For the first time I noticed the wear and tear that it has endured since its construction, not that many years ago. That might seem insignificant. Who cares about the condition of an electrical pole? And who notices?
Apparently, I do. When I looked at that pole I noticed for the first time the hundreds of nail holes covering the surface of the wood. Some chunks of the pole were broken off, others were holding on by a few strands. Remnants of old fliers hung haphazardly and dots of paint were splattered at random. This pole had taken a beating in its short life. It is a favorite spot for community advertisements to be displayed: garage sales, lost dogs, furniture to sell, fundraisers. Some kids have used that pole as a canvas for their artwork, spray painting, carving and writing on its surface.
Yet, the pole still stands. It has taken abuse from all directions, been hammered upon and possibly even run into by cars, bikes or just rowdy kids. Human action has turned the smooth surface of that pole into a mess.
Today, when I looked at that pole, I saw the cross of Jesus Christ. Each nail hole was no longer just piercing the wood of a pole, but the wood of his cross. I saw in that pole the sins that nailed Jesus to that cross - the sins I committed.
Each of us has our own pole. It is covered from head to toe with lacerations, holes and remnants of the past. We nailed each piece of paper to that pole and carved each lousy attempt at "art". Our sins took something that was smooth and perfect and drove a nail through it.
Yet, the pole still stands.
Jesus Christ still reigns, our holy king, eternal and unshakable. He was nailed to a cross to pay the pentalty for our countless transgressions and sinful, malice hearts. He rose on the third day to reign as victor over death eternal. The people he suffered and died for were still sinful but because of his sacrifice, they could and still can be forgiven for all their wrongdoing.
I am no different from the next person. We are all tainted with the mark of sin and there is only one way to wash it clean. We cannot tape chunks of wood back into our own pole and hope to make ourselves new, fresh and restored. There is only one who can wipe the slate of our lives smooth. He can cleanse our past, break into our present and give us peace for the future. First, we must acknowledge that we nailed Jesus to the cross with our sin. If we cannot humble ourselves, accept our guilt in his suffering and dying, then we cannot receive his sacrifice. But immediately, when we admit our sin, acknowledge his suffering on our behalf, and submit ourselves to his will, asking for his forgiveness and grace, we are restored. The nail holes of our lives disappear, and a smooth surface is put in its place.
Have you asked Jesus to wipe your slate clean? Have you seen the nails you drove into his hands and feet? Next time you are stopped at a traffic light, take a look at the electrical pole. Take note of the damage done by human hands over the course of time. Then stop and reflect on the nails of your own life - the toll they have taken and the mark they have left on the cross of Christ. Then ask God to forgive them.