August 18 – In Praise of E-ZPass

This past Monday Becky and I returned from a long weekend in Sturgis, Michigan, where our oldest daughter and her family live.  It is a 637 mile car trip, and a relatively easy, or should I say E-Z, trip.  627 of the 637 miles are on turnpikes or a toll road. We leave Langhorne and drive five miles to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We stay on the PA Turnpike for 351 miles until it becomes the Ohio Turnpike. After 240 miles, the Ohio Turnpike becomes the Indiana Toll Road.  36 miles later you take the Sturgis, Michigan, exit, cross the state line, and five miles later you are at Katharine’s and Ryan’s house.

Ohio has the best service plazas; the gas is cheaper and half of them have a Panera Bread restaurant.

Like most people who live near the Turnpike, we have an E-ZPass transponder affixed to the windshield of our car.  It makes getting on and off the turnpike or toll road a lot easier, though Ohio and Indiana insist on keeping those automatic gates that go up and down even in the E-ZPass lanes.

Apparently E-ZPass is a win-win for most of us.  The Turnpike Commission doesn’t have to pay as many toll takers as it once did, and those of us with a transponder affixed to our windshields save a little bit of time (less in Ohio and Indiana where they insist on keeping those automatic gates even in the E-ZPass lanes) and the hassle of having to find the cash and coins to pay our tolls.

In Pennsylvania and Ohio, E-ZPass holders also save money.  The $40.25 cash toll from Exit 351 to the Ohio State line is reduced to $30.91 when you use EZ-Pass, and you can drive all the way across Ohio with $12.50 deducted from your E-ZPass account instead of paying $18.25 in cash tolls.  Indiana actually charged us four cents more to use 36 miles of its Toll Road with E-ZPass rather than paying cash.  There is something wrong in Indiana (they privatized the Toll Road ten years ago, and now there’s a profit to be made).

And since I looked up all the numbers, you might as well know that we Pennsylvanians pay eleven cents per mile to drive across our state.  In Ohio you only pay eight cents per mile. In Indiana you have to pay seventeen cents per mile, but we all know there is something wrong in Indiana.

I like having the E-ZPass transponder affixed to our windshield. I like saving money and time and avoiding a little hassle. I don’t mind paying Indiana an extra four cents to use their Toll Road for 36 miles.

But using E-ZPass means that unless I take the time to look it up, I am really not aware of the cost of getting where I want to go. I’m just glad to save some time, money, and hassle, even if Ohio and Indiana insist on keeping those automatic gates in the E-ZPass lanes.

Many of us have lived our lives with an E-ZPass as part of who we are.  We were raised by good parents, given a fine education, found fulfilling jobs, and are surrounded by wonderful friends and family. Persecution and discrimination have not been major factors in our lives, and we have not had to question the freedoms we have as citizens of our good country.

It’s easy to forget there’s a price to pay for our E-Z lives.  We must work to ensure strong families and good schools for children not our own. We need to reach out to the lonely and those who do not know the benefit of good friends and supportive communities. We have to stand against persecution and discrimination whether it is directed at us or not.

In case we forgot, living a life of integrity, making a difference, standing for love is not E-Z.

As Christians we celebrate the free gift of salvation God has given us in Christ. We did nothing to earn or deserve it. It is, by definition, sheer and amazing grace. But it is not cheap grace. The life of discipleship is not E-Z. Costly grace sent the Beloved Son to the cross for our sakes. Recipients of such amazing grace are called day by day to take up their crosses and follow him.  The life of the disciple is harder, but so much better than the E-Z life.

By the way, in that city to which we are bound, the gates are never down (Revelation 21:24-25).

See You Sunday