When the M40 motorway comes to the Chiltern Hills, it doesn’t really climb them. It slices straight through. And when it comes to the valley of High Wycombe, it doesn’t go down to it. It strides across on stilts. It never turns any sharp corners. It goes on in a more or less straight line. And its surface is kept smooth, with no bumps on it to speak of. When they built it they must (cf. Isaiah 40:4) have said to themselves:
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Think how very different all this is from the old-fashioned kind of road, the winding lane, Chesterton’s rolling English road that the English drunkards made….
Now this old-fashioned sort of road is an image of the way we deal with each other, how we have to deal with people. With people we don’t like very much, it is often an uphill struggle… With our friends it is all so much easier: a downhill run that carries us along…. We have to assess people all the time…. Are they going to be helpful? Or will they just make things worse? All this is a bit like the old kind of road, cautiously picking its way through the terrain….
The way of God’s love is more like the motorway. It doesn’t care whether it meets easy or difficuly, uphill or downhill, good or bad. It doesn’t care how important or unimportant we are. All those careful judgements we have to make … - none of this counts with God’s love. He cuts straight through all the mountains and the valleys, the heights of sanctity and the depths of depravity. He does not turn aside from anyone. His way is smooth and easy and swift. And it reaches to sinners as well as saints.
God does not respond to his world. He does not adjust his reaction to suit good people or bad. You do not have to be good before God will love you; you do not have to try to be good before God will forgive you; you do not have to repent before you will be absolved by God. It is all the other way round. If you are good, it is because God’s love has already made you so; if you want to try to be good, that is because God is loving you; if you want to be forgiven, that is because God is forgiving you. You do not have to do anything, or pay anything, in exchange for God’s love. God does not demand anything of you. Nothing whatever.
There is just one thing you need: you have to be ready to take a risk… You have to be prepared to let go of that faith in yourself that you have so lovingly built up…. You have to have faith in his love; for you face the dreadful danger of becoming good, of becoming yourself as loving as God is loving. And this is a frightful prospect. The motorway can do terrible things to the countryside as it spears its way through. And God’s love can do terrible things to you. It may make you kind and considerate and loving….
The crucifix shows us that God … was ready himself to take the risks that we take in being loved by God. The Word of God was made flesh so that he could suffer, suffer at our hands because he was a servant of love…. This is part of the meaning of the season of Advent culminating in Christmas: that God became flesh so that he could suffer… With the insane unthinking directness of love, he blundered into our lives, crashing through like a motorway … so that we could share his life of love and joy in eternity.
Herbert McCabe, “Motorways and God”, in God, Christ and Us (London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 25-28.