Despite the lingering snow, I knew spring was truly here when I felt compelled last week to clean out bureau drawers and closets and even our family minivan. I am not a fantastic cleaner, but I do like to keep things organized. The van, however, had truly gotten away from my husband and me. It seems all those pocket crannies and cup holders were engineered to hold blackened banana peels, empty drink containers and kids’ garbage.

So I marched down the driveway in mud boots one night after dinner to tackle the van. Imagine my horror when from the console between the front seats I pulled out a broken glass thermometer. The kind with a red line up the side. The kind that looked like it had mercury.

I’d found one in a cupboard during our recent move and meant to take it to the hardware store where I’d seen a flier for a campaign offering to exchange people’s toxic old thermometers for a reward. Only I’d forgotten. And it looked like it had ended up in our van.

I will not pretend that I handled this discovery gracefully. Believing we’d been driving our children around with this health hazard all winter, I threw away the empty glass vial, bellowed at my husband (as if it were his fault) and stomped up the road to quiet my raging soul.

Like most things, ignoring that seemingly perilous thermometer didn’t matter – until the day it did. Medical science tells us that many of our negative health choices – such as being too sedentary or eating the wrong kind of foods – don’t always reveal physical harm until we are over age 40. Then, seemingly overnight, our years of poor choices begin to manifest as diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments. Like my mislaid thermometer, they don’t seem to matter until the day they do.

As I walked up the road that day, I realized that our spiritual choices are often the same. It’s easy to delay facing life’s divine decisions – why I am here, who I am answerable to, how to prepare for eternity – believing that what I do today doesn’t really matter. But one day it will.

“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged,” says 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NLT). “We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.”

How I spend my time. How I spend my money. And how I respond to Christ. Far greater than the peril of a broken thermometer is the danger of delaying decisions of eternal consequence. Thankfully, through Christ’s death on the cross God himself launched a campaign to exchange the penalties of our toxic choices for his eternal rewards. I can think of no better time to embrace this offer than during these final days leading up to Easter.

Also, thankfully, when the remaining snow melted, we discovered that the thermometer in our van had actually come from a non-mercury one that must have fallen off a window over the winter and been dismantled by one of our younger kids. Still, it is a reminder not to be casual about hazardous choices. Today–Good Friday–is the day I’m exchanging the mercury thermometer for something safe. Won’t you take Christ up on his exchange too?

Not sure what that is?

In his book, Atonement, Derek Prince, a former professor of philosophy at Cambridge University, talks about the nine “divine exchanges” that occurred on the cross on this day in history. Prince writes:

“On the cross… a divinely ordained exchange took place–something conceived in the heart and mind of God from eternity and acted out at Calvary. The cross was no accident–not some grievous mishap forced on Jesus, not some development God had not forseen. No, the cross was a marvel ordained by God from the beginning of times in which Jesus, as Priest, offered Himself to God as the sacrifice. By this one sacrifice He made provision for all the needs of the whole human race in every area of our lives, for time and eternity.

The nature of the exchange was this: All the evil due by justice to us came on Jesus, that all the good due to Jesus, because of His sinless obedience, might be made available to us. Or, more briefly: All the evil came on Jesus that all the good might be made available to us.

We have seen horrific news in the last months and years of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in countries around the world. No sane, compassionate person would say that the perpetrators of such violence should be able to walk away from their actions without being held responsible for the suffering they have caused. While our own poor choices and hurtful actions may seem less severe, in God’s eyes we too are responsible for the negative consequences of our actions against others, against the earth he created, and against him. Only God knows the full extent of the harm our actions have caused.

Someone had to pay the price for our sin.

But who could be good enough?

Only One who had never sinned. Only One sent by God for just this purpose. Only Christ.

This is the exchange God made on the cross. Christ chose to receive the punishment we deserve–a debt we could not pay–that we might be forgiven for our sins and live a life mirrored after his goodness.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23.

Our choices matter because we have a choice.

And here is the most important choice of all: by faith to choose Christ’s exchange for you.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, officially launches on May 1.