Welcome to the Garden State”
It’s becoming more and more official. Check another box off of our cross-country move list. We now have NJ license plates on our cars and our official NJ drivers licenses are in the mail. Of course, you know what this means. In order for these things to take place, my lovely wife and I had to make a fun, exhilarating trip. Who needs a date night or weekend getaway? Day trip to the beach? No way! When we’re looking for a good time, we head to Wayne and visit the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles. Fasten your seat belts. Keep your arms and legs inside at all times. It’s gonna be wild ride. Rip-roaring excitement awaits. Try not to get too jealous, but yes indeed, this past Friday, we spent about two hours of our day at the DMV. Did you just inwardly groan or wince when you read that? 😉
What a stressful two hours that was! Even though we had scheduled appointments far in advance, had (almost) all of our paperwork in hand and all our forms filled out, there was still this incredible sense of stress and tension the moment we walked into the walls of that DMV. Perhaps it was the armed security guards or the receptionist who had about the same level of charm as an angry raccoon, but we immediately felt like our very presence in that building was an inconvenience to everyone else in the room. My wife said it felt like she was being brought before a judge and about to be thrown into jail. To me it felt more like being called into the principal’s office, unsure if I was there to get a new class schedule or about to be expelled. Either way, the institutional confines of the DMV were anything but warm and fuzzy. Though for the most part, the employees were helpful and patient (at least to us), we both felt like we were walking on eggs shells and just one misstep a way from being yelled at and sent to the naughty corner. Thankfully the trip was successful, albeit a tad nerve-wracking. When we were finally done, we both plopped down in the car and almost simultaneously said, “I need a drink!” It had to be 5 o’clock somewhere! And like the cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae, now we get to go and get both cars inspected. The fun never stops. I’m sure they’ll just ignore my glowing check engine light…right?
I understand establishments such as the DMV are necessary for the controlled order and oversight of our state. We do life in a fallen, broker world after all. 😉 Rules and restrictions are needed. Proper documentation is indispensable and making no exceptions is vital—even if it did provide a slight hiccup during our most recent trip. The DMV employees, likely underpaid and unappreciated, must see and hear all kinds of crazy things. Reflecting on this all now, I praise the good Lord that it is NOTHING like my work environment. That sort of stressful, institutionalized climate is not the way it should ever be when it comes to walking into the church. Any time we walk into the house of God, there is no uncertainty about where we stand before God. Will He accept me? YES! Will I be demoralized and affronted? NO! There is never any anxious waiting for a pastor to “approve” our documents or take a no-smiling allowed photo. There are no hoops to jump through nor specific criteria to meet. And there is definitely no inflated transfer or registration fee of any type; in fact there is no cost whatsoever. The church is a safe haven. It is a place where you can actually want and look forward to visiting! With all due respect to even the most serene DMV sites of this world, the church is an unrivaled place of good news and peace. Instead of anxiousness, there is acceptance. Instead of grief, there is grace. Instead of stress, there is salvation. Instead of hassle, there is hope. No matter what brings you into the walls of God’s church, your need will never be an inconvenience or a nuisance to your fellow worshipers, or to the Man in charge! The church exists to meet whatever needs you have to navigate life and hardships in a fallen world. No need to take a ticket number, or wait to speak to a supervisor, the invitation is open and never expires. We walk into church already knowing the outcome and end result. God loves us. He forgives us. He accepts us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
Who knew there were some spiritual cues to be found inside the walls of the DMV? You are loved and chosen by God, even before you walk into the doors of the church. No appointments necessary. You don’t need to wait for the official paperwork in the mail. You don’t even have to wait in a cold, stuffy room for a ticket number to be called. Your approval has already been signed, sealed, and delivered to you by the Holy Spirit in your baptism. Your baptism declares you to be part of the family and a child of the Heavenly Father—”by the mercy of God, you have been accepted because of Jesus’ righteousness and his own mercy.” (Titus 3:5-6) These continue to be strange times to be sure. The pandemic continues to leave a cloud of uneasiness in the hearts and minds of many. But as we come, slowly but surely, to the other side of this year-long global plague, please know that we can’t wait to see you back in the pews of King of Kings.
Plus, next time you walk into church—whenever that is—I promise you that EVERYONE will be genuinely happy to see you! 😊