I was sitting in a line up of blue, plastic chairs at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to register my car. As opposed to my other times in the DMV recently, everyone was wearing a mask this time. It doesn’t make sense, in my brain, to go back and forth. I leaned over to someone nearby and asked if she knew why everyone was wearing masks. She said, “I think it is because the numbers are up.”
“Of course they are,” I groused to myself. “Numbers.” It is a game. A manipulation game. Out loud to my seat mate I said, “Oh, that game.” And she quickly looked away and stopped the conversation.
I sat on my blue chair looking up at the number 107 awaiting my number, number 128, in the DMV and felt like my attitude needed adjusting. I was sitting there feeling boxed in, masked, and controlled. Inside, spiraling, I glanced down at the paperwork I had with me. I had placed in a random manila folder. The folder was labeled. There staring at me was word I had penned on this folder in 1988 when I had created file folders for my notes from seminary.
The word said FREEDOM. Freedom.
Here I sat there feeling anything but free, but God spoke this word, this new message into my world from a folder I had randomly carried with me.
The Lord whispered in my heart. “Stay Free, son.” Freedom. The line from Galatians came back to me, 5:1 where Paul had encouraged his readers, writing, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
The number 113 was called, and the woman, who had stopped our conversation, and the man with her stood and went to window four. There on his seat was his vaccination card. I picked it up, followed him to the window and said, “Excuse me, you seemed to have dropped this.” He was so grateful and thanked me profusely. That simple action helped my heart.
Paul wrote to the people in Galatia of taking up the shackles of legalism, but I too needed to be free. My shackles were the grief at the worldwide captivity occurring because of fascism and totalitarianism, even in the US. But my grief, anger, frustration, as I have learned before, are a bondage all their own. They create barriers within my heart. They build walls between me and others. There on my folder:
Freedom, Paul wrote, was a choice. “Stand firm,” and “do not let yourselves…” I was in the midst of a choice sitting on my blue plastic chair.
I looked up: Number 121.
I began to focus on the scripture story I had been working with, the story of David and Goliath as he shouted back to the giant’s bullying taunt, “You come against me with a sword, and a spear and a javelin but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the Armies of Israel whom you have this day defied. This day He will deliver you into my hand … then the world will know there is a God in Israel…”
David didn’t run from the bullying taunt, he didn’t shrink because of fear, he didn’t get angry, he stood in a strength unknown to the giant. “David remained free.” I marveled. I smile formed beneath my mask. Freedom.
I looked up: Number 127.
My focus was off of my mask, the masks in the room and back onto God. My number was called: “Number 128 to window 8.”
I walked to the man behind his plastic partition at window 8 and we struggled to understand one another through our masks and the plastic barrier. But we managed. I joked. He laughed. I was getting the upgraded travel license along with my new tags for my car. So, after we completed everything, he directed me with my paperwork to sit down in the grey plastic chairs on the far side of the room against the windows, to await the guy with the camera. This man called my name and I went up.
Standing in front of the blue background, I removed my mask and smiled. The man looked up and took my picture and smiled back. “Looks like you are still a happy guy,” he said to me. “You know, some of the people I can see their past pictures and see a progression of sadness and bondage in their faces and eyes. I wonder when I see it, ‘What has happened in their lives?'”
“What a perspective you have been given,” I responded. “There’s nothing like joy. I have to choose it. Keep looking up. Jesus has us.” The man gave me a thumbs up.
“That is good.” He told me.
Today, when I got what for me was really hard news and the Lord brought me back to the word Freedom. There again I could choose catastrophic thinking. I could choose to paint everything one, dark, bleak color. Or, I could turn to freedom and remain free. God remains God even in the middle of hard times, bad news, scary circumstances.
Freedom. Stay free, okay?
There is much which can bind us inside and outside. Freedom is a choice. It bears repeating:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”