APRIL 20, 2018

An Afternoon At The Secretary Of State's Office

Dear Church,

I can think of a few places I’d rather spend an hour than at the Secretary of State’s office.  Yet, that was where I found myself on Monday afternoon.  I should back up.  I received an email that my vehicle registration was up for renewal, but quickly realized that before I could renew my 2004 Acura with 187,000 miles on it, I needed to not only have my license renewed (yes, I mentally disregarded the letter I received in the mail a few months ago reminding me that my license was expired as of April 8) but that I also needed to get a vehicle emission’s test (yes, I mentally disregarded the letter I received in the mail a few months ago reminding me that I needed the emissions tested on my car).  So, I headed out to the Midlothian office only to realize as I pulled in that the fine print on the letter in my hand said that particular office is closed on Mondays.  Lovely.

So, I headed south to the Chicago Heights office.  My number was B291.  I looked up at the screen and it read, “Now Serving B268.”  Lovely.  The waiting list actually moved along quickly and, thankfully, I had brought a book.  Finally, when my number was called, I made my way through the crowd to Station #3 where I met a nice woman named Jan.  I told her I was there to renew my license.  She then rattled off a series of yes or no questions she had memorized, I took a vision test lasting all of ten seconds, she had me initial a few places on the document she handed me and then told me to go to Station #9 where I would pay my $30 renewal fee and be on my way.  Before I left I asked her, “Do you like your job?”  She paused.  While she paused I commented, “I only ask because I can imagine this could be a pretty stressful work environment.”  She slightly tilted her head and said, “Yeah, but you just gotta leave it at work.”  I smiled and simply said, “You must have a lot of patience.”  Before I could say thank you, I heard over the loud speaker, “Now Serving B292.”

How do you do that?  Just leave it all at work?  Leave it all at school?  How do you compartmentalize such large parts of your day to areas in your souls where they won’t affect other areas?  It’s almost like living life on one of those lunch trays where there is a designated area for mushy carrots and another designated area for that syrupy fruit mix and then another designated area for a sloppy joe.  How do you just leave it at work?  Can we?  Should we?

Now, I ask these questions as someone whose job basically demands stark compartmentalization.  Funeral in the morning, pre-marital counseling appointment at night, and home in time to put the kids to bed.  Not really the kind of job that is conducive to an emotionally integrated life.  But then again, I wonder if in fact, we really should be striving to live lives where there is no designated area for certain foods.  I wonder if we are called to live lives where our faith in Jesus Christ should impact everything from the email I send at work to the tone I have at home when talking with my spouse?  I wonder if we are called to live lives where the person I am on Friday night out with my friends is the same person I am on Sunday morning in worship?  I wonder if we are called to live lives where the person I am sitting in math class with is the same person I am when I’m at my grandparent’s house for Sunday dinner?

In the same way, the joys and struggles of life all meld together in how we talk, our body language and our overall demeanor.  We can’t just leave it at work.  But maybe the worst mistake we can make is to brush it off with, “I’m okay,” or even say nothing at all and walk around clearly upset about something.  Maybe we should just own it.  “Yeah, it’s been a rough few weeks, thanks for asking.”  “It’s not you, the meeting I had today was just brutal.”  “I’m not upset with you, I’m just stressed with what’s on my plate.”  My guess is that there would be space for empathy and grace.  Don’t just leave it at work.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt