The DMV is one of life’s great equalizers.
Yesterday morning I take a number, sit in a plastic chair and wait. I cannot make anything move faster — not the people, not the numbers lit red on the rectangular screen above our heads, and neither can anyone else.
We in this room are all alike. At another’s mercy, vulnerable.
The immigrant woman struggling to communicate the letters she reads for the eye test. The couple recently relocated to Portland and starting over in a new place. The man propped up by a cane trying in vain to make a little girl smile. The young mother barking sharply at her daughter who leans over her chair to see a new baby. The DMV attendant who sighs and bristles when I miss one box and check another incorrectly in my efforts to renew my license.
And I think to myself you represent everything people hate about the DMV, and I feel my face flush and my armor begin to solidify like Magic Shell as I stand before her, and then somehow the words fall from my mouth, “I apologize. I read that line wrong.”
Without warning, she changes her tune, softens, says even people who work there get that one messed up, and then at the end of our interaction:
“Well Miss Ashley, let me be the first to wish you a happy birthday,” she says, looking down at my form.
“Thank you. It’s 40,” I venture. “A big one.”
“Well, you don’t look it, so that’s good,” she says, a hint of smile crossing her stern face.
And I wonder how she knows that because I don’t think she ever looked up.
Yep, I do turn 40 on Sunday (a 23-hour birthday, thanks to the Daylight Savings Time switch from Michael’s and my anniversary weekend to my birthday weekend — the nerve!) But before that, this Saturday, I serve as a mentor and speak at a conference for the first time, at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference, which I love so dearly.
Yesterday morning pre-DMV, in the quiet of my house, Bible open on my lap, I noticed how continually my mind focused right in on ME and the unknowns of panel speaking and my jangly nerves.
It would be embarrassing to tell you how much time I’d already spent thinking about the outfit I’d wear and the anecdotes I’d share before I read Jesus’ instructions in Luke not to worry about my life or my body because my provider knows what I need.
Unfortunately, I missed most of the passage the first time because I was thinking about my skirt and boots.
I do not lie.
Just after the passage on the birds of the air and lilies of the field that God clothes in all splendor (which I did catch the second time around), I read one of the verses that helps me find my footing: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)
Which raises the questions: Where is my heart? What is my treasure? Are worry, insecurity and self-focus holding my heart in their hands?
I open to Brennan Manning’s words on the first day of Lent (the season of reflection and contemplation culminating in Jesus’ Easter resurrection). Manning writes: “Selfless service. This gift embodies and enfleshes the mind of Christ. It is the most effective way of transcending the consciousness that continually focuses attention on self. In his Passion, Jesus moves completely out of himself.” (emphasis mine)
While preparing for and enduring hideous death, Jesus serves: the apostles, women on the way to the cross, Pilate, the thief who hangs next to him and even Mary and John in agony at the foot of the cross as he dies. (Reflections for Ragamuffins, Brennan Manning, p. 65)
As we enter Lent, I sense acutely the chasm between Jesus’ perspective and my own, his complete other focus in contrast with my self attention.
I am not walking a road of suffering by any means as I prepare to speak, and yet Jesus’ walk and the light of the Word remind me of my moment by moment choices: to cling to myself or to Jesus, to engage my faith or my worry, to grip or surrender. And this: will I make myself, my journey and my stories the treasure, or will I seek God as the reward and ending of each word I write, speak or live?
How I desire to be focused inward to the heart of God that is my home and to the goodness, provision, strength, nurture, protection, wisdom, love and full acceptance there. And how I desire to be focused outward more than upon the walls of this self, so that I will see snippy or stern, excluded or center of attention, warm or icy people not in relation to their effect on me, but by their universal humanness as ones vulnerable and in need of love.
Only by God’s grace.
Whatever I do, whether speaking, celebrating or waiting at the DMV with a number in hand, I want to see and love well — not so that people will love me, but so that they might catch a glimpse of God.
Linking with Jennifer and #TellHisStory.
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Love, love, love!!!!!
Praying for you dear friend.
May your audience only see Jesus!
Amen. Thank you so much for your prayers, Lori. I felt them holding me. Love you, friend.
Oh, this post hit me right between the heart today. I’ve been to the DMV THREE TIMES in the past three days- trying to get my teenager’s driving permit transferred from one state to another. We’ve got horror tales to tell about snippy and snappy and unkind clerks and I’ve got a terribly frustrated young man on my hands who thinks our experiences at the DMV this week are just yet ONE MORE THING that’s HARD about moving when you’re 15 years old. So, I’m convicted. And can’t help but throw up the same cry from my heart- Jesus, teach me to LOVE well. Praying for you as you make Him famous through your courage and honesty on that panel. Love you, friend.
I can scarcely imagine the madness…three visits in three days! Praying peace for you and your son — for fresh perspective in all the hard that your experiences at the ol’ DMV dredge up. And thank you for your prayers, wisdom and guidance. You bless me.
Oh how I would love love love to be there meeting you and hearing you and hugging you. This piece is beautiful, your peace is nearly palpable and you will shine sister when you speak. One day soon we will meet. May God bless you lips, your tongue, your heart, your words. Love to you, e
Oh Elizabeth, I cannot wait for the day when we meet in the flesh! It will be so sweet. Until then, I’m incredibly grateful for the ways we cheer each other on and lift each other up. I greatly appreciate your prayers, love. God gave me just what I needed this weekend. Thank you for the birthday wishes, as well. What a glorious day. xoxo
And silly me, how did I forget…..happy birthday. :) :)
I love that you are honest, that you think about the outfits and the quips. And I love that you are brave and that you’ll be sharing wisdom this weekend – I can’t wait to see you again and hope to visit more this time! Happy pre-Birthday, and the DMV lady was right.
Tresta, next time I hope we’ll be able to sit and visit long. It was wonderful to see you and the fact that you pointed out my skirt and boots right away in real life — well, that was just fabulous. Oh, these little vanities. Thank you for being my friend.
Ow, my heart. You stuck your finger right on a tender spot, with such grace as usual. I appreciate your candidness here, Ashley, for it makes us feel less alone in the struggle, and also the way you hone in on the issues of the heart. It’s left me thinking throughout this day, “Where is my heart?” This right there, it undoes me: “will I make myself, my journey and my stories the treasure, or will I seek God as the reward and ending of each word I write, speak or live?” I love you and your seeking heart SO.MUCH. You push me, always, to not settle for a too-comfortable place.
“Where is my heart?” Yes, over and over I must consider this myself. To not settle for the too-comfortable, which is so often not really comfortable at all…know what I mean? Your comments always stir new things in me, Amber. Thank you for taking the time and intention to give me your words. I love you!
this is really good and something I have been thinking about lately. I heard someone talk about how our world lately seems to be about taking “selfies”…but how there is not one picture in the world of jesus…he was totally selfless. inspiring!!!! now i’m curious where I heard that…hmmm. love you pal. you spur me on!
And you spur me on, buddy. Yeah, “selflies” — what a good metaphor for our me-focused culture. Thank you for your presence here. I love you.
Can’t wait to see and here you at Faith and Culture Writers!
Elizabeth, I wish we’d had more time, but I really do look forward to our coffee date. Your beautiful smile was a tender and much appreciated presence as I spoke from the panel Saturday. Much love!
I love this reminder about our hearts….and where they are, reside, take up space within the margins of ourselves….I like how God reminds us of our hearts and our treasures…..what do we treasure…..that is a strong image, a powerful word, a necessary reminder….moment by moment.
Yes, Angela, I like so much what you say about what takes up space within our margins. Yes, there’s so much on the fringes and edges that worms and weasels its way in if we’re not paying attention. Moment by moment is right. I love you and appreciate you, my darling.