Monday, August 16, 2010

The paper license

In the state of Nebraska, when you get a new driver's license, they issue you a paper copy of your permanent license, which then comes in the mail ten or so days later. This temporary piece of paper looks just like your license will, only slightly smaller and is, as I said, made out of paper. I had my birthday in July, and so I was very recently the proud bearer of one of these artful masterpieces of the State of Nebraska. Lucky me.

It was with this lovely paper license that I embarked on my journey to the great state of North Carolina a few weeks ago. At the Omaha airport, I breezed through security like a champ, living as I do in a state that recognizes the integrity of the paper license. In Charlotte's much larger airport, however, the paper license was notsoverymuch my ticket to freedom, and I was halted at airport security faster than I could say "paper license".

"Is this your license?" she says to me with raised eyebrows, as if I had colored it myself at home with the kids' crayons.

"Yes, ma'am, it is. You see, in Nebraska, when you renew....{blah blah blah}....and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail" was my reply.

"I'm going to have to flag this." Of course you are. She radios for backup.

After a few minutes, a dude with another badge comes over and asks for details of what is going on. "Well, you see, sir, in Nebraska, when you renew.....................and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail."

"I see. Well, do you have any other forms of ID?" he asks.

"You bet I do!" and so I whip out my debit card.

"Anything else?"

"Um, an insurance card with my husband's name on it. And another insurance card with my kids' names on it. And a portrait club card that I signed. And a 'Take $10' card from Maurice's with no name on it. Will any of that work?"

"How about a credit card?" he asks, looking slightly annoyed, but still being nice to the dork from the State of Paper Licenses.

"No, we gave up using credit and my card is at home on the shelf." (Yes, I am that dork, but Dave Ramsey would be proud that even when traveling out of state, I left it at home!)

"I see. Well, then, we're going to have to do a more thorough inspection of you." Of course you are. He radios for more backup.

And so began my wait. I was told to sit in the "red chair" right in the middle of all the security lines at this ohsovery busy airport, while the officer called for a female officer to come help. Within moments, an extremely skinny and heavily pierced Frenchman was flagged as well, and was told to stand by me. He spoke to me briefly in his thick French accent, but was soon invited to pass through security to the next checkpoint. While I sat there alone and yet on full display, I had the chance to watch people's reactions to the screening process. Some looked arrogantly bored. Others looked visibly annoyed. Some were rushing, practically dancing in place, trying futilely to will the lines to move faster. Still others looked confused and were not sure where to step once they had placed their belongings on the conveyors, until a lady in a red chair (me) pointed to where to go. After a few minutes, another woman was flagged at this checkpoint, apparently for wearing a metal bra, and was told to stand by me. She stood near me, but not right next to me, as if feeling uncomfortable being on display next to the red chair. (OK, so her bra itself was probably not metal, but she did tell me that this happens every time due to her Victoria's Secret underwire bra. Must be a pretty hefty underwire. A person endowed like me shall never know such woes.)

Finally, after roughly ten minutes of waiting in the red chair, I was given the nod and was taken through the metal detector to the other side, where I was escorted to yet another area. I was greeted by a man and woman both wearing blue latex gloves, and while he meticulously but gently looked through every single inch of my carry-on bag and purse, a women as equally meticulous and gentle patted down nearly every inch of my body. I had no choice in this matter, not that I really minded, but I was indeed on full display in a crowded airport standing spread eagle while a generously built southern woman put her blue gloves all over my body. Much like the loss of dignity of childbirth, this was a new experience for me. I will say to you that because I am not a modest person whatsoever and because I had absolutely nothing to hide, this process did not alarm or embarrass me at all. They were just doing their jobs and I say, doing them well. But I could not help but imagine the emotional response of the very private, self-conscious, modest person who has to go through that process. Freaky. Anyway, after a thorough rearranging of my bags and a thorough feel of my body, I was cleared for take-off, handed back my boarding pass and paper license, and wished a safe flight home.

I cleared the checkpoint.

Now, for the eternal implications of my experience...while I could expound on all the analogies and parallels lying in this story, the real point is this: we are all on a journey to a final destination. We are all, at any given moment, somewhere in the process of reaching the end of our earthly life. Some of us are waiting with eager anticipation, some already have their bags packed and are merely waiting on confirmation that their ticket has come through, and many, I suspect, are trying hard to avoid even thinking about it at all. But, no matter how we are feeling about the finality of our lives, it is going to happen. It is out there. And what I'd like to know is, do you have your identification ready? How many forms of ID are you holding? Whose name is on your boarding pass?

Are you going to Heaven??

Without the trustworthy permanency of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, without a real faith in what matters, without a personal relationship with Jesus, we are all merely holding paper licenses. Oh sure, down here, where mankind can put his stamp of approval on our lives, any piece of paper will do. Paper birth certificate, paper diploma, paper title to a car, paper mortgage, paper marriage license, paper awards, paper money...down here on earth, all of those papers, well, they matter. In fact, they are a measure of our "worth". But I am telling you tonight, that when we pass out of this life and out of these bodies, all the papers in the the world will not matter one bit. Not one bit. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us. We won't have the chance to wait in a red chair, have our papers inspected, have our physical bodies verified, or prove why we are worthy to enter. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us.

Does Jesus recognize you? Have you accepted His gift of eternal salvation on the cross? If not, now is your chance. It is never too late. Now is your chance to get your permanent license with His picture on it. Nothing will be able to stop you then. Please contact me if I can help.

Enjoy your flight.


lisasmith said...

It seems return travels were quite the airport experiences!

I remember you flashing that paper license and thought absolutely nothing of it!!

Love how you relate the everyday to the eternal, Shelly. love, lisa

Melanie said...

So very, very good.