Friday, July 3, 2009

Not in Vain

There we sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot, waiting for Miss Avery to buckle up. (It takes at least three minutes to conquer that five-point harness every single time we pile into the van, but she definitely prefers to do it without help. I've gotten to where I don't even turn on the ignition until I hear the final, triumphant "click" that announces her success.)

So there we sat. We sat and people-watched, always a fascinating diversion. This time, we were amply rewarded for our patience. Weaving slowly in and out of the parking lot aisles was a white patrol car -- a handicapped parking enforcement patrol car. The amber lights flashed rhythmically as the vehicle hovered around parking spots clearly designated for customers with physical limitations.

The car slowed to a stop, and from the passenger's side emerged a woman, probably in her eighties, to inspect the first vehicle. She peered through the front window, squinting the blue parking tag into focus. Good. She then examined the license plate, saw the blue symbol. Good. This one was okay. She slowly shuffled to the next car, a slight curve in her back, silver hair gleaming in the sunshine. Again we witnessed the same routine: Parking tag? Check. License plate? Check. And then again, and again, and again the rhythm repeated itself. Each and every car in that section received the same meticulous inspection: Parking tag? Check. License plate? Check.

When it was time to move on to the next aisle, she eased herself back into the car (chauffeured by an aging gentleman who bore a matching crown of silver hair), and prepared herself to revisit the checklist. This routine continued, car by car, until I heard Avery's "click," when I knew it was finally time to head toward the pet store. I cast a last glance toward the faithfully patrolling couple and left the parking lot, wondering if their work ever felt tedious.

Once at Petsmart, I again waited in the van, this time for Drew. His errand was to run in and fetch crickets for Leona, his leopard gecko. While we waited, we people-watched. To my delight, the patrol car was not far behind us. Into the lot it came, its occupants eager to fulfill their duty. They slowly approached the first vehicle. Suddenly, they screeched to a halt. They stared, blinking, as if to confirm what they dared not hope. Something definitely wasn't right. They both worked their way out of the car, breathless with anticipation. Parking tag? No! License symbol? No! With a collective gleam in their wizened eyes, the pair unleashed their expertise on the unsuspecting violator.

She whipped out a clipboard, feverishly scratching out pertinent information, as if the state of the union rested on this report. He produced a tiny digital camera, hobbled back a few feet, and proceeded to snap shots with the stealthy enthusiasm of a paparazzo. The two were unstoppable. That poor violator didn't stand a chance. I smiled in admiration and inwardly applauded their triumphant moment. After countless aisles and vehicles, each one carefully scoured, they had finally found what they were looking for. They had fulfilled their mission. Their work was not in vain. Back in their car, details were exchanged. They eventually drove on, this time at a stately pace that hinted of satisfaction in a job well done.

Once Drew was again clicked in place, we headed homeward. But the victorious patrol team stayed in my thoughts. For days, actually. They had been specifically trained for this task, and although it appeared to be painfully monotonous in the beginning, their steadfastness paid off. Had they rushed through their work or paid little heed to the details, they might have missed the big one altogether.

It's easy to be discouraged by the menial chores that seem to have no earthly value. I think of the many things that I do over and over and over again. Always the same. The laundry hamper is always full come Monday morning. The bathroom mirror mysteriously attracts toothpaste within minutes of being wiped clean. The dishes need washing every single day. Little tummies require food with a frequency that astonishes me.

But what if the faithful completion of these tasks is preparing me for something bigger? If I ignore, rush or grumble through the little things, am I running the risk of being ill-prepared for a critical kingdom assignment? It's a sobering thought. I don't want to miss out on the things that God has in store for me. I know that he is preparing me for His work, be it in my home or in my community -- an amazing opportunity could be waiting for me just around the next bend. So I'll determine to press on with my little flashing amber light. I'll faithfully patrol my home, tending to my flock and meeting the needs that come my way. And I'll be well equipped for His service, knowing that my work has not been in vain.
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