I took our youngest daughter to the DMV this past Monday so she could take the test to get her learner’s permit. She had taken the test a few months earlier but had walked out of the DMV afterwards not with a learner’s permit, but with disappointment, having missed both one road sign and the opportunity to move on to the next portion of the test.
On this day Haleigh was fired up, ready to face the test head-on and come out on top. She called out the meaning of road signs all along our route from her high school to the DMV. “Divided highway ahead!” “Speed limit 35 miles per hour!” “Do not enter!” She had brought the DMV manual with her, and when we reached our destination, she (somewhat grudgingly) brought it in with her. (I anticipated a bit of a wait and figured a little extra review couldn’t hurt!)
We picked up the learner’s permit application along with the ticket which marked our place in the virtual queue. I say virtual because we didn’t know our position in that queue. (I think DMV personnel prefer it that way.) It must have been pretty far back though, because ten minutes stretched into twenty, and twenty into thirty. Those minutes seemed to go by rather slowly.
Haleigh let me quiz her on the signs, and she knew them cold. When we finished the traffic signs section, I started quizzing her on the next section in the manual, which included information about right-of-way, changing lanes, and the like.
“I don’t know that stuff,” she said.
“You don’t?” I replied. “It will be on the test too.”
“It will?” she queried, panic rising in her voice.
“Yes it will,” I responded. “But luckily you have some time while we’re waiting, so you can study the rest of the manual for information that will be on the test.”
Haleigh got busy studying right away. All of a sudden, the worry was not how long we’d have to wait, but how soon they would call her number and expect her to take the test! We waited another thirty minutes, but those minutes went by much more quickly than the first thirty! The story has a happy ending: she passed the test and got her learner’s permit. But the afternoon’s events got me thinking about other lessons there to be learned.
First, the relativity of time. We had spent thirty minutes waiting for her turn before she realized she was not fully prepared for the test. Those minutes dragged by and random thoughts that popped into her head were welcome distractions which relieved the boredom and made the time pass by more quickly. But then she realized she wasn’t ready to face the hurdle she’d have to clear to get what she wanted, and the remaining thirty minutes she had to prepare seemed inadequate, and went by very quickly. It reminded me that the same amount of time—or even the same event or activity—can seem laborious or monotonous on any given day, while on another day or in another circumstance, it passes much too quickly, is over too soon, and we wish it back.
As she prepared to take the test again, I think Haleigh may have been so focused on the portion of the test that tripped her up last time that she forgot there would be other information she would be accountable for. I think in life we sometimes do the same. We figuratively beat ourselves up about past mistakes and shortcomings, focusing on our weaknesses to the point where we forget or discount the things we do well, our strengths and abilities. And I think that kind of thinking is opposite of how God wants us to think. Of course He wants us to work on improving and turning weaknesses into strengths. But He also wants us to acknowledge that we have strengths, talents and abilities, and to use them to bless our families and those around us.
Who’d have thought a trip to the DMV could be so thought-provoking? All this time I thought DMV stood for Department of Motor Vehicles; maybe it really stands for “Deep Mind Visions”.