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My husband ordered special burgundy duct tape for our burgundy minivan. Why? Our minivan over the past ten years has collected some major exterior rust spots, or shall I say holes. My beloved very carefully, and may I add proudly, covered up these holes with his special order duct tape. He likes to show everyone who comes to visit his handiwork.
Clearly, automotive aesthetics are not a high priority in our home. So why did my husband bother covering the holes? Our van did not pass its most recent state inspection because it had exterior rust holes. Shocked, I asked the garage owner what this had to do with anything. “Is the axle rusting or something?” Patiently, my mechanic explained that it is a more recent standard: children could cut their fingers on the rusty spots. The holes had to be covered or fixed for our van to pass inspection. Hence, special order burgundy duct tape, back to the garage, inspection sticker procured.
My husband is still proud of his duct tape fix, but I’m a bit frustrated that there is a new rule that cars can’t have rust holes in Massachusetts.
As a culture we are obsessed with safety. On one hand this is a great thing: children suffer from less head injuries now because everyone wears bike helmets. On the other hand we seem to be anxiously pursuing a perfectly safe world in which no child ever heads to urgent care for a few stitches after stupidly shoving their finger in a rusty car hole.
Perfect safety? Not possible. A childhood without a few minor injuries? Not possible. Perfect health, perfect house, perfect wedding, perfect relationships? Not possible. A life without some struggle, heartache, trips to the doctors? Won’t happen.
I wonder if this new law in Massachusetts concerning rusty cars is really an unconscious pursuit of a life without suffering. I know this seems like a big leap, but I’m not sure it is. We live in a world of helicopter parents, every diagnostic test under the sun, and endless magazines talking about how to create the perfect fill in the blank. It’s as if we want to order the chaos of life, control the dangers of living, and finally wrap everyone in bubble wrap to ensure a life without, well, suffering.
Suffering is a part of life in this terribly beautiful world. Yet suffering is often a place where God’s presence becomes palpable. It is the tunnel through which we pass and, if we suffer wisely, come out changed. It can refine our characters, open our hearts, and deepen our compassion. Suffering makes souls.
If Massachusetts really thinks there should be no cars with rusty holes, so be it. But I refuse to believe that any number of laws can keep me or those I love safe in this world. Suffering is a part of living. And the only true safety I have ever found is trusting our God who numbers the hairs on my head. (Luke 12)
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.