I recently spent a couple of hours at the DMV; it was time
to renew my driver’s license. The place
was crowded with, in the words of the old Prayerbook, “all sorts and conditions”
of people. It was a multiracial and multigenerational
melting pot. Around me, people were
speaking in a variety of languages, including that version of English I
associate with New Jersey (it really is a different language, I think!). Every imaginable style of dress and undress
was on display. People had done things
with their hair I didn’t know could be done.
Almost all of us were talking or texting or emailing on our smartphones.
helpful. The younger woman who helped me was particularly kind. After I took and passed (whew!) the vision and
road signage tests, she reviewed the information on my license to update my address,
phone number, height, weight, and organ donor information. She also asked, ever so gently, “Mr. Sayles,
is it alright with you if I change the hair color we have listed from brown to
grey?” I laughed and said to her, “I
think that’s the only honest thing to do, don’t you?” She smiled and said, “But your eyes are still
brown.” “They are,” I said, and I
thought, “At least that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.” My eyes get more tired more quickly, and the magnification
I need for reading glasses goes slowly but steadily higher. My eyes fill with tears of both grief and joy
more often than they used to, but, their color hasn’t changed. It’s not something I’d not thought to be
concerned about or grateful for before this last visit to the DMV.
tied, of course, to birthdays. In the interval between the last renewal and
this one, so much has happened to me, in me, and around me. The year between my
57th and 58th birthdays has especially been a whirlwind
of change and challenge.
chemotherapy; my body had not yet undergone much of the pain and weakness that
treatment would bring.
that cancer had made more insistent and urgent some questions I had long had about
the shape of my vocation (not just about “job” but about how, with my whole
life, I respond to God’s call).
could be to come as close as I would come to death.
healing utter brokenness can be.
vulnerability’s illusion-shattering and pride-breaking gifts.
had that mercy does not crumble even though I do, that joy swims across the
river of my tears, and that love is more powerful than all the powers which
seem, for a time, to defeat it.
to my eyes. In some ways, all the years since have been about learning to see—about finding vision, sharpening perception, and developing insight. My eyes are still brown, but I see differently
now, far differently even than a year ago. I am grateful, and I am curious about what I will see in the days