Patty LaRoche: Dealing with Customs’

Every day, thousands of people cross the border between the United States and Mexico with no problema. Passports are checked, a few questions are asked, and sometimes the driver is told to open his/her trunk. Within minutes, cars are leaving one country and entering another.

My husband Dave and I understood the protocol.

Sort of. Entering Mexico for an extended stay, drivers register their vehicle at the border, pay $600 for a windshield sticker and drive south, where they then may legally drive in Mexico. When they leave Mexico for the final time, they turn in the sticker for a refund. Easy enough.

Unless their names are Dave and Patty.

First, some background. This past summer while in the U.S., we sold the stickered mini-van. Dave removed the sticker so we could turn it in, register a different vehicle and enter Mexico. Once in the Customs’ office, we waited 30 minutes in the car registration line before explaining to the young gal what we were doing. She made no attempt to understand my Spanish. Or my Charades. Fortunately, a bi-lingual man came forward to interpret. The news wasn’t all that bad. We needed to drive around to the other side of Customs to a small guard shack where we would turn in our sticker.

Which is what we did. Which is where that guard said we needed the sticker AND the mini-van (something about the VIN number). Dave explained that we sold it. “You have to have it to re-register.” “But we sold it.” “You have to have it to re-register.” “But we sold it.” The agent sent us back to Customs. We now found ourselves in the miles-long, bottle-neck of Thanksgiving traffic heading into the U.S. We could see ahead to the cross-road we needed—the empty cross-road—but had at least an hour’s wait to get to it.

My typically-patient husband’s next question shocked me. “What do you think would happen if I drove over the grassy field to get back to where we started?” I told him the guards with the assault rifles would probably blow out our tires. Or our brains.

No problema. Putting the car into gear, Dave took off across the field. We were Bonnie and Clyde, had they lived another forty years. Fortunately, the guards were tending to more important things, like emptying out pick-up beds looking for illegal Americans. Or perhaps they were simply amused at two old fogeys bouncing along the moguled terrain.

Back at the car registration window, we waited in line, found someone who spoke English, and asked him to interpret to the cranky young gal. She didn’t care. No mini-van? No car registration. It finally was determined that we could register this car in my name but Dave could never, ever register a vehicle in his name until he presented the mini-van at the border. Ever!

I think this is a problema.

Sometimes there are systems in place with which we might not agree. Telling the Customs’ agents that we are really nice guys, listing our works in ministry, even showing gifts we are taking to the orphans would do no good. The protocol is in place, whether we like it or not. We should have figured out ahead of time what those rules are because now it’s too late.

Isn’t that the same with our eternal lives? The Bible makes it clear there is a protocol for getting into Heaven, and it has nothing to do with being really good guys or doing missionary work. It’s black and white and has no loopholes, no matter what I might think, no matter how much I might protest or try to explain why I didn’t spend some time on earth figuring this out.

In John 14:6-7a, Jesus explains this to his disciple Thomas. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. There will be a time when it will be too late. And that, as we all know, is a problema none of us want to face. Thanks to God and His mercy, getting into Heaven is a lot easier than getting into Mexico.

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