The border guards pointed us to a parking space and ordered us out of the car. Don’t take anything with you, they barked, no cell phones. Nothing! We stepped out of the car, hesitant about what to do next. Using the same tone of voice the female border guard directed us to stand in front of our car. We watched while they opened the car doors to search for illegal contraband. When I lived in Alaska I crossed the Canadian/US border 13 times while traveling to the lower 48. I had seen searches of other people’s cars, and had always felt slightly smug I was the type of person who wouldn’t be pulled over to have my car searched. But here I stood, as if I had done something wrong. Which I hadn’t of course. Well, not really.
A couple of hours into our trip from Maryland to Michigan, I mentioned to Brett that Niagara Falls was within four or five hours of our place and we should go there sometime. I meant some vague time in the future. Always up for an adventure Brett suggested we go to Canada to see the falls for a couple of days after his meetings in Michigan. Brett is like that, he likes to jump right into what he thinks is a great idea without too much forethought. I nonchalantly agreed and the plan was laid. It didn’t cross our minds that we were grossly unprepared to cross the border into another country.
A few days later we spent the afternoon driving from SW Michigan to the border crossing for the falls. Shortly before the border traffic slowed. We crept across the bridge while looking for the fastest moving lane. A sign announced we needed to have our identification ready. It seemed so easy. We both pulled out our drivers licenses and waited for our line to move forward. When our turn came I pulled up to the border patrol officer and handed him our identification. He looked at our drivers licenses and asked if we had any passports or birth certificates. When he discovered this was the only identification we had for ourselves and we had no ID for Aspen, he could barely disguise his disgust at our ignorance. He pulled out a note pad for such occasions and filled out a slip of paper describing our crimes. He handed it to me and directed us to pull over to the building with the Canadian flag.
That is how we found ourselves standing in front of our car while it was searched for illegal contraband. Eventually satisfied we weren’t smugglers, they allowed us to go into the building to face the proper authorities who would decide if we could cross into their country or if we needed to turn around and go back to where we came from. We looked at the long, slow-moving line of cars waiting to get into the United States and sincerely hoped someone would let us into Canada despite our naiveté. Brett called our son Colby, who was at home. Without explaining the situation he told Colby where to find the box with our birth certificates. Colby found them while we waited for someone behind the counter to call our number. Apparently we weren’t the only miscreants trying to cross the border without all the correct paper work.
A voice from behind the counter called our name and we stepped forward. We answered every question respectfully and Brett offered to have our birth certificates emailed to their office. The young man wasn’t completely sure of the correct protocol so he discussed this possibility with a co-worker. They finally agreed emailing the birth certificates was a viable option. Brett called Colby back and Colby dutifully sent our birth certificates through the internet. After several unsuccessful tries, Brett and Aspens birth certificates showed up in an email. Despite Colby sending mine several times it never showed up. I could see the border patrol officer’s boredom and impatience at the wait. Finally he said it was fine if they didn’t have mine, all they really wanted was proof of identification for Aspen. He filled out another slip of paper clearing us of any wrong doing and allowed us to cross into Canada.
We had a fun-filled experience seeing Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Too soon our time was up and we checked out of the hotel to return home. I won’t bore you with the details, but getting back into the US was almost as difficult as getting into Canada!
Matthew 25 shares the story of the parable of the ten virgins. The ten young women were waiting for the bridegroom so they could go to the wedding. He took longer than expected and they all fell asleep. They awoke to the announcement that the bridegroom had arrived. But, only five of the virgins had extra oil for their lamps, while the other five hadn’t thought to prepare ahead and had no oil. In the story, without oil for their lamps, they were unable to attend the wedding.
Brett and I were certainly unprepared to cross the border into Canada. We wanted to go, it sounded like fun to see Niagara Falls, but we didn’t really prepare to go. Since we didn’t prepare, our trip wasn’t as smooth sailing as it could have been. We certainly ran into some bumps while trying to cross the border both ways.
If I want my relationship with God to grow and become deeper I need to prepare for that experience by spending time with Him. I prepare to have a deeper relationship with God by seeking Him first. Just like the five wise virgins first prepared for the wedding by seeking and obtaining the extra oil they needed, I need to seek God first daily in order to have the deep connectedness with Him that I desire.