Our daughter, Katie, lived as a Rotary Exchange Student in Odense, Denmark, for a year after she graduated from high school. It was an adventure she’d talked about for years, maybe since ninth grade, after she heard a presentation at school from an international exchange student living in Midland.
I’ll admit it was unnerving to send my daughter so far away for an entire year. Cyndi and I had many long conversations about it, as in, which countries we felt comfortable with and which we didn’t, how Katie was brave and smart and solid in her beliefs, and even how I was jealous of her big view of the world at such a young age. Being the modern era of 2001-2002, we had email and phone access so we would have no trouble staying in contact. Even more important, to Katie, at least, was the relatively new ability to transfer money around the world through readily available ATMs.
While she was gone I went to the post office every Wednesday to mail a manila envelope with the current issue of Time magazine, a personal letter from me, an occasional newspaper clipping about her school or her friends, notes and letters from Cyndi, and maybe a cartoon or photo. It cost about $6.00, and if I mailed by noon on Wednesday, Katie had it in her “Danish” hands by Monday.
My friends at the Post Office were so used to my routine they didn’t even ask how I wanted to send it – airmail, guaranteed-overnight, or slow boat to Copenhagen. They just took care of me. They gave me a stack of U.S. Customs Forms so I could fill them out at home and showed me how I could use pre-printed address labels instead of hand printing the address every time.
I didn’t attach the Customs Form to the envelope myself, however, because I was too nervous I would stick it on crooked or on the wrong place. I let the professional postal guys stick it on. I wanted it done right. I didn’t want to get the customs part incorrect since Federal Customs Agents aren’t the kind of people who joke around about procedures.
After the Post Office guy carefully slapped the Customs Form on the front of the envelope and after I’d paid my money, the exciting part began. He started pounding the envelope all over the front and all over the back with big red official stamps – one said “Airmail,” and the other was a round governmental-looking seal of some sort, apparently an international postman code that meant acceptable.
They loved stamping; it was their favorite part of the transaction, even more fun than taking my money. They stamped with vigor and boldness so that the boom boom boom echoed around the room. Businessmen standing in line flinched when the percussion wave hit them in the chest. I liked the stamping part, too, because it meant my job was done. From then on the US Postal Service professionals handled the envelope; it was no longer up to me.
Those red stamps were like magic; they guaranteed the envelope would go all the way to Denmark without further delay. Once the Post Office guy finished stamping that envelope and tossed it into the outgoing mail bin, no one ever scrutinized it again. They didn’t reweigh it in New York to see if Midland got it right. They didn’t call me from the airport to make sure I wanted this to go by airmail instead of by slow boat. Once the stamps were in place, the package travelled all the way without any more questions.
One particular Wednesday when I left the Post Office, my ears still ringing from the stamping ritual, I realized that Katie’s envelopes were a lot like being sealed and stamped by God. I had been reading Ephesians, and verse 1:13 says, “In Him, when you believed, you were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. (NIV)” Even better, the Phillips translation says, “you were stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a pledge …”
Once we are in Christ we are sealed by God and stamped with the Holy Spirit. We are free to travel all the way with Him, all the way to eternity in heaven. No one has to check up on us five years from now or fifteen years from now to see if our stamps are still good. Our packaging may get damaged from the travel, but because our stamp is the Holy Spirit, we never ever have to be re-stamped. We don’t have to prove our acceptability over and over, again and again.
Just like Katie’s envelopes were accepted at the Post Office in Midland, and that acceptance cleared the envelope through all other checkpoints, we have been accepted by God and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, once for all time. He has chosen by His sovereign will to set us aside as holy and blameless, and there is no earthly power or spiritual power that can undo that acceptance. It lasts forever. Even more, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as pledge of our inheritance, and He will not leave us.
I think God, like the Post Office guys, likes the stamping and sealing part. It may be His favorite part of the transaction. I like it too, because it means my job is done, and I can trust Him to handle things from now on.
“You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” … Augustine