After becoming a US citizen, one of the things you must do is update your social security status and let them know you are no longer a permanent resident. Like much of the naturalisation process, this involves sending a number of documents to some office and waiting for them to come back.
A couple of days after my naturalisation ceremony Carly was hosting a book club at our apartment (A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, which is one of our favourite books) so I took the kids to run errands and get cookies from Chic Fil A. One of the errands was to drive to the Social Security Office and drop off the documents in the drop box so I didn’t have to go into the office and spend hours waiting. Unfortunately there wasn’t a drop box but not to be defeated I drove a mile to the post office so I could send in the documents that way. I decided against spending the extra $5 to get tracking and insurance for the letter since I figured it only had to go one mile. You can probably already see where this story is going.
After a couple of months with no sign of my documents, I started to get worried and decided to look into replacing them. I found the website for ordering a replacement birth certificate from the UK and it said it would be £11 ($13.50) which didn’t seem that bad. When I looked up how to replace my naturalisation certificate, however, I was hit with the bombshell that it would cost $555. That was not a good moment.
That evening we had a video conference with the coordinator at OMF and at the end of the call she asked if there was anything she could pray for. I told her the story and how much it was going to cost to replace the naturalisation certificate and asked her to pray that the documents would make it back to me so we wouldn’t have to pay the $555. I should mention that I did put a return address on the envelope so my hope that they would make it back to me, and that I don’t make every poor choice possible when sending letters, wasn’t entirely lost. While I believe in God’s sovereignty and ability to act in situations like that, I am not always inclined to recognise the hand of God in these type of situations. I was fairly dismissive of praying for it but our friend put me straight and prayed in faith that the documents would return.
The next afternoon I got a call from an unknown number which turned out to be a lady from the social security office who had tried sending the documents back to me but had received them back undeliverable. As you can imagine I was very excited and told her that we had prayed about it just the night before. She said she was encouraged and asked if I wanted her to send the documents or whether I wanted to go in and pick them up in person. Given events up to this point I chose the second option and I now have the documents back in hand.
While I believe in the sovereignty of God and his ability to act in ways like this my rational mind is slow to conclude that He is the reason why things like this happen. I tell myself that the documents might not have turned up and God would still be sovereign so should I really get that excited when things turn out well? The reality is that God is a good Father who allows us to be involved in His purposes by seeking Him through prayer but will always give us what’s best for us even if that’s not what we asked for. So we ask God for what we want and praise Him whatever the outcome; whether that’s a 10 minute trip to the Social Security Office to pick up lost documents or a $555 payment to get new ones. He is a Good Father who gives good gifts to us, His children.
Epilogue: When I got the documents back I found out that I had filled out the form with our PO Box number but with the city and zip code for our apartment so I was the reason the documents went astray. God is good AND gracious!