In an attempt to save myself some time, I made a mistake recently that, in the end, wasted more than just time. I have always renewed my car tax at the post office. On this occasion, however, life was hectic and not wanting to jeopardise the use of my car over Christmas, I decided instead to call the DVLA to renew it. I dialled the required number and a voice on the automated system itemised the services available and the numbers to press if I wanted to renew my tax or make a SORN. It all sounded so simple, and – to most people – it probably is.
For some – still – unfathomable reason, however, I thought the voice was offering an alternative word for tax and so I pressed a keypad number and subsequent variations, until I heard that I had successfully completed my SORN and would receive the notification in the post. My relief at finishing the task was short-lived. I quickly realised that, as I had not been asked for any money, something had gone awry. Determined to speak to a real person, I redialled the number, repeatedly, until eventually someone answered and confirmed my worst fears. Adding salt to the wound, she instructed me, while sounding as grim as a judge passing sentence, that she was "not able to pull things back" – meaning she could not undo what I had triggered. I had actually made a Statutory Off Road Notification!
She told me to find my V5C form and take it to the post office. As the car is 12 years old, I had no idea where the form was. I sensed things were going downhill rapidly when, in her best 'sentencing' voice, she bade me to get off the phone "now" (I think she had had enough!) and try to find it. The woman stated that without it, I would have to apply for a replacement which would have caused unacceptable delays. I searched for hours, and kept bribing St Anthony to help me find it. When I eventually did, I remonstrated with him for having taken so long.
Next morning a gentleman at the post office responded to my "it's all very complicated" announcement by saying, "There's nothing we can't sort out" – which was exactly what I needed to hear. A nearby customer laughingly told him that he sounded like an advert!
It is easy to make an error and organisations and authorities must be constantly on the receiving end of incorrectly completed forms and transactions, and so it is understandable that their patience can be tested. They do not see their clients' efforts to get things right but are merely conscious of what they have to correct when we get things wrong owing to tiredness, misunderstanding, haste, distraction and other mitigating factors. Technology may be clever but its human users are fallible.
Our understanding and forgiving God, however, never fails to recognise the effort (or lack of it) that we put into our lives, and the circumstances that landed us in the mire in the first place. While he is certainly not a soft touch – because all actions have consequences – if we are willing and open to divine suggestions, God uses our mistakes, picking up all the disordered pieces from the muddle of our lives and helping us make the best of the situation. God never informs us that he is not able to "pull things back" when we do something wrong. Instead, he shows us what we need to do correct our blunders. He is the God of second chances.