From Chicken to Dawson City
Driving away from Chicken, I paused on the hillside across the creek and used my binoculars to look down at Tisha’s schoolhouse. I could barely see the roof of the building—but at least I could claim that I had ‘seen’ it now. My postcard would have to suffice for a photo, though.
The Milepost showed that I would need to travel 108 miles to reach Dawson City, Yukon Territory. My route would take me over the Top of the World Highway.
When I saw the name for the highway, I scoffed a little. After all, the surface consists of potholed gravel and mud—not my notion of a ‘highway.’ In addition, the elevation at the summit is lower than the elevation of the town in Arizona where I live. I’ve driven over the nicely paved surface of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain Park—which tops out at 12,000 feet above sea level.
Nevertheless, the wide-open spaces and beautiful vistas fit my contemplative mood. In Alaska, the tundra starts at a much lower elevation. I drove slowly, wanting to enjoy the views but still make it to the campground on the west side of the Yukon River right outside of Dawson City before it got too dark. I also needed to make it to the international border crossing before it closed for the day.
When I arrived at the Little Gold/Poker Creek Border Crossing, I marveled at the short line. I jest. Only two other vehicles had passed me in three hours of driving between Chicken and the border. I imagined that I’d nod my head at the agent, wish him or her a cheery, ‘Good evening!’ and be on my way.
It didn’t work out that way at all.
The Bin of Shame
“Good evening!” I chirped when the agent came out of the small building and approached my window.
“Where you headed?” he asked.
“Home to Arizona.” I did a quick mental inventory of any fruits or vegetables I might have to peel or surrender to the bin of shame, but I couldn’t think of anything.
“Which route did you use on your way to Alaska?”
“We came across the border north of Bozeman, MT,” I replied, wracking my brain for the name of the crossing.
“When was that?”
“June 20.” At least I remembered the exact date.
“Do you have any firearms or pepper spray?”
“No firearms,” I assured him, “but I have some pepper spray.”
“That’s illegal,” he assured me. “You’ll have to surrender it.”
“Really?” I asked, flushing with guilt. “They didn’t ask me about it when I crossed into Alberta.”
“Yep. You can’t have it.”
“Oh, boy,” I said, “I’ll need to look for it. What about bear spray?”
“You can have bear spray, just can’t have pepper spray. Leave your rig there while you look for it. Not much traffic behind you.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and laughed. “You got that right!” I dug through the middle console, the seat pockets, and the glove box. “May I get out and look in the trailer? I can’t seem to find it in here.”
“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll step inside. Be back out in a few minutes. Don’t go anywhere.”
I chuckled to myself as I got out. Besides the utter lack of traffic, my bright red truck and trailer would make it impossible to hide from the border patrol and Mounties.
For ten minutes I searched every backpack, pocket, nook, and cranny in the trailer—and I still couldn’t find the pepper spray.
When I emerged from the trailer, the agent glanced at my empty hands.
“No luck, eh?”
“Absolutely none.” My mind fast-forwarded to worst-case scenarios. Tickets, fines, border agents ripping apart the trailer trying to find my contraband pepper spray, prison.
“Well, I guess if you can’t find it, you won’t use it,” the agent said. “Next time, remember that you can’t bring pepper spray into Canada.”
I nodded. “I’ll do that,” I promised. I couldn’t help myself, so as I climbed back into the truck, I asked, “But I can have bear spray?”
“Sure thing,” he assured me, and headed back into the station.
Grace. Pure grace. None of my worse-case-scenario nightmares came true. It made me think of all the times God has extended grace to me, a dirty, rotten scoundrel.
Sure, I might look like a clean-cut goodie-two-shoes on the outside, but Jesus didn’t differentiate between sins. Thinking negative thoughts (e.g. criticism, comparison, disparaging, cutting, and mean) about a person is no different from stabbing a person. (Matthew 5:21-26).#Sin, no matter what its flavor or visibility, puts a rift between God and me. Click To Tweet
Sin, no matter what its flavor or visibility, puts a rift between God and me. And time after time, I mess up. The good news? Time after time he extends grace. The gift of grace holds equal value—whether God extends it in response to visible sin or an internal sin.
Sometimes you have to cross a border to realize it.