I’ve been thinking about getting a vanity plate for quite some time. My original plan was to use the max number of characters allowed in Virginia with this message: DNTGVUP. The idea was to encourage travelers who are feeling depressed or suicidal. I felt that three years ago in the months after my brother died. It was the darkest season of my life, but God sustained me so incredibly. A vanity plate was one way I could testify and give hope to others.
When I went online to order my plate, I saw the Community Peacebuilding option and learned it became available after the deadly white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. The plate’s creator says, “Having this plate on one’s vehicle sends a message that we value each other and support peaceful communities where everyone can thrive.” That’s a message I can get behind. I also love the globe held up by hands of diverse skin tones. Using hope as a central message was a greater expression of my faith so I ordered the plate. Little did I know how much it would encourage me. Here’s how:
I need hope every day when I go to work. As interim director of a nonprofit that serves a low-income community, I see people in desperate situations every day. Back when my sole responsibility was fundraising for the organization, I was detached from the people and their problems. Now, my role includes walking alongside them when they need food, transportation, and interventions of every sort. When I get in my car in the morning and throughout the day, my license plate offers me a mini pep talk. It reminds me to have hope for those whose lives are disrupted by poverty and injustice. God cares about these people way more than I do.
I need hope in the face of racism. Before the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, I wrote this blog post about feeling like a Samaritan for the first time in my life. The unabashed racism that has emerged in our country since Donald Trump was elected president is discouraging for many Christians. God’s greatest command is that we love each other, so we are disgusted by bigotry. We are baffled by the silence of Christian leaders about it. We are lonely in churches that fail to see or affirm our deep grief. And we are offended by those who scold us when we speak up and say it’s wrong. But when I look at my license plate with its diverse hands, I am reminded that people from every tongue and nation are made in God’s image, and all are welcomed by Him.
I need hope as I pray for my family. Our youngest child just turned 23, and our eldest will be the 35 in September. After 14 years as the mother of adult children, I know by now that praying for them is the best way to feed my hope for their happiness. I have never been a doting mother, so this isn’t all that hard for me. But I still have to hope they will love God, live his word, and allow the example of Christ to guide their decisions. Without this hope, I would interfere and intervene. Without this hope, I would be critical instead of upbeat as they sort out dating, parenting, and adulting. My license plate serves as a reminder of the incredible ways God has made my family and marriage stronger because of the hard things we endured. He will do the same for my kids and their kids.
In short, my vanity plate has become a sanity plate. While my battle with depression has largely been won, I still need constant reminders to have hope in every situation.
But happy is the man who has the God of Jacob as his helper, whose hope is in the Lord his God— 6 the God who made both earth and heaven, the seas and everything in them. He is the God who keeps every promise, 7 who gives justice to the poor and oppressed and food to the hungry. He frees the prisoners 8 and opens the eyes of the blind; he lifts the burdens from those bent down beneath their loads. For the Lord loves good men. 9 He protects the immigrants and cares for the orphans and widows. But he turns topsy-turvy the plans of the wicked.
Psalm 146, NLT