A blog post from Nathan…
It wasn’t possible to find some clear information about what the law said but we knew we couldn’t keep our UK registered car in Germany for ever. So, we decided to make use of the lack of any forthcoming Kindergarten place for Aleksa and go on a father-son road trip back to the UK with a view to getting our Astra sold. Within a few days of returning we had managed to buy our first ever German car (a VW Golf – you know ‘when in Rome, live as the Romans’ etc!).
7:15am – Queuing outside Munich council offices
There was just the simple task of re-registering the car in our name. Surely, that just requires a slip of paper to be popped in the post? Nope. This was to be one of the seemingly never-ending tasks that are subject to German bureaucracy. Of course, German paperwork and public workers have a certain reputation but I must be honest that sometimes the simplicity of a process can surprise you and, generally, the helpfulness of office staff is outstanding. However, more often than not reality lives up to reputation and you are left with hours of your life sacrificed and a little more hair torn out. This was one such case….
Nevertheless, after the phone calls, internet searches, face to face advice, queuing in the open air from 7.15am, formally defacing the old number plates in the council office, then nipping to the bakery(!) next door where you have the new number plates made and paying 76 euros for the pleasure of it all we were the proud owners of a Munich registered car!
Our apartment comes with an extra garage space which we are trying to rent out at the moment so this morning I was sticking up posters in the neighbourhood and putting flyers on cars parked outside. Every time I heard somebody come out of the apartment block I noticed an anxiety in myself, similar to the feelings endured in the council offices at various points over the last six months. The feeling that I was about to be told I was breaking some rule and must stop at once otherwise I will face the penalty.
Reflecting on this I don’t think it would be fair to blame my trepidation on German culture. As an immigrant there is genuinely a feeling that you must negotiate all the processes perfectly without guidance otherwise you will be in trouble. However, I am sure this is not deliberate and that most Germans, whilst they don’t enjoy sitting in waiting rooms any more than the next person, are quite comfortable with the system. (I’d be interested what Germans think?)
So what is the root of my anxiety? I think it ultimately comes down to a personal weakness of ‘Fear of Man’ – or worrying about what others will think of me. I know I am not alone in this but I believe it is a trait that holds us back from achieving our ambitions and obeying God in the big and small things of life.
One example of this fear holding me back is in how I interact with the community around us. We live in a neighbourhood that is saturated with families, students, Germans, new immigrants and established immigrants. Many interesting and wonderful people that we would love to get to know and participate with in community life. We believe we are in Munich because we have something to offer to the local community but it is often a real challenge to break the ice and start talking with strangers. Yes, our limited German is a genuine obstacle. However, I observe that beyond that for me is this ‘fear of man’. I am sometimes more concerned what a stranger might think of me if I started talking to them than I am of the potentially positive consequence of our encounter.
I write this not to be self-deprecating but because I think a little accountability to those who support us and are interested in us is helpful. Also, because I believe this is not a weakness unique to myself and I believe that it is God’s desire that we are not held back by such fear.
The Bible records the story of Pentecost. After Jesus had ascended to heaven the disciples were gathered, fearful in a house unable to begin the the mission that he had called them to. But then the Holy Spirit came and filled the place where they were and filled them too. They were equipped to go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus and make disciples of all nations. That promise of the Holy Spirit is for all Christians. It is so helpful to make it a daily exercise to recognise that the Holy Spirit dwells within you and to ask that you would be equipped to do all you need to do to be a disciple of Jesus.
You can read this first hand in the book of Acts, chapter 2. In the meantime, please do keep praying for us and praying that, whether we find ourselves sat in a council office waiting room or walking through our neighbourhood, we would be engaging with the Holy Spirit so that we can impact the communities around us and that God’s kingdom would be built.