Saturday, July 3, 2010
I lease a Nissan Pathfinder. It's not a luxury car necessarily. But I LOVE IT. Yes, I do. I love driving it. I love the way it smells. I love that it has leather seats and a sunroof. I love that the seats are automatic and there is a little button I can press so that every time I get in, the seat adjusts to just where I need it to be. The windows go down AND up automatically. I love that it has a third row of seats and a huge storage area. It can carry my golf clubs and bikes. My entire Christmas tree can fit inside without any part hanging out the back. I can plug in my I-Pod and listen through the Bose speakers. There is no navigation system or DVD player, but I don't "need" those things. Oh, it also has really great cup holders. And a two-tiered glove compartment.
Recently, I had to take the Pathfinder into the dealership to get its oxygen sensors fixed (don't ask because I don't really know). It took a while to fix because they had to order the appropriate parts, etc. Anyway, they gave me a rental. And the rental was a red Chevy Cobalt:
I am not proud of this, ok, but I got in this car and thought: I'm so glad this is not my car. It did not have leather seats or a sunroof. My golf clubs would have to stick out a side window. Three-quarters of the Christmas tree would poke out of the trunk. The windows were manual. The seats did not move. There was no place to plug in my I-pod. The glove compartment had just one tier. I thought that I might be able to pick the car up if I stretched a little beforehand. It seats five people maybe, if they're small. The trunk could definitely store a couple bags of groceries.
None of this is SO bad I suppose. I mean everything I've pointed out that was wrong with this car is based in utilitarianism. The Cobalt doesn't suit my many needs for an acceptable car. These things were not the real issue, though.
The real issue was deep and abiding and embarrassing. I was ashamed to drive this car. This car was not good enough for me and who I am. What would my colleagues think if I drove up in this Cobalt? What would my friends think? And, my family, what would they think? I assume they would think something bad had happened. They wouldn't look at me as the one with money and success. Everyone would think, and maybe I would too -- that I was moving backward instead of forward. After all, I should be getting better cars as my career moves ahead. My next car should probably be a Mercedes or BMW. Maybe eventually a Porsche. (I'm not even mentioning here the other issue this internal conversation raised because I could and should compile an entirely separate entry for this: my frequent ungratefulness about what I do have. Ugh.)
Somehow, who I am had become (in my own mind) what I drive, what I own. I realized I had tied my identity and my worth to stuff. This is so shocking and terrible. Yet, it is so human. It hurt me and made me apologize to God because it is a way of forgetting God, forgetting that He leads my life. I had forgotten that He says my life and identity are in Him: "[Y]our life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) My identity is not my car, or the stuff I buy and own. My life is hidden with Christ in God. What an amazing little statement with such far-reaching consequences. Hidden means unseen, cloaked, covered. I am safe in God. He is cloaking me, covering me. When I try to tether my identity, my life, to the things I own, I am exposed, I feel uncertain. There is always a better car, or a bigger boat, an I-Pod with more memory and apps. So, I have to keep reaching and striving and moving and spending. It's tiring, really, to try to keep up.
I am so grateful the oxygen sensors on my car failed. God, in His wisdom, knew that this was the way to get through to me, the way to show me that my life is hidden not in the things that I own or the car that I drive, but with Christ in God. Now that I have new life in Christ, I am free to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things like Pathfinders and I-Pods. I don't have to keep striving and climbing and achieving and buying. My life is hidden with Christ in God.
I know that God will have to teach me this lesson again and again because of my humanity. But for now, message received. Praise God!