What I Learned While Driving (Only Briefly) Above My Pay Grade
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
–Jesus, in Matthew 6.24
A little over a month ago I stumbled into (was led into?) a very informative experience; here’s what happened:
The 1991 Nissan Maxima I drive seems to need something major done to keep it moving along once a year or so. That’s to be expected. And (so far) it is still less expensive than 12 months’ worth of car payments a year. It was leaking a couple of bodily fluids and the diagnosis indicated that it was going to require some parts that needed to be ordered and shipped in (I have no idea why so few places are not well-stocked with parts for vehicles twenty-five years old…). It was all going to take about three days and so I was going to need a rental vehicle.
As it happened, there were none available at the dealer, but they arranged for me to pick one up at a rental place up the street. Apparently, they wanted whatever vehicle I was given to be a Nissan. Advertising, I suppose.
At the rental place, apparently there was only one Nissan available at that time.
And that is how I came to spend three days tooling around in a 370z.
As fun as it was to drive such a vehicle (and it was, in fact, great fun!), it was the various reactions to Greg-in-a-370z that I found most thought-provoking.
Predictably, there was some gentle ribbing about my less-than-graceful entrances and exits from the car (although, in fairness to myself, I got better at it over the three days…). It was not designed with 55-year-old fat men in mind.
And, among those who assumed I had purchased the car, there were comments (only a couple of which seemed to have truly sharp edges to them) that clearly “we’re paying our preacher too much.”
(I have to admit, though, it felt pretty cool that anyone thought I might actually have taken leave of my senses long enough to purchase such a vehicle…)
Kaelan enjoyed riding around in it with me and we even took the long way home a couple of times just to do it. Maybe for a few moments (at least until he learned it was only a rental) I was actually a neat person to have as a dad, not the kind of guy who drives a car that will soon technically qualify as a “classic” (a car he probably fears he will “inherit”). He told me he thought I should keep the 370z. I told him that if we did, his brothers would have to come home from school and he might not be able to go to college at all. He may still be thinking it over.
I guess my own internal reactions, though, were the most instructive, the most revealing spiritually.
Why did it make me feel, well, younger, more alive, to be driving around in such a car? (Don’t suggest “mid-life crisis,” unless you think I’m living to 110…)
Why did I enjoy being seen driving it?
Why did it make me feel a little more “with it,” more special?
And, why did I like feeling that way so much?
Whatever else it might be, the 370z is just a car, a material object that will decay, rust, and eventually be no more. It will not last, and therefore any meaning I give it or any value I derive from it cannot be lasting.
Now, I know all that in my head. But behind the wheel of a 370z (mediocre gas mileage and all), it was so easy to forget.
And, why, by the way, do I not allow myself to feel all those things because I know that God loves me, Jesus died for me, and the Spirit lives within me? Really? I’ll let a car do that for me, but not God?
I’m not saying it’s a sin to own a nice vehicle or to derive pleasure from the things we possess or are fortunate enough to use. On the contrary: I believe God meant for us to enjoy things. (And my personal opinion is that sometimes the better part of stewardship is not to “go cheap,” but to pay on the front end for something that is of a quality that will have long-lasting usefulness.) But God is extremely clear that he does not want us to define our lives by material things. Again, God meant for us to enjoy things, but he did not mean for us to be controlled by them. So, we have to be vigilant. The material has such a powerful pull on our hearts. And if we are not careful, it can be bait concealing a hook that will get set in our hearts to pull us away from what is of lasting value, true value.
…we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;
for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
– 2 Corinthians 4.18