God’s Car Lot

I get glimpses of God’s love from time to time. One glimpse from this past year has managed to lift me up in times of despair and to challenge me out of my own comfort zone. I hope it does something for you and your journey. It started in September when I bought a used car.

I found a car that I loved that day. It was clean, small, fuel efficient, had low miles, a clean record from the original owner, and it was at a dealership that had a good reputation and a knowledgeable sales team. It was also a model I had seen on the road hundreds of times, had driven while on work trips, and always thought I would love to own someday. On paper and glistening on the car lot that day, it was perfect. I was giddy driving it off the lot and even a little anxious that I would get in a fender bender on the wet roadways before I got home. After all, I didn’t want to ruin my perfect new ride. That was Friday.

When I approached my car in the driveway the next morning, I noticed some scrapes and scratches had magically appeared overnight. Because they were faint, I wondered if my housemate had rubbed her own vehicle against mine when she was entering or exiting the driveway. Getting in the car, I found stains and wear spots on the cloth seats that I hadn’t noticed before. This launched me into a minor investigation to see who had slipped into my car in the night and done damage. I concocted wild scenarios in my head to explain all this for 10, maybe 15 minutes.

Fortunately, I came back to my senses and accepted a few things. First, no used car that has actually been used is ever perfect. My car, with 68k miles, could not have been perfect. Second, the appreciate eye I have for something I want versus the thing I have is never the same thing. Sure, I could give some credit to the dealer who polished the tires or who waxed the car and removed small dings from the hood, but that would be missing the point. We could be talking about cars, about material possessions, or the people we love and spend our lives with. Whether it is foolish perspective going in or the taking for granted that happens over time, perspective can be pretty subjective and inaccurate. And finally–all of this is fundamentally different than how I believe God might look down upon and lovingly appreciate all of us.

I could adore my car when I didn’t know its real history. It helped that I had never seen the driver gun it to beat a red light or slam on the brakes to avoid an accident after tailgating. It helped I didn’t see the teenager rub against the bushes as he or she learned to back out of the driveway, or that I never saw the youngest grind forgotten donuts or cheerios all over the back seats. I didn’t hear the arguments on long road trips; didn’t smell the carpet and seats when a rainstorm coincided with a forgotten, cracked window. The car I loved didn’t really have a history. When I discovered the history, it paled.

This is fundamentally different than how God works. God sees all of our histories–the moments where our greatest angers, fears, anxieties, and selfish urges are most evident. And yet, those moments where we do great harms against others and ourselves have no impact on his love. None. He/She couldn’t love any more than He/She does, and He/She is not about to love us any less. It goes beyond comprehension. And, it means that I am still loved in my darkest moments. The idea was something I grasped looking at my imperfect (but still totally awesome) car, and it has sustained me many days since. The turn in this story–the thing I am struggling with–came about a week ago.

I had been looking at the calendar. I was thinking back about all the amazing things that had happened in my life in October, and September, and July, and even March. I was thinking about how many of those milestones on some level arose from the dumpster fire my life seemed to be on December 26, 2014. That’s a day someone hurt me pretty badly, and shared how awful they had been to me for a couple of years. Somehow, I saw the date on the calendar and I thought of my car and the first part of the story. God loves this person today, just as He/She loved this person at her birth, just as He/She will love this person at her death. If God does that all the time, I think I need to start seeing her with kinder eyes. 2015 held miracles for me. Maybe this will be one of the miracles of 2016.

I hope there was something in this story for you. May you feel God’s love this wonderful season. May we all share it with others.

Amen.