As many of you know, Captain Schenanigans and I had to replace both of our cars last month. Captain upgraded to a newer, trendier car with blue tooth, multi-colored foot lights, 6 cup holders in just the front seats (one of which hold the round Nalgene water bottles), and major head room. He likes to downloads audio books and listen to them while he drives around town.
I went from a large SUV to a van, both 12 years old, but the van had half the mileage and was a great deal. In that trade, I lost my cd player and remote keyless entry. I now have a cassette player, and stand beside my door to hand lock my car after each remaining passenger dawdles out. Captain Schenanigans scolds me for never locking it in the driveway, because I’m always inside the house turning off the alarm by the time the kids wander in.
I was okay with this arrangement. In fact, I joked about it. I thought it was funny that I was the only person on the road without a CD player, and wasn’t terribly upset when I lost the ability to unlock my car from 15 ft away. I went to the second hand store just last night and stocked up on cassette tapes; VERY excited that I could purchase an entire album for $.69 while other people had to pay much more for a CD album. It was great! I bought a couple kids Bible tapes, Clint Black, and John Denver’s greatest hits. I was thrilled to hear them all. I had no problem going without frills, technology was never my friend anyway.
Until today. It started out innocently enough. A co-worker was venting about her car still being in the body shop 2 weeks after the minor accident. She hated her rental, and was continuously complaining about it. Late in the day, another co-worker came by, and they swapped stories about horrible rental cars. One was unwilling to drive a rental car older than the car she owned, and another could not drive a vehicle without blue tooth. None of this bothered me. To each her own, I thought, I don’t care about technology. And I seriously don’t care what I drive. As long as it’s reliable and I can see well out of all the windows, I’m fine. It’s not a status symbol to me, it’s a car. A way to get from A to B, and not a measure of who I am.
In fact, I have always prided myself on having minimal interest in material things. I have my flip phone and love it. I buy inexpensive clothes, I enjoy living in small houses, and I don’t get attached to much of anything without a heartbeat. I’ve never owned a Fitbit or downloaded an App. *Shrug* My life is full enough. I do not struggle with keeping up with the crowd.
But that’s the thing about Strengths, isn’t it? A wise woman in my life once told me that your greatest strength can often tip over into your greatest weakness. Meaning, watch out for that which you do not believe will snare you, it’s easy to become tangled in what you are not careful about.
Sitting there at my desk, after a few days of off-and-on car complaining conversations, I began to evaluate my car versus Captain Schenanigans ride. Why did I get the inferior vehicle? Why does he always get the shinier toys? Suddenly, the van that I had no problems with all month, seemed unfair to me that I had to drive it. The technology that I never had any interest in using before became something that I needed.
It’s that just typical Satan? Weaseling in slowly, causing cracks where there were none before, than pushing them open wider and wider until you are angry about your state in life and no longer joyful or focused on God. Instead of thankfulness and happiness at my chicken filled yard and healthy children, I only saw my stinking cassette player. That no one else I knew had to have.
To make matters worse, my purely decorative cup holders failed me yet again tonight, and the 40 oz diet coke I was thrilled to treat myself to, ended up dumping completely into the console bin holding my 6 new-to-me cassettes. Which now all needed to be dried off and cleaned up. While reaching to grab the soda ( I had been unwrapping Manchild’s mint at the time) my thumb went through the Styrofoam cup and soda soaked the carpet and floor mats as well as dumping into the bin. That was the last straw.
Now anger and self-pity are a dangerous combination. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit pointed out the slippery slope I was coasting on tonight for what it was. Because I was certainly not seeing clearly, and even had to warn Captain Schenanigans of my situation lest I passive-aggressively jab at him for having the better car, indefinitely.
None of this material stuff matters. It’s all meaningless in the big picture of life. I have been spending so much time on Craigslist lately, and so little time in my Bible, that my focus is off and my sights are slightly, just one degree at a time, shifting out of line. Even as I type all this out, there is a freeing in my soul. My interest in my car is shriveling back down to the regular amount I usually had. My desire to download an audiobook, and fight to listen to it while I drive the Schenaniganlets around Baltimore, has evaporated.
But that’s just how discontentment works. Sneaking in, looking innocent, and whispering what everyone else has that you do not. No commercials necessary, just meet someone new and listen to them talk. It’s subtle. But I can protect my joy, and secure my contentment. Time with God always levels the slippery slopes a bit, and realigns my sights. It’s an investment like no other, spiritually, emotionally, and even financially. So now I have to go, I have a date with someone I need to talk to. I know I’m not alone in this material pushing world, but shiny and new can never replace lasting and True.