Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"I am so spectacular, I bought a car, yeee-ah!"

Last September I finally got my driver's license. And started hitting up Craigslist for cars the moment I got home.

In April I started praying in earnest for a car. I figured my odds were good. I needed a car. God had provided some extra cash. Nearly everywhere I went I saw cars for sale. I really thought this was a pretty reasonable prayer. My first attempt, really, at asking God for anything legitimately tangible. And I was pretty sure He would answer me in the affirmative, and it would make an awesome story, and I could talk about how prayer works. ["Heck yeah!"]

But months of trawling craiglist and making calls and keeping my eyes peeled for "for sale by owner" signs produced only disappointing dead ends. Each time it seemed like kismet! And each time it ended up being a really bad idea. Was God saying no car for me, or was I not looking hard enough? And there were so many details to be taken care of besides -- whose name would we register it in, how much would insurance cost, what kind of things should I be looking for in a car anyway? The more I tried to square the situation away, the more complicated it revealed itself to be. And with school only a month away the anxiety was certainly mounting. I was picturing myself the day before my first class, scrambling for a carpool with still no way to get around.

My dad was getting a little anxious as well. On his day off we headed to the West End to a car dealership he used to deliver, and before we pulled out of the garage he prayed a little prayer and I sighed very deep inside of myself, very quietly. His prayer was the epitome of irony. I was discouraged. For some puzzling reason, God did not seem to have a car in store for me. So we headed off to this dealer with low expectations.

When we arrived at the lot, my assessment that we were wasting our time was confirmed, when a quick look around revealed there was nothing in my price range. The proprietor came over to talk to us, sheepishly holding his cigarette behind his back. He told us some interesting things, like how the used car dealers didn't sell Toyotas and Hondas, so we could stop looking, and how all their cars were not from the auction, but all mechanically-sound trade-ins straight from the dealer. He waved his hand around the lot, pointing us to cars, and knocking hundreds off the chalked-on prices as he did so. Suddenly, a few were affordable.

My interest renewed, I jotted some notes on a few cars to research when I got home. I grew more optimistic the more I looked around. My parents tell me often that I am too trusting, and while perhaps this is true I don't think it's a terrible fault to have. Perhaps I was naive to trust this salesman, but I think God may have directed us to the only sincere used-car salesman in Providence. I was relieved not to have to haggle over price, all my anxiety over being tricked was taken away. He was a kind, informative man who said what needed to be said and then apologized for talking too much. He listened to my price range without blanching and directed me accordingly, but it was the first car he pointed to that I staked all my hopes on.

The same day we came back with my mom, we took the car for a test drive, we looked it up and down. We even popped the hood, not that any of us knew what to look for. There was, of course, still the money issue. I had enough to cover two-thirds of the car in my checking account, but the final thousand was in an account that didn't mature for three weeks. And yet the dealer agreed to hold the car until then! It all fit together, all went so smoothly, with no fuss and no concerns, like it was all very meant to be. Because of course, I like to think that is how God does things most of the time. [I am considering, that this is not always how God works, all neat and tied up with a pretty bow, but I was glad He let me see things come together this way this time, if only so I could say, "It was a total God thing!"]

The day after I paid the deposit, as if prompted by a divine cue half a dozen people must have asked me, "So, how's the car search going?" And flabbergasted I grinned, able to respond in the affirmative, "You'll never guess what God did yesterday!" I babbled about stress relief and God's goodness while simultaneously explaining why I didn't physically have the car yet, and why it was a good thing. Mrs. Hathaway declared, "I've been praying you would find a car!" Their family was looking for a car the same time as I was, and I was so infinitely touched to hear that others had been "bearing my burden", so to speak. A huge anxiety was lifted off my shoulders, with a month to spare.

I wanted something a little bigger than a compact, but also good on gas milage. God gave me a Nissan Altima. I wanted something newer than 1998. God gave me a 1999. I wanted something with fewer than 140k miles. God gave me a car with 127k. Very secretly, despite my dad's wise counsel, I wanted an automatic. God gave me a GLE. [Sorry Josiah.] The antenna is broken, and the interior has a few little rips. A panel is literally screwed back onto the door, and the exterior has a few scratches. My mom commented that perhaps it was a drug dealer's car after she saw the faint outline of the skull and crossbones sticker in the back windshield. But it runs. Dear God, thank you, it runs! [For this was my solitary prayer . . .] A purple car would have been nice, but I'll take the nondescript greenish bronze.

"This will last you through college," he says, "Perhaps longer." And I'm asking God to forgive my discouragement, I'm thanking God for all the cars He said no to. [Especially those plentiful Ford Contours. Ptth.]

It has long been easy for me to take for granted that truth "He supplies all my needs" because I have had to few physical tangible needs. And now as I enter a stage of my life where the concrete is more uncertain, I am finding, though faith is easier said than done, He will sustain. Even inconsequential earthly things like a car to drive to school. Also, that "prayer works. Heck yeah!"

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