Happy New Year, Reader! I hope your holiday went well, or at least was tolerable. I didn’t get into any fistfights with family this year, so I’m counting that as a win.
The bar is low in my life.
But while I’m sitting at my desk waiting until a concert tonight (the centerpiece of which is Holst’s Planets suite, which is one of my favorites), I keep looking over my shoulder at the parking lot behind my building and worrying. The thing is that I live in a city and, in cities, parking is an incredibly tricky concept: there are lots of cars, but not lots of spaces. And they’re currently resurfacing my parking lot, which means I had to find somewhere else to put my car.
First world problems, I know; you may even be wondering why I have a car, living in the city. I don’t use it much here—I walk to anywhere within about a mile and a half radius, which is the vast majority of the pieces of my life. But I have it so that I can leave here. My friends are several states away and I can’t afford to buy a plane ticket when I want to go home to see them; I sometimes have people or places I need to visit that are definitely not within walking distance and aren’t on any of the bus lines, either. (Sadly, my city doesn’t have a subway or el system.) I also have it so that I, as an up-and-coming pastor, don’t have to rely on the vagaries of public transit (rather less reliable and far-reaching here than in, say, NYC) to be able to get to my church or the hospital or one of my parishioners’ houses.
I also, to be perfectly honest, still have my car because of the freedom in it. When my grandfather finally had to give up his driver’s license because he simply couldn’t see anymore to drive safely, he didn’t give it up voluntarily. His sons had to wrest it from him because it was his last link to not having to depend on the rest of the family to get him around; it was his way of telling himself he wasn’t being a burden. I get that, at a visceral level. As a hella independent woman, I love that my car affords me the opportunity to leave if I must and go wherever I want (provided, of course, she holds together; she is almost 15 now, but I can’t even handle the idea of her demise and so refuse to acknowledge it).
In America, a car is a ticket to anywhere you have enough gas to go. A car is a home—literally, for some, and I admit to having spent some nights in my car when I was travelling and couldn’t afford another option. And my car is currently sitting in a lot where it might be towed.
Before you lecture me on taking risks with the possibility of towing, dear concerned Reader, let me say a) I know; there’s a story about a van in Chicago and a middle school youth group that has made me painfully aware of city towing consequences, and b) I did play by the rules for part of this. One of the frustrating things about this parking lot makeover is that we weren’t given any avenues about what to do with our cars by the folks who own the building, simply the command last night to move them (I’m bitter about this mostly because they were supposed to do this repair over the holiday break when most of us weren’t here anyway, but nooo, now we’re all in the way…damn right I’m being petty about it). So this morning I actually put my car in a lot, which wasn’t cheap. But I could only leave it there so long, and besides, I had to get to work. For the remaining hours, it’s not so much that I couldn’t afford the cost of meters or garages or whatever (I could definitely jostle other things in the budget to make it work, because even in being poor I’m pretty fortunate about the financial burdens I have; trust me, I’m aware that I could be a lot worse off and this is a tiny expense); it’s that it’s frustrating to me that I should have to simply because a company couldn’t be bothered to honor its commitments and my building super couldn’t be bothered to help a bunch of graduate students re-house their cars for a day.
Why am I complaining about so small a thing, you may well ask? And what on earth does this have to do with God, especially as the first post of a new year? Part of it is the simple amount of mental energy I’m putting into this. My car has been tucked into the back of a lot that is usually half-empty for about three and a half hours now hoping against hope that the school that owns the lot won’t do a random sweep, and I tell you I have been nervous the entire time. It’s exhausting, quite frankly, and of a far higher cost than the stupid garage would have been. The principle of the thing is super ridiculous beside my concern that I might have to go rescue my car from the impound.
But what if I were even half as aware of God as I am currently of my car? I don’t mean that someone could take God away from me, but how often have I considered the freedom God gives with the dedication I have to the freedom of this vehicle? In this new year, how do I understand God’s place in my life—in relation to the car or not? How can I live with the passion of appreciating God even more than that with which I appreciate my car?
UPDATE: The lot is finished, my car was not towed, and she’s safely back in her spot. I’m almost ashamed of how much my body unwound, Reader, when I saw her sitting right where I left her. When have I ever had that intense of a reaction to realizing God is still, and always, with me, right where I walked away from Him?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, LEB)