Lesson 3: fakin’ ain’t makin’

The car I went to see yesterday seems like a pretty good deal: Something I can afford: Good re-sale value: Mileage under 100k. And the current owner is willing to negotiate price. But…

But the paint is peeling off the hood. And there are some signs of rust at the tip of the hood too. Now, I know the oxidation could be a safety issue, but that was not what gave me pause. Rather, it was the aesthetics of a car with a delaminating hood that bothered me. I mean, that’s just not a pretty sight!

It’s not so much a question of “what will people think of me?” More a matter of what image I would like to portray to the world…I guess. Once you get beyond caring what people think of you, the next battle is with what you think of yourself. I don’t mean in a healthy self-image kinda way. But I just mean that picture of the self that we want those around us to perceive – whether or not that self is true.

The thought had crossed my mind, before, of how it’s possible for people living in low income neighborhoods to drive relatively new cars. I mean, shouldn’t you be saving to move to a better area?
Yes, it would be logically inconsistent to finance a car that stretches your budget if your priorities are overall upward social mobility. Yet the gratification of immediate positive perception could, at times, override the sensible choice. At times, we choose to be seen as what we are not and, I think we even convince ourselves that if enough people see us this way, we will morph into that. A kinda fake it till you make it mentality.

So we fake holiness…fake our income bracket by what we wear or drive…fake openness by who we associate with…fake kindness by how much we donate…all the time hoping the fakeness will transform us.

It doesn’t.

There’s only One who can transform us. Just like the Ethiopian can’t change his skin and the leopard its spots, pretending to be something we are not is just that – pretending! Nothing more. What we need is a total transformation. Not to be driving a car that makes us look like something, but to be something no matter what we’re driving. And the only One who can effect such a transformation is Jesus.

There may not be a problem with the persona you want to portray. The goal, though, is for you to be that person, not to put up a front. What you need is to be transformed into that likeness.

Here’s the promise of the day, taken from Ezekiel 36:26-27. God says,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Lesson 2: Always Love…not fear

My friend was kind enough to take some time away from his family to help me look at a car a couple of weeks back. After searching for a few days, I’d found one I thought I wanted. From the test drive, everything seemed fine. I’d done a cursory check but needed a second, and more educated, opinion. So there he was 🙂

He agreed it seemed like a good deal. Only one previous owner…under 80k miles…clean title…but, he asked, “how badly do you want this car?” To be honest, even before I called for his opinion, I was pretty sure I’d get it. I was already weary from the search and just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to settle back into a normal existence. Yearning for my independence again. I was ready to get a car.

In my subsequent research, I learnt that one of the tips to getting a good deal on a car is that you have to be willing to walk away from it if it doesn’t meet your terms. The moment you show signs of desperation or emotional attachment, you lose your bargaining power.

But what if I let this one go and nothing like it ever comes my way again? What if this is as good as it gets – it’s not exactly what I want, but what if it’s the best I’ll ever find? What if I regret my decision to wait for the right deal?

Those are not the thoughts of someone who wants the right car at the right price!
You’ve just got to believe that good things come. That this glimpse at something similar to what you want is only a promise of better things to follow. That there’s a chance you’ll have the perfect deal, if you’d just wait.

My friend made me wait before committing to that car. And although the dealer had been unmoveable on the price the day before, he called me with a lower price, out-the-door, the next day. And the day after that, the price came down even further!
I seriously thought that someone would literally walk into that dealership and buy that car at their asking price the moment I walked out the door. But there he was, offering me the discount I had requested before.

The time of waiting and reflection also made it evident that that wasn’t the car for me anyway. It gave me time to think about my goals for the next few years and my current financial status and I came to a clearer notion of what I need in a car right now.

I’ve come to conclude that it’s a dangerous thing to act out of fear. Doing something for fear rather than for love is no place for a Christian – even when it comes buying a car. Here is a summation of this conclusion:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:17

Lesson 1: Different strokes for different folks

A friend of mine just bought a Yaris, recently, and shared the experience with me a couple of days ago.
He was driving on a small local highway, and there it was, on the side of the road. When he spoke with the seller they were just trying to get rid of the car as quick and painlessly as possible on behalf of someone else. With barely any negotiating, the seller slashed $1k off of the original asking price. Just like that, my friend had a car.

Another friend had a rich uncle who paid for a brand new car in cash upfront as an interest-free loan.

Someone’s parents bought if for them…someone got it priced super low because the previous driver claimed a malfunction which was probably attributable to mis-handling…someone saved up for years to pay for it upfront. And someone else never bought one – just never fit into the big picture of their life…maybe.

My story will never be identical to someone else’s story, because we’re all such different people. The temptation is, sometimes, to look at someone else’s life and wish ours were just like theirs. Maybe a car fits the big picture of your life, maybe it’s even a necessity. But the process of acquisition will be different for everyone. And why not, given that God’s care for us is so tailor-made.

He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because His relationship with each of them was unique. If He is to be your God, let Him direct your life in a manner unique to you. This quote sums it up:

“The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.”
{Steps to Christ p100}

Lessons from car-shopping

It is, without a doubt and by far, one of my least favorite things to do. So many variables…too much deceit…

The anxiety of not being able to trust the person selling to me is overwhelming! As are the factors you need to consider in making the final choice – a newer car with  more miles or an older car with lower mileage…an older car with better trim or a newer car with lesser trim…larger loan with longer term but lower payments or smaller loan with shorter term and higher payments…???

One of two things would resolve my dilemma and neither of them easily accessible:

Thing One – Money

If I were a rich woman…dibee dibee dibee dibee dibee dibee dibee dum…I could pay MSRP on whatever car I chose. Wouldn’t have to haggle with the salesman. No worries about checking for rust on the body, under the hood, or under the car because it’d be brand new. Loans? Schmoans! I’d just write out a personal check!

But I have the distinct feeling that money like that is not to be my lot in life…

Thing Two – Decisiveness

Technically, this one is far more readily accessible, and usually not much of a problem for me…but… Well,  thing is, I know what I want, but I just can’t have it right now. My immigration status (or rather non-status at the moment to be precise), my credit score (looooooong sob story), and my plans for the future (which is consistently uncertain – no complaints) all coalesce into circumstances that mean I can’t have what I know I want.

When you can’t have what you want, but you need something nonetheless, what do you do? You settle. You settle for next best. In my books though, when I compare next best with next best, they all look the same to me – not best! Hence the indecisiveness…What can I say? It’s a personality flaw?

It Continues

And so my car search continues. As are most things in my life, it’s way more introspective of an experience than is expedient, but alas, I must accept me as I am 🙂 I’ve been learning a lot though and I have a couple of posts in mind from those lessons. Watch this space.

Prayer

First in the Sabbath School Bible study guide two weeks ago, and then for vespers last Friday, prayer’s been a hot topic of late. In fact, after a rousing sermon entitled “Lift Him Up” at Collegiate Sabbath last weekend, we went out around Big Rapids offering to pray with folk who opened the door to us. Not too many opened…but, since it was so nice and sunny, there were many doors already open. haha.

It’s so much fun going door-knocking! You meet all sorts of characters. At one house, this past Sabbath, as we approached, we heard scrambling. There was a car in the garage and the front door was wide open, but when we knocked and hollered no-one responded. Then I saw movement behind the couch. Someone was hiding behind the couch. I mean, seriously?

Of the 5 people we got to speak with in the space of an hour and a half, none of them was willing to pray with us! Refusing a Bible study because you’re afraid I’m trying to convert you when you already belong to a church is one thing. But how harmless is prayer!

Ok, so one example comes to mind for why someone might be wary to accept prayer…When I was canvassing 5years ago (that’s so long ago, I need to do it again and generate new stories!) I met this “born-again” Christian who was so touched by the fact we were going door-to-door selling Christian books that he offered to pray for my work. I accepted, of course, and he proceeded to lay a hand on my shoulder as we prayed there on the sidewalk. As the prayer was drawing to a close, he begun uttering indecipherable sounds…I opened one eye to assess the situation. He was “speaking in tongues” but not the Biblical way. And it was a bit of an uncomfortable situation…

Prayer, I suppose, isn’t as cut ‘n dry for Christians any longer eh.

Regardless, from all the musing I’ve done on prayer recently, one thing emerges as cardinal – prayer is about building a relationship with God. Oh so much I could write in that vein…<sigh> But I’ll stick to one analogy that struck me the other day.

It used to seem a little redundant to pray to God about stuff He already knows. So you want that ZW series Felt bike…since He can read your mind, He already knows that! Or you’re unhappy about a situation at work…He saw it happen! Why pray?

Well, it’s kinda like the difference between a blog and a call.

If I were to read a blog about, say, my friend’s experience taking the bar exam, I would now possess information about her. Maybe I could even say I’d know her better. And, of course I’d want to read my friend’s blog to know what’s going on in her mental world 🙂
But…
If she gives me a call and tells me about the bar, it’s not just about knowing what is going on with her. It’s that now, and perhaps more importantly, she has invited me into her experience. She wants me to be a part of it – a part of her life. Whereas before, I was just an interested party, a phonecall like that is the bricks and motor of a solid relationship.

Yeah, God has all this information about us. Yeah, He knows what we want, what we need, how we feel etc etc etc. But He wants more than just to read the blog that is our life. His desire is that we would invite Him into our experience…make Him a part of our lives. He invites us to a relationship with Him through His Word. Will we reciprocate through prayer?

happy mother’s day

Somewhere along the line, perhaps almost a decade ago now, my mother and I developed a tradition.

You know how on your birthday, everyone gives you all this attention…the unending stream of wall posts on facebook…for a little more personal touch, you have an actual message in your facebook inbox or a text message on your phone: Even more rare and more involved is the email or…wait for it…a PHONECALL! Who still makes an actual phonecall?

Well, I do. On my birthday, every year, the tradition is that I call my mother to wish her a happy Sikhu’s birthday 🙂
Because, when you think about it, as eager as I was to get out into the world almost 3 decades ago, it was my mother that was suffering through the process. She pretty much did all the work. She’d been doing it for about 9months already, and it only got more challenging once I popped out.

As I read through the book, “Adventist Home,” a couple of years back, I couldn’t help but reflect on my upbringing. And remarkably, my mother did so many things right! Moreover, as I grow into womanhood and begin to experience the unique challenges that adulthood brings, I’m all the more impressed by my mother’s godly example. I’m encouraged by her strength. Motivated by her love. And I miss her so much.

So as this day that celebrates my birth commences, it is only fitting to honor the woman who labored to bring me into the world. The woman who reared me and has been most influential (outside of God) in shaping the woman I am becoming. It’s my birthday today, but really, this is the day that I celebrate my mother.

Happy mother’s day, Mama.

During Mom's visit last year

Curiosity

There may be somebody out there who can resonate with this struggle of mine with curiosity. Yes, yes, it is said that curiosity killed the cat…But that cat had at least nine lives, right…so…it’s ok 😛

It’s so frustrating when people start telling you something then leave you hanging! I mean, how can you sleep at night, thinking about all the permutations that story could have taken to its conclusion?!? No matter how anti-climactic, you’ve just gotta know the ending!

In the ongoing story that is each of our lives, we pray fervently that God’s will be made known to us. This is good. Of course. The thing is, though, too often, we want to know, just for curiosity’s sake – just so we know how God would end the story if we let Him.

But that privilege is not always ours. In fact, it seldom is. We know for sure that Truth triumphs in the end, but how exactly the drama plays out in our individual lives is one huge question mark.

Maybe the problem isn’t curiosity, though. Maybe our focus is off. Maybe our curiosity is misdirected…

The most important question in life is “Who?”: Not “what?”: Not “how?” Who do you want to be when you grow up? Who will your friends be after you have influenced them? And the chief Who in our pursuit is God.

Getting to know God is the whole point. And seeking insight into the whats and whens of life is meant to bring us to a clearer understanding of the “Who is God?” question. You see, how He directs my life tells me something about Him. How He answers my prayers, tells me about Him. What He says in His Word, obviously tells of Him.

Where will I live as an adult? What will my occupation be 10yrs down the road? Which area will I pursue for further study? How will I pay for grad school? When can I graduate from apartment renting and buy a house? etc etc etc. As happy as I am right now and thankful to God for where He’s brought me from, I’m just curious about what’s next…

But you know the oft-repeated lyrics: I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future…

The unquenchable curiosity to know Him is where it’s at!

My Closet

In the last couple of apartments that I’ve lived in, I’ve had a walk-in closet.
I like my closet.
When I got my first walk-in though, I thought it was unnecessarily huge.
What would I put in it?
Now, I can’t imagine life without a walk-in closet.

It’s always fun when friends stay over.
I feel like it makes the apartment more like home when you can host people.
Though I love my current apartment, having carpet only in the bedrooms limits sitting and crashing space.
So, with comfortably – 5 sleeping spots and an apartment with 6 women this past weekend, the floor was all mine 🙂

And into the closet I went with my sleeping bag and a pillow.
There’s a light in it so I could do my morning and evening devotions unimpeded.
Don’t feel badly for me because in such a crammed apartment, I had the most privacy!
In my previous apartment, it took more than 6 people to justify sleeping in the closet…but I did get to do it on at least one occasion.

When I was comfortably situated in my cozy closet, I began to think about all the space in my apartment.
Do I need it?
Ok, you need a bathroom, for sure! And a kitchen!
But here, in this small space, were almost all my belongings…

It caused me to think of all the things we think we need to survive…
Do we really need them?
How much of my happiness is bound up in stuff?
Am I willing to give up my walk-in closet?