There is never a good time for your car to die, and last Thursday morning was no exception. For one thing, my wife was leaving town that morning on a previously scheduled trip, so the other car was unavaiable. With her departure I was responsible for getting our two daughters connected to the sitter we had arranged for the day. This plus two appointments that were waiting for me at the office meant that I had no margins for time to waste on a car that wouldn’t crank. And to make matters worse I have just moved to Tampa, so I had no idea yet of who the reliable mechanics are around here.
Finally, with the help of a coworker I arranged for a tow truck and found a local garage that would admit my vehicle into its emergency room. (After a few days in ICU it was moved to a regular room and is ready to be discharged once the bill is paid!) But this did not happen until almost lunch time, which meant that the first half of my day was blown. My appointments for the morning graciously agreed to reschedule, but that did little to dissolve my frustration and anxiety.
As my car was towed out of the driveway and disappeared around the corner, I looked at my friend who had given up his morning to help me and said, “It’s crazy that a hunk of metal and glass can cause us this much trouble. I feel like my car has owned me today instead of the other way around.” To which my friend wisely responded, “Yes, but you’ve got to have a car to do the work you’ve been called to do!”
Right then and there I was struck by the great tension we live with as believers. On the one hand as created beings we live in the created world. This world is the only world God has given us, and he expects us to use the created resources of it to do his work. Sure, you can sell your car and ride the bus, but even the bus is a material item that requires time and money to operate. There simply is no way to escape the materiality and physicality of life on planet earth.
And yet God tells us in his word “Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1 John 1:15)” This does not mean that we are to have nothing to do with the “stuff” of creation. Keep in mind that the guy who wrote 1 John is the same guy who wrote the gospel of John, which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The world is the traget of God’s redeeming and sacrificial love, so we are not free to reject it. But there is a clear warning to us in Scripture: We are not to get ourselves too tangled up with this world, because this world is passing away. We need cars and houses and clothes and all other sorts of physical things, but these physical things will deteriorate and decay, and if we invested ourselves in them we will be left with nothing. Sooner or later you will find yourself standing in your driveway watching your car disappear behind a town truck and you will be left asking “What now?”
When I was young there was a popular rock song by 38 Special (yes, an unlikely place for inspiration) that intoned “Hold on loosely, but don’t let her go; If you cling too tightly you’re gonna loose control.” The song was about a girl, but that’s not a bad way to think about our relationship to this world. We are to care for it, enjoy it, and use it to the glory of God. God created this world, and we need a firm enough grasp to be faithful in our calling. But if we hold on to this world too tightly we will indeed loose control – of our relationships, our priorities, and ultimately, of our souls.
The good news is that my car is running again. The even better news is that I have an eternal inheritance that will be mine long after my car dies for the last time!
Grace and peace,