I’ve become one of those guys. You know the ones – the guys who can only talk about their cars, or their guns, or whatever their personal flavor of obsession is. One of those guys whose identity, strangely, seems to revolve around a Thing. And I think I’m cool with it.
I bought a Jeep Wrangler recently. Ain’t she purty?
Yeah, she’s a bit beat up, and yeah, there are some mechanical issues, but what you have to understand is that she’s the first vehicle I’ve ever really taken any pride in. Until fairly recently in my life, I was really, really bad at being in the world. I was thoroughly of the world, however. Astute readers will note that there is a problem with that particular combination. She taught me how to see it.
And now we divert for some vague theoretical bloviating! You knew what you were getting into when you clicked the link.
As I’ve found myself growing more attached to Isabel (by now you may have guessed that Isabel is, in fact, a jeep), I’ve grown a bit worried, from time to time. Historically, possessions have had very little hold on me in one sense, while mattering very, very deeply in another. At one point in my life, it would be quite accurate to say that nothing, individually and as such, mattered in particular to me. It could most accurately be described, I think, as a sort of bland apathy towards any specific item. On the other hand, I had a certain dragonish possessiveness about me – these things are MINE. All of the impotent greed of Smaug or Eustace, without the core of real desire that they had. Mine was like an emulation of desire, being masked by an emulation of a lack of desire. I was an automaton pretending to be a dragon pretending (very badly) to be an ascetic.
Then I bought a vehicle that was, admittedly, an impulse buy. In high school, a good friend of mine had a jeep, and I had always wanted one. By the time I got home from picking her up (a story in itself), I was in love.
As the first flickers of real attachment started to show up in my mind when I thought about my vehicle (this was about halfway back home from purchasing her), they were immediately followed by a stab of what can only be described as terror. You have to understand – one of my most insidiously deceptive habits of thought is to model God like I do anyone else. That is not to say that I attempt to predict His actions or anything so silly, but I try to come to some sort of understanding of Him which allows me to actually think about His relationship to reality, not just to some fuzzy sort of feelgood universe inside my head. So even though I consciously try not to be so presumptuous as to say to myself “God would want….” in any given case, I occasionally find myself doing so. Here’s the hazard of that – you begin to apply human patterns to it. In my case, those human patterns are the patterns of logic, specifically of formal logic. So I had and have a tendency to think of God in extremes. My first thought, the one that caused that stab of terror, was “If I get attached to this, God will take it away.” I wouldn’t have said that I thought of God as malicious, but it’s possible that capricious would be pretty close.
I don’t know what it is about that drive, but that moment of terror (I think it’s that moment, at least – there are a few other candidates) began a process that I have generally described as a phase change.
When he hits the bottles, he is creating nucleation sites – places for the water to start to change into ice. If the water is cold enough (and it’s more complicated than just “cool to zero C”, but that’s pretty close,) a single nucleation site is all it takes to start a chain reaction that engulfs the bottle in moments. That is a phase change.
Whatever moment began it, all I know is that before it, I saw God as being a capricious master, who knows best but only by definition. In daily life, your actual happiness is more or less irrelevant. After the phase change, I learned how to trust.
After that moment where I looked at my life and at God and could only come to a place of fear, I began to consider life, and how it has all worked together. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everything has come out for the best, but that’s because I don’t know what the best of all possible worlds is. Honestly, I’ve only just begun to learn to trust God – an epiphany and a few months of thought do not a saint make, but for the first time in my life, I know what it actually MEANS to trust God. That trust is immensely liberating. Now, when I consider possessions (even Isabel, though I have no hesitation in saying that she is precious to me,) I know I can let go. There would probably be… distress associated with letting go of a few things, but I know I could, and I could do so in full faith that my needs will be provided for. This is not, of course, the moment of testing, but I’m more sure than ever that I could withstand the test.
And now we’re coming full circle – as I began to understand how to trust God for material things (and yes, it really did take me this long in my life. I’m not very bright sometimes) I began (quite rapidly) to trust Him for immaterial things. I began to understand that I could enjoy the world He has given us, without anchoring myself in it. I began to understand… a lot of stuff that would mostly come off as either mystical or obvious, depending on where you stand. In short, I learned how to tell the difference between “in the world” and “of it”.
I realize that I’ve just spent two posts in a row talking about my feelings. I promise that we’re going to be getting back to subjects that actually affect the real world soon, but bear with me a bit further – I still have a story or two to share about the jeep that changed my life.
So, yeah, I talk about my jeep a lot. Sure, it was God who taught me the lesson, but in His infinite grace, He decided to use a 99 TJ to do the last part. For that I’m grateful – He could have given me this epiphany with an El Camino.