When you’re a single female, car shopping is not a bad way to spend a Friday night. The moment you walk through the door, you’re approached by at least three guys (it’s almost always guys). Before the night is out, you’re guaranteed that at least one of them will ask for your number. Hit a couple different dealerships across town, and within days you’ll be receiving almost daily phone calls inviting you out for another test drive. Not bad, really.
I discovered this novelty recently when my dearly beloved little car began requiring almost weekly trips to the mechanic. The dash regularly lit up like a carnival ride, and the backend was rusted to the point where I checked after every speedbump to ensure it was still attached. The problem was that I didn’t like any of the newer cars I drove.
“I don’t want to spend all this money on something I don’t even like,” I kept lamenting to a friend.
“You need to stop saying that,” she replied. “Because one of these days your car is going to leave you alongside the road for good, and then you will appreciate having a newer car that actually runs.”
I knew she was right, but I test drove every similar make and model at every dealership in town and the novelty was wearing off quickly. I was nearing the end of my list of potentials on a stormy Friday night when I pulled into yet another dealership. I ran through my spiel with the car salesmen and of course they assured me they had just what I was looking for. To my shock, when they led me to my test-drive, it really was everything I was looking for. It was a compact vehicle with a manual transmission, cruise control, and a CD player. It was zippy and fun to drive with a roomy trunk and good visibility out the windows. It was as close to my old car as I could possibly get – it was even a similar color.
I still didn’t like it.
In desperation I returned to another dealership for a second look around. I had already test-driven and dismissed most of what was on their lot, but on a whim I pointed to a car across the way.
“I’d like to look at that one.”
It was not at all what I was looking for. It was not a manual transmission. It had a hatchback instead of a trunk. It did not get good gas mileage. But as I slid behind the wheel, I smiled.
“Either it’s the car for you, or it’s not the car for you,” a gruff salesman had told me the week before as I gave lukewarm responses to each of his vehicles. “If you gotta think about it that much, then this ain’t the car for you.”
He didn’t call me. But his words rang in my ears as I later drove this completely unexpected vehicle off the lot. I had been so busy looking for something as close to my old vehicle as possible that I had missed the potential for something completely new. I was so busy trying to hold onto what I had always loved that I almost missed the chance to love something different.
Truth be told, if my little car had kept on ticking I would happily still be driving it. I miss the comfortable familiarity of it, the manual transmission, the years of memories. But as the saying goes, the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. In whatever season we find ourselves, God wants us to look forward, not back. He prepares us not for the road behind us, but for the road ahead. Sometimes that involves letting go of something we enjoyed, trusting that God will provide new joys in the future.
It may not be at all what I was looking for, but I still occasionally smile unexpectedly as I slip behind the wheel. I’m doing my best to make way for the new things God has in store down the road.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.