Would you believe…this was my first car?! A 1969 Plymouth Barracuda, fastback edition. Yep, by many classic car experts, this would be a great find…but my high school friends weren’t classic car experts and didn’t think it was too cool! It was an older car and not what a teenage girl would choose as her first car, at least this once teenage girl. But for me, the Barracuda was key to my teenage independence and had great acceleration, and I loved it! (Though I did not love the speeding tickets I got with the car with great acceleration.)Anyway, I loved the car not because of what it looked like, but because of its function.
I drove the car from the time I was 16 until I graduated from college. When I got my first job in North Carolina, it was rare to stop at a gas station where an attendant didn’t comment on my car or offer to buy it. Mechanics LOVED my car in the land of NASCAR, and a classic car like mine with a V-8 engine was of great value around these parts. But it didn’t phase me. It was just my Barracuda.
Fast forward a few years and my younger brother got the Barracuda, and I got….my grandfather’s Pontiac Bonneville. Hmm. Quite a switch. It was light blue and as big as a boat, but it was a car, a ‘free’ car, and I was glad and thankful for the transportation. The car didn’t define me.
Since that time, I’ve driven many cars, all incredibly different styles, for sure. Some examples are: a black Ford Explorer when we had just one child, a dark grey Plymouth Voyager Minivan with built in car seats when we had more than three children (I loved those built-ins!)and a Ford Econoline 15 Passenger Van (a.k.a. BUS!) when we had 6 children and carpooled for soccer and baseball. For many years, I drove a Ford Excursion. I’ve driven a little Suzuki Forenza. I’ve driven a classic convertible Mercedes,and a BMW. In recent years I’ve even gone through a period of over a year when I didn’t have a car to call my own, and relied on transportation from my teenage drivers or very kind and generous friends.
There were times when I’d feel a bit embarrassed or defined by the car I was driving. When my husband brought me to the car lot to show me the “perfect van” for our family, well, I sure wasn’t expecting a 15 passenger van! Neither was my oldest son. We were recognized by EVERYone in our small town and people would wave and smile (and I’m sure laugh) as we drove by. I hate to think of how many times the poor kid would duck so as to not be seen! But, for that time in our lives, the big green van really fit.
My daughter dealt with her own bout with a car. She had wrecked her little black Suzuki, and car shopping was NOT fun, I promise you! We ended up in a burgundy old Ford Taurus. My daughter sat in the driver’s seat and said, “Mom, it’s a Grandma car!!” The test drive was excruciating and included tears, and frustration until…until my daughter smiled and said “I think I’ll name her ‘Betty'” (her Grandma’s name). After that, she loved the car and has not turned back! It’s all a matter of perspective! I was so proud that she wasn’t going to let a car define her, but was choosing to define it with her crazy and passionate self.
So here’s the thing. In this world, it’s so easy to try to let the ‘stuff of life’ define us. Instead of us defining the stuff, we can feel so measured by things in our lives. It may sound crazy, but its been so good for me to drive these different cars because although I’ve felt the stares or heard the chuckles, I’ve had practice knowing that what car I get into or what house I walk out of doesn’t define the person I am. I’m so thankful for the blessings in my life. But the older I get, the more simply I want to live. I love how Paul says in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I may not yet be on the level that Paul is with being content in ALL circumstances, but I can say that I have learned to be content in a 15 Passenger van or a BMW. I have learned to be content with a Ford Excursion or having no car to call my own. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” no matter the location or the circumstance, the car, or the clothes. The value is in who He is in me, and how I choose to perceive myself in light of the stuff.
So, that first car, my beloved Plymouth Barracuda? It was more of a blessing than I knew even then as a teenage girl. It was the first of many lessons for me about possessions. I only want to own them if they do not own me. They do not define their owners, their owners are to define them, as my daughter so aptly did when she named the car “Betty”! In a world that seeks to define people by their outward appearance or stuff, there is freedom in knowing that we are truly beyond definition, if we would but let ourselves be.
So bring on the Plymouth Barracudas and 15 Passenger vans.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” Not because of what I own or wear or live in….or drive, but because of who He is in my life. He strengthens me. And that makes all of the difference.