When I was 14, we had a little tan ’76 Chevy Chevette that I was sure would be my first car. It was a great little runner with a manual transmission and a little 4-banger for an engine. It also had a corrosion-assist air circulation system. (Read that as rust holes big enough to throw a grapefruit through.) The interior was a little run down, and there were pits in the windshield, but in all honesty, the Chevette had not been built to turn heads and make people say, “Ooooooo!” It was transportation. Pure and simple.
Dad and I went through that little rag and gave her a new floor pan, some sheet metal, and enough fiberglass and bondo to build a small boat. We finished her off with a paint job that was pretty wild for a Chevette… and then he sold her. I thought she was going to be my first car, but Dad decided that his son probably could use a little more metal wrapped around him than that little Chevette could provide. He was probably right. I probably would not have gotten that first speeding ticket though…
A few years later, after giving my ’79 Malibu a paint job, I needed a winter beater. I tracked down a ’78 Chevy Malibu that on the outside was REALLY rough. It was burgundy with a black padded-vinyl top that had started to split and shred. It had fuzz coming out all over the top and when it went down the road, the fuzz would wave in the breeze like an old fella that refuses to give up the comb-over. The car had a hideous red interior with some rather unidentifiable stains in the seats, but I didn’t care. It also had a small-block V-8 under the hood. That old rag could flat fly! I put a set of light truck snow tires on it and there wasn’t a place that car couldn’t take me.
4 years ago I bought a Buick from a guy at work because I needed a winter car. While the outside of this car was not in bad shape, the inside was full of surprises. It had a household light switch that operated the fan, The clock was not able to be programmed and was off by 2 hours and 17 minutes, and the high beams and dash lights would just turn off on their own from time to time. The car had two broken sway links and a sway bar that was only being held in place by the bushings. It was an accident waiting to happen. It was the first car that I ever got stuck with on more than one occasion (each time in my own driveway), but when I hit the key it was always ready to go.
I’ve owned a lot of cars over the last almost 30 years. Some of them have been nice cars, some of them I made into nice cars, and some of them were cars that had to make people wonder what I was thinking. Most recently I picked up an ’02 Pontiac Montana from one of my best friends. Yep. A mini-van. Not just any mini-van though. This car has some issues…
- After driving it for two months, I have finally figured out how all of the door locks work – or don’t work. There is a science to getting into this car…
- It has a ton of rust that is not visible at first glance, but as you climb around in an under it, you start to really wonder what is holding it together!
- I’ve made some repairs here and there:
- cleaned the interior
- fixed a coolant leak
- swapped out the headlights
- plugged a tire
- put on new windshield wipers
- replaced the cabin air filters. (After removing a mouse nest the size of my head from the blower fan housing. Finally caught the mouse in a trap I set in the car. Traps are still set because you never know if there might be more!)
- The most satisfying repair was probably getting the windshield sealed so water didn’t run into my left shoe when I made a right turn.
Some of you reading this might think, “Wait a minute. You said that you bought this car from one of your best friends? Were you doing him a favor or is he really not that good of a friend?” I can tell you that he is a great friend. We’ll get back to that a little later. There are things wrong with this car, but when I hit the key, it starts. The blower throws heat (most of the time – not too concerned yet). It has an excellent set of snow tires, and a kicking stereo! (Even if the cassette and CD players don’t work and I can’t tell what station it is on!) I’m loving this van!
If you go back over all of these vehicles I talked about, they all have something in common. They might not have had a lot of show, but they all had it where it really counts with a car. They ran! They might not be worth looking at, but 4 tires that turn and and engine that runs are really the most important things you need in a car. Well, yes. We need heaters here in Northern Michigan, but you get my point.
I look back over the cars that I have had, and while I enjoyed the lack of emergency maintenance I have had with some of the nicer, newer cars, I have really enjoyed those beaters! I like their quirks, the opportunities they have given me to learn new skills in auto repair (Thank you, Dad and Ray for your mentorship), and for the fun stories I have been able to share. I could look at these cars as things that bring frustration, but they really don’t. They are adventures!
Now that I am a 42 year old man driving a rusty, soccer mom mini-van. I can only embrace the fun of it. Right from the start I had dubbed this vehicle the Swagger Wagon, and my friend Ray even got some decals for me to put in the windows. The decals are getting noticed at work and I’m loving it. People shake their heads at first because they think it is silly, but when they ask me why I would associate my mini-van with “Swagger” I get an opportunity to share. I am proud of that van, and here is why:
- It was gift from a good friend who saw a need and wanted to help. I bought the van, but I didn’t pay very much for it. After talking with my friend Mike about my wife stepping out of her career and how I needed to get a vehicle that would just get me to and from work, Mike stepped up and made me an offer. I looked the van over and made an informed decision. A decision that I would make all over again because it meant so much to me that he would help me out like that. Mike has a heart for serving and helping people, and I can brag about the God that put that heart in him. I can brag about how my God used my friend to meet a need. It’s not the first time Mike has been used this way, but I am driving the proof of it around and telling people about it!
- It was evidence of God meeting my needs. I didn’t need a brand new Silverado. I needed a set of wheels. I prayed for God to bring the right vehicle to me when the time was right. I could have prayed for something nicer, but I knew that with the price I was willing to pay, God was going to need to be involved in any purchase I made! I have seen God meet our needs just in time several times over the past five years, and I knew He would be there again. I can brag about a God that is there for me over and over again!
- It’s fun to drive a beater! This part isn’t really deep. I just like having a car that I can fix without worrying too much about making sure that everything looks “just right”. I have wire holding all sorts of things together in this van, and there will probably be much more! It is satisfying to be able to fix it on the cheap and just enjoy driving it. I take pride in keeping it as clean as I can and doing what needs to be done to keep it running, but past that? The more bizarre the repair the more fun I have. I can brag about a God that brought me a car that brings me this much fun!
Relentless living is about looking for the things that really matter. It might be a dependable vehicle, a caring friend, someone willing to teach you something you need to know, or any number of other things. Every day we come face to face with things God has given us that are really important if we just choose to see them. After we see them, we have the choice to acknowledge Him in them or not. I could hang my head because I need to keep a recurring appointment with an air compressor on my calendar since the tires all have slow leaks, or I can be thankful that they have great tread and I have an air compressor!
The Bible has a couple of words that reflect my feelings regarding this van and what it has brought to my life. The first would be contentment and the other is joy. These feelings are rooted in a trust that God is watching out for me and the needs of my family. How He meets the needs is up to Him. How I feel about that is up to me. I want to bring my God Relentless praise, and as I reflect on how good He is to me, one of his children…
Well, if anything is gonna give you a little swagger, that oughta do it!