My ‘Ghetto’ Ride: Appearance, Character and Being Self-Conscious (Confessions 1)
Over the winter holiday break my wife and I joined some other family members on a trip to France and Belgium, a subject to which I hope to return in another post, but when we got back we experienced a small misadventure. We flew into Nashville from Europe and had to leave immediately from the airport to drive back to Kentucky so we could be home in time for work and school the next day. It is about a 3.5 hour drive, but about 20 mins from our house (mind you this is after walking across the city of Brugges to the train station, catching a train back to Paris, transfering from the train to the metro, riding the metro to the airport, flying from Paris to DC and DC to Nashville) our car died on one of the most deserted highways in KY. In short, we had it towed to a mechanic who told us the engine was dead.
As we search for a ‘new’ car we have been blessed by God, through our church family, to have access to two different cars until we find one we can afford to buy. The first of the two was a comfortable and reliable ride, nothing fancy, but still decent enough. However, the second, which I have been driving for the last few days, resembles the residence of Oscar the Grouch. It is a rust-brown Buick station wagon from the mid 90’s with busted windshield, barf-colored interior, mismatched wheels, and no rear view mirror. The engine rattles and bangs, that is when it even starts and stays running, the driver’s door makes a horrible hiss when opened and shut, it smokes a little and certainly does not have ‘that new car smell.’
As I was filling it up with gas today across the street from campus, I couldn’t help but want to keep my head down so others wouldn’t notice me with this hideous beastmobile. When someone I know has seen me driving it I feel compelled to explain to them that this isn’t my car or to make jokes about it to distract their attention from the fact that I am cruising, if one could call it crusing, around in such a ‘ghetto’ ride. Damn, am I really that shallow?
Two things stand out to me about my attitude regarding this car. First of all, I am an ungrateful jerk. God and my church family have provided me a way to get around, which I really needed since Rachel and I work in different cities and public transportation is virtually nonexistent around here, and the best I can do is be self-conscious about how ugly the car is. Second, and the focus of the rest of this post, is the fact that I even care so much about what others think about my appearance. Wasn’t I supposed to get over that crap sometime in college?
I have been particularly aware, perhaps because of the car, of my self-consciousness. I spend a lot of time wondering what folks in restaurants are thinking about my clothes and hair, and what the folks next to me at the stoplight are saying to each other about the car I am driving. I want to tell them all about my achievements, my education, my travels – anything to prove my worth to them. But, who really gives a damn what others think about my clothes or my car? Should my focus not be on what folks think about my character, and more precisely my character itself?
The bible doesn’t say much about what Christians are supposed to wear, instead it says to clothe ourselves “ with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Yet all I seem to do is try to gratify my desire to be liked, to be valued. The bible gives one more exhortation about what we ought to cover ourselves in, it says “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” In other words, clothe ourselves in the kind of character that supersedes the kind of shallow junk that keeps you from being like Christ.
In my case, perhaps I could put it this way, drive around in the car of Christlike character and quit worrying so damn much about what others think about insignificant things like a beat up station wagons with broken windshields. If you only think of Jesus and the needs of others, your mind cannot be occupied with your own superficial desires for affirmation.
More confessions to come…
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