LIVE IN ASHEVILLE. NO, MORE SPECIFICALLY, I live in Candler. In regard to cars, Candler is no Rodeo Drive.
Now, I know some of you may not appreciate cars as much as I do, but try to put yourself in my shoes, or in my car. It is 8:30. It is dark by now. I am almost home, driving at 55 miles per hour down Highway 151. My rearview mirror holds a small pair of lights, blinking over the dips and imperfections of the road. They’re coming fast. Now the pair of lights is on my bumper--fully illuminating the cabin of my truck. Here comes the dotted yellow line. Now the lights can pass me.
They step out from behind me and pull even. What kind of car can I expect those lights to be pulling? A Porsche? A Mercedes? A Lexus? An Audi? Maybe even something better? The car coughs and sputters its way past me in a cloud of smoke. It’s an early 1970s Ranchero. Some hotshot has been watching too much NASCAR--now he thinks he’s Richard Petty and I’m someone slower, say, Ricky Rudd. He makes the pass! The crowd goes wild, the champagne--or is it beer?--is made ready as he pulls away from me and nearer to the checkered flag. All the while I am still going 55 miles per hour--in my Toyota truck.
For all my 16 years cars have fascinated me. But until four years ago when I visited the Ferrari dealership in Scottsdale, Arizona, I had only my imagination to write with and could only make-believe “fast” car scenes like the one described above. I knew we were at the right place when I saw the “cheap cars”--the $90,000 Porsches and Jaguars--sitting outside, fully exposed to the elements of the Arizona summer.
I won’t talk too much about the cars themselves. There were Ferraris, Aston Martins, Bentleys, and a whole stable of race cars. One Ferrari in particular stood out from the rest; it was a Special Edition 550 Maranello. Langston Hughes, in the 1920s, said, “I am a Negro--and beautiful!” Apparently this Ferrari had heard that statement. It said to me in its completely unassuming and self-assured way, “I am a Ferrari--and beautiful!”
I believed it. And standing right there, gawking, with camera in hand, I promised myself that someday I would own a car like that, maybe not a $250,000 Ferrari, but at least a Lotus Esprit or a TVR or a Noble.
A New Outlook
But now I realize that that promise was perhaps a mistake. Maybe I’d set myself up for a disappointment. It’s a promise that I may never be able to keep. I was, in effect, counting my chickens before they hatched--assuming that I would be able to afford a car like that. I am not saying that it is not OK to have dreams, desires, and aspirations. Speaking as an American for a minute, these are the engines that move democracy and capitalism forward--that enable America to be America.
It was four years ago that I visited the Ferrari dealership. In the years since I first laid eyes on that beautiful red car, my hopes and aspirations have been changed. They have not been completely changed, just remodeled--made better. You could say that the old carpet has been pulled up and a fresh new floor has been put down. This remodeling of ideas is the result of a better relationship with God--and perhaps the fact that I have not seen a real live Ferrari since that day.
Of course I would still love to own a Ferrari--I will always love those cars. But I have begun to realize that a Ferrari would be only sprinkles on the cake of life. In the end, you remember the cake, not the sprinkles.
So what about God has changed and improved my outlook on life and cars?
We all know that God and Jesus or maybe even the Holy Spirit are the right answers when talking about improvements to our lives. However, God is not simply the cliché answer here. In the past two years especially, I have begun to realize that life is overwhelming. The entire college application process, the vast amounts of homework and extracurricular activities daily demonstrate my helplessness to help myself now, or in the future. I have begun the process of surrendering my will and personal ambitions over to God--He knows best, better than I ever will--and He will effect the right situations and experiences in my life.
I’m not saying that one day, a couple of years ago, I decided to sit down and say “OK, God, I don’t have a will or opinions anymore. It’s all Yours.” I wish it were that easy, but I still do have my own will, ambitions, dreams, and opinions--I probably always will. It also must be clarified that once I have fully and entirely surrendered my will to God (if that is even possible), life will probably not be made entirely of palm trees and coconuts and white sandy beaches for the next 70 years. I will be happier if I follow God’s plan for my life, but life may not be any easier--it may, in fact, be harder. Look at the early church and the martyrs. They followed God’s plan, but this world was not any easier on them--their lives were harder, much harder.
So how exactly does a Ferrari fit in with martyrs and surrendering to God? The Ferrari was, and still is, my roadblock to letting God’s will take precedence. I am sure that cars are a roadblock for many other people too, but not for everybody. For someone else it may be money, or peer pressure, or houses, or jewelry, or even relationships. Whatever it is, everybody has something that keeps them from surrendering to God’s will.
I have said that these hang-ups keep us from letting God’s will and plans take charge in our lives, but how do they? It’s because we fear that God’s plan for us does not include our wants, desires, and dreams. We all know that the Bible says “My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” This is exactly what I fear. I fear that God’s plan will not include a Ferrari, and that on this earth I will never know why. This is why surrendering your will over to God and accepting His will instead is not something that just happens during morning devotions. It is often a lifetime process. Why? Because we sinful human beings have our own ideas about our life and our dreams and our wants, and old ideas die hard.
I’ve heard this process compared to the weaving of a tapestry. On the backside, where you can see the individual threads, the weaving looks like chaos. But on the other side, when you turn it around, it is a beautiful picture with every thread in exactly the right place. Perhaps a more pertinent example would be a well-planned military operation. The soldiers assigned to digging out the holes for the latrines might look on their assignment with contempt and apathy. But at the generals’ level, every soldier has an important and relevant job.
What this means to each one of us individually is that our dreams, hopes, and ambitions may not be the same as God’s. If we were a thread we might say, “I do not like my color or my placement. That thread over there is longer than I am.” If we were a soldier we might say, “I do not like carrying this around. I want a more important job than this.”
We are that thread. We are that soldier. The Weaver’s plan--the General’s plan--for us may not make sense. For some of us, it will. But for many of us, it will not. If I never have a Ferrari, I may never understand why. This is the reason we have to trust God’s plan for us. God says, “My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts,” but do we really believe that?
To fully surrender our lives to God, we must.
Christian Parobek is a high school senior at Veritas Christian Academy in Fletcher, North Carolina.