So yeah . . . yesterday, I filled out a credit application online for two different car dealerships (Toyota and Kia/Hyundai). The plan was to “just see” what they could offer me in terms of financing. I still wasn’t sure I even WANTED to commit to a car payment, let alone do it right now. But I wanted to check out my options.
I had planned to ask about leasing, and when a woman from the Toyota dealership told me that she could get me into a lease at a price that was (at least “sort of”) manageable for me, I decided I would go and take a look. The problem is that a car dealership is like crack . . . the cars are all new, and shiny, and they put you behind the wheel of a car whose odometer reads 38 miles . . . from that point on, it’s so, so hard to walk away. The woman I worked with was sincere enough that I was able to brush off my nagging feelings of needing to take a shower from being around all of the sleaziness that is inherent in such a place. Had she been any less sincere, I’m quite sure I would have walked away, and this leaves me feeling even more duped.
I am also starting a five-day-a-week temp job on Monday – yes, in addition to my day job. So without a car, the plan was to get on a 6:20am bus to get to my day job by 7:15am, then to get on a bus across town to get to job #2, then to try to catch the last bus so that I could transfer to the other last bus and get myself home by 11:45 before starting it all over again the next morning.
This plan, in and of itself, had me thinking that I was going to give in very soon and buy something. I just didn’t know I would succumb so soon.
It’s no big surprise that I tend to be impulsive, nor is it any secret that I am a chronically poor money manager. But that is not the thing that is causing me to hyperventilate as I write this. I am broke no matter how many or how few bills I have, and no matter how little or how much I am making. The payments are affordable on paper, so having this car primarily means that I will need to end my habit of eating out more days than not. I will not be on the bus, but I will be on the ramen noodle diet. This seems to me like a good exercise in restraint. I will probably end up putting my student loans into forebearance yet again, also, but that’s also nothing new.
All of these things are realities I will just have to deal with . . . but my real problem is two-fold. First, I consider my inability to delay gratification by saving for a cheaper car to be a clear sign of my lack of character. Second, (secondly? help me out, grammar police!) I feel that having a nice car is not something I should aspire to, if I believe what I say I believe.
The reality is that I have had a myriad of opportunities to save money over the past several years. I knew that Anastasia was on her last legs, and I could have been preparing for that, but I did not. I am still living very much paycheck-to-paycheck, and could not even put a down-payment on the car (unless I had waited two weeks). Had I been able to save money, I would have been in a better position to purchase a $2000 or $3000 or $5000 car, and would not have fallen prey to the temptation to go after as much car as I could afford, and then some.
Similarly, my month on the bus while working 13-hour days was supposed to be a test of my character. It was supposed to prove (to me and to whomever else might care) that I have the ability to work hard to get what I want, that I am not one who seeks the easy way out. It was supposed to put weight behind the lip-service I give to “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the bus as a form of transportation”. Two days before I first was to get on that 6am bus, and I have already failed that test of my character. In fact, I have not merely failed the test, but have shown the true nature of my soul by spending much more money than I needed to.
This brings me to my next concern, and one that I fear has more profound eternal consequences. I made a choice today–a choice to spend almost $300 a month on myself, entirely for my own enjoyment and convenience. I don’t have a better point of reference, but I know that $300 could send four students in Liberia to school for one year. Multiply that by 12, and maybe you will see my dilemma. I am choosing to avoid the minor inconvenience of having to take the bus on a daily basis over the opportunity to change the lives of nearly fifty children. And I fear that even my choice of that example is me making things too easy for myself . . . how many children’s lives could be saved with that money? Am I really going to get to the end of my life and look back on this moment with pride and not horror? And yet, I made that choice today.
So I came home from this ill-advised purchase, and in an attempt to ask for a sign, I opened my one-year Bible and began to read.I don’t know what I expected to see . . . but I think that I was looking for some confirmation that it was somehow okay for me to be all about myself. But Jesus doesn’t roll that way, and I should’ve known better than to try to find justification for my actions in those pages. What I found instead was this:
“Then He said, ‘Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to Me! Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it, but whoever insists on keeping his life will lose it; and what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?’ ” (Luke 9:23 – 25, TLB; other versions translate “self” as “soul”.)
I know I’m rambling; I’m not even going to edit this at this point. And please know that I am not looking for any of you to tell me that I really am a good person deep down inside or any other such nonsense . . . I’m not looking for affirmation here. I just wanted to explain exactly why I am experiencing this remorse, and why I am wishing that buying a car was like buying Tupperware, where they allow you to change your mind within 72 hours.
And I know that Jesus still loves me anyway, but I still do not relish an eternity spent living with the knowledge that I chose my own comfort over self-sacrifice. Of course, that I made this choice is nothing new, but it’s all the more difficult to face when it’s done on such a large scale.
Maybe this is the real reason why car dealerships are closed on Sundays. They know that people will go to church and feel convicted about their choices. If I had waited for Sunday, maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament.
There’s no easy way to wrap this up, so I am just going to stop. Maybe I’ll do some editing later. But I wanted to get my thoughts out as best as I am able to . . . for better or for worse, I won’t be on the bus come Monday, and I guess I just have to live with that.