Matt and I have had our fair share of car issues. I’d say more than our fair share, actually. Since I was in college, every single time I got a little extra cash, something went wrong with my car and said cash was used to pay for it. Seriously. Every. Single. Time. The pattern continued into our dating years and – since I believe in sharing everything – I even brought the problem with me into our marriage. (You’re oh-so-welcome, Husband.) One car issue after another, always right when money wasn’t quite as tight but quickly becomes even more so after fixing the car.
I won’t mention any names, but one of us always throws fits when this happens… when the extra cash gets wasted on car problems instead of on bills, or updating furniture, or fun trips, or goals, or going into savings, or… or…anything other than bringing us right back to where we were before the stupid car broke down.
The other one of us looks at the glass half-full and is grateful for the blessing of God’s provision… money in hand right when it was needed.
This may be a dead giveaway as to which one of us is which but… Hmph. Blessing-shmessing.
This year has been no different. Lots of car issues and lots of “extra” funds down the oil-drain. So I know how pumped my wonderful husband must have felt when he came home one night this summer, led me by the hand into the living room, held my hand open and placed a set of van keys in my palm. “I love you,” he said. “It’s ours… paid in full.”
More silence. And staring. Only not the “you are so incredible and I am so amazed at this wonderful gift” kind of staring. It was more like, “You did what? You bought WHAT???” kind of staring.
I am absolutely certain my dear Husband did not expect that kind of reaction. In silence, he led me out to the new van where the kids sat in every leather seat and touched every button as they squealed with excitement. Matt pointed out a few features while watching me and waiting for a reaction, some sign that I wasn’t going to explode. “You ok?” He asked several times, uncertainty in his voice.
I just nodded in silence, not even looking at him.
Husband is no idiot. He knows a silent-nod-without eye-contact means I am absolutely not ok. He just didn’t know why I wasn’t ok. I mean, a new van (because he knew I wanted a mini-van or something similar… potential to grow a family, you know.) Very few miles on it, and car problems no more (because he knew that after 17 years of driving and 17 years of car headaches, I could use a break.) No stress of having to go through the car hunting (because he knew it would totally and completely stress me out.) No tension in the car buying/dickering (because he knew that would stress me out even more.) Purchased at a very good price (because he knows I love a good deal.)
And the best news of all? NO CAR PAYMENTS. The new van was Paid. In. Full.
Unfortunately, I have this little problem. Call it stubbornness. Call it pride. Call it whatever you’d like. The fact is, I reacted in a manner that would make you think the only thing he had given me was a headache. Or maybe also a bathroom scale, I was that mad.
Silence on the outside, but loud angry thoughts on the inside: “How DARE he? He didn’t even ask my opinion!! Maybe I like it, but WHAT IF I DIDN’T??? SO WHAT if he saved me tension, stress, and grief?… Maybe I WANT the tension, stress, and grief! SO WHAT if he knows more about this stuff?…I DIDN’T EVEN GET A SAY in it! HOW. DARE. HE???”
My reaction was saying, “Yes, I want a vehicle. And yes, I’ll take it already paid for. But I want it MY WAY.”
No worries, though. Eventually, I came around. I love the van. I apologized for my reaction. Dear Husband was forgiving and full of grace. And I am so very grateful for the gift – no headaches or tension in the process – and especially that it was paid in full.
That phrase has whirled around in my head for a while now…. paid in full… This isn’t the first time I’ve reacted to a gift like that. To a gift that was paid in full. I have a problem, maybe I’m not the only one who does. It’s an “I didn’t get a say!” problem. An “I could’ve done it better!” problem. Because isn’t that exactly how I’ve reacted to Jesus?
Jesus’ gift of life. His death on the cross. An amazing gift – the most amazing gift – my debt, paid in full. No, I don’t have loud angry thoughts flooding my mind screaming “I DON’T WANT THIS GIFT!” On the contrary, my words and thoughts say how grateful I am, that I accept this gift wholeheartedly and with humility.
It is my behavior that says otherwise. Little choices or big attitudes. Every time I experience a disappointment, a hiccup in my “plan”, or I’m discontent in my circumstances. My discontentment just says, “THIS is what you have for me, God? I think maybe I could’ve done it better! No, I DEFINITELY could’ve done it better.”
Each time I’m angry or frustrated at what comes my way, I’m saying (without saying it), “YOU DIDN’T EVEN GIVE ME A SAY! You may know more – lots LOTS more – but even so, THANKS, BUT NO THANKS.”
Each time I choose to live with my hands closed, not accepting what He has for me and clinging to what I already have, my actions say it loud and clear… “SO WHAT if you see the bigger picture. I don’t like your way.”
Each time, my reaction is saying, “Yes, I’ll take this gift. Yes, I’d like my debt of sin paid in full. But I think I’ll do it MY WAY, thankyouverymuch.”
But the truth is, God is no idiot. He knows my thoughts from afar and He is familiar with all my ways (Psalm 139:2-3). He knows what I need before I ask Him (Matthew 6:8). He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). The truth is, He knows.
Unfortunately, I still have this problem. Call it stubbornness. Call it pride. Call it human nature. Call it whatever you’d like. The truth is, it is sin. Eventually – hopefully – I come around. Eventually – hopefully – I recognize and then apologize for my reaction. And thankfully, He is always – always – forgiving and full of grace.
And I am so grateful for His gift – this gift for me – and for you – that was paid in full.