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Saturday, July 16, 2011

All I wanted was a nice car

The discipline of spending time with God is difficult. But I'm learning to push through my own laziness and my own lack of discipline. I realize that if I just push a little more, I end up in a flow that lasts for 2 hours easily with God. My fears are that I will give up.

"There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. (v.15-16) For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. (v.21-23)" - Mark 7

All I wanted was a nice car. Living in LA, you realize that (at least for Korean Americans) that the car is the symbol of wealth, status, and social standing. In LA, you can find with near certainty at each corner a person renting an apartment and leasing a car that costs 1/4 to 1/3 of their monthly wage. Definitely something Suze Orman would not condone. However, with college and even high school kids now getting Lexuses, BMWs, Benzes, and Audis, its almost embarrassing not to have even the lowest level luxury brand automobile. Cars define people in LA as much as the jobs people have do in New York.

Somewhere in high school, while I was living in PV, a seed was planted in my brain that led me to believe that cars defined the man to a degree that it was at the very least, necessary to pay attention to. I began to believe this and let the belief take a deep root in my core operating system. My high school parking lot was like a car show and I needed to have a car people would Oooooh and Ahhhhh over. In many ways, I felt confident driving a '98 Lexus GS300 in my junior year of high school, and felt utterly worthless driving a '92 Honda Accord and '01 Toyota Camry my first two years of college. Then my confidence hit a midpoint when I got a '05 BMW X3 and a brand new Nissan Altima during my last two years of college (a car in LA and a car in Chicago). When I returned home and my lease payments were up on the Altima, I immediately went on a tirade to get the car I drive now, an '07 Lexus IS250. Now it's 2011 and I am tempted with the same core beliefs that my worth is somehow proportionate to the car I drive.

When I look at the verses in Mark, I realize that evil thoughts include things that aren't just hostile towards God and people, but things that build walls up against God and people. I don't condemn nice cars or the people who are constantly upgrading them if they have the means - heck, I'm a dude who appreciates a well designed machine both behind the wheel and from the outside. But I do have a problem with the fact that I know how much of a stronghold owning new luxury car can have. The belief that you are somehow a more important member of society since you can have heads turn as you pull up is an addictive, yet very foolish belief. And every man with a nice car knows the feeling.

When I returned to LA and decided to sell my feminine SUV, I remember my biggest worry being not to be able to get anything better than this. I began to weigh options and then frantically started to search for options to fill the possible void not having this to fall back on would leave. It consumed my thoughts for days as I was in negotiations with this Chinese couple that wouldn't give me the extra $500 bucks I wanted. I just didn't want to fall lower in the social ladder. My self-worth was too connected to the car I drove and I didn't even realize how much it was upsetting me at the time.

The problem with this isn't whether someone has the means to buy a nice car or not, but the fact that their worth is attached to something so trivial. I'm sure someone who drives a Lamborghini would say, "have you ever felt the pedal under your foot?" But yea, the reality is, a car by any measure is a foolish investment (some may make money, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that a piece of artwork would probably be more sound an investment). It was truly myopic of me to think that my value as a person and as a social being had anything to do with the car I drove. It meant that people's impressions of me had more weight than the very substance I had to offer. But more than that, it meant that I had something in my life that defined who I was more than God. I allowed the car that I drove to define who I was more than I allowed God to, merely by the fact that I was more consumed with how people viewed me without a nice car than how God viewed me regardless of the car I drove. I let society's standards of acceptable determine whether or not I felt accepted without really noticing it because EVERYONE else in my circles was the exact same way.

Then, somehow, what began as simply wanting a nice car, turned into an obsession with material goods - to the point that I remember my friend's mom (who so graciously washed my clothes while I was staying with them) say, "does he only have designer underwear?!" I realize now that when I want something so bad that I get angry, frustrated, or sad about it, that it must have taken root as a defining object in my life. The scary thing is that it all began with a simple desire to be accepted and to fit in.

Today, I learned two things: 1. sometimes, my desires must be regulated so they don't end up defining me. If I can't function without something, it may be an idol I need to remove from my life. 2. Christ is enough. It's something I'm still learning, but who else do I need to be accepted by? I have God watching my back and smiling down at me. What more can anyone ask for!?


  1. Nice post Ray. I had a sports car in high school, and now I drive a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. God isn't impressed by what I drive. And somehow, I love my Hyundai more.

  2. Andrew! Yea, I dunno about Hyundais though. Lol jk.

    Let's connect. I'll call soon maing~