March 26, 2010

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

My old, faded minivan and the temptations of Lent

Debra TomaselliIt’s Lent, and gosh, I can tell. I want a new car.

Not just any car. I want something shiny brand new, sleek and stylish. Why can’t I drive a fancy vehicle like my co-workers? Why not a stately SUV or a graceful sedan with a youthful odometer?

Instead, I enter the parking lot in my lumbering minivan, whose headlights look like bad cataracts. The paint is faded and there is a small dent from when I backed into a mailbox years ago. Telltale containers of motor oil line pockets inside the door as it needs oil about as often as gas.

When we first purchased the van, I was a stay-at-home mom and minivans were the rage. Sara, our youngest, was so excited about the new vehicle that she would spend hours standing between the seats with a sparkle in her eyes. We drove cheerleading teams, transported lacrosse equipment and chauffeured classmates in it.

Through the years, we moved our kids in and out of dorms and transferred furniture into new apartments with it. Whenever we considered trading it in, another need arose and we clung to the minivan.

But enough is enough.

When this tough economy pushed me into the business world, my minivan looked like an oddity in the office parking lot, sandwiched between shiny SUV’s and sporty passenger vehicles. But the option of trading it is gone—at least for now. Our crippled income and ongoing expenses can’t handle it.

That’s where Lent comes in.

Normally, it doesn’t bother me that I am driving a dinosaur of a vehicle. I choose part-time work so I can continue to write, and I would rather continue writing than drive a shiny new vehicle. In fact, I am convinced that is what God wants me to do—at least for today.

I can’t imagine life if I couldn’t reach people through the written word.

So when thoughts of “poor me” arise, I fight them off. I pray to keep my sights on God’s vision for my life. I read my Bible often and am convinced that the “enemy” resides in my own thoughts—if I allow negative notions in.

I focus on the eternal good, not my temporal existence. I believe that God won’t give me anything that I can’t handle. I am struggling to learn all that I’m meant to learn from this experience. And I choose to remain thankful. After all, it could be worse. I could have nothing to drive.

But it’s Lent. The devil is dangling the carrot just like he did to Jesus in the desert.

“Give up your writing and find more profitable work, and you can have a pretty new car. You’ll earn the respect of your peers. You’ll feel more important.”

It’s a battle that goes on inside my head, but there’s no doubt where my heart lies.

So while I might want to complain for a moment, really, I’m over it. Thank you, Lord, for faded minivans.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is †

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