“You gotta see this!” My older sister stormed into the living room barely closing the front door. Her long nails scraped my knuckle as she secured my hand and pulled me toward the outside. I knew my neatly dog-eared pages would be lost in the whirlwind as my novel cascaded to the floor. A roaring engine snaked between the giggles pouring out of her. She cranked her long neck motioning for me to open the front door. I heard the car rev up again before my hand reached the tarnished silver door knob. The engine screeched even louder as I exited the front door and headed toward the street corner, certain my freshly bleached ankle socks were now soiled underneath.
The brown sedan glistened like melted peanut butter sitting directly in the sun. “When did you get this?” I shouted as my big brother turned off the car. Wide-eyed I took in every inch of his newly purchased 1984 Chevy Caprice. The curl of his lip broke into a full grin as his thin mustache bent at the corners. The same grin followed each time he showed off another one of his great acquisitions. “I got the front seat,” my sister yelled from behind me as I spied her tongue sticking from the window’s reflection.
“Hold on!” My brother’s hand shot up like a choir director. In one swift motion, he exited the car and scurried over to the passenger side, leaving little room between me and the door handle. “No fingerprints on my new car.” He winked at us, threw up his hands, and spun around like a member of the Jackson Five. Once settled in the back seat, I could hardly hear the engine anymore as the bass from Run DMC’s latest rap vibrated the car windows. I glanced back at his old pride and joy. A beautiful Red Volkswagen Scirocco now collecting dust. The vehicle once parked with tender loving care, now sat stationed across the street decorated with dirty for sale signs. Another one bites the dust, I thought.
Used cars would arrive in front of our home, like on an assembly line. Various family members would run downstairs to glimpse my brother’s latest purchase only to hear a barrage of complaints months later. The timing belt, alternator, air conditioner, and sometimes even the engine would find their way into conversation at our dinner table. I knew more about cars than any teenager ever should. Time after time I’d witness my brother’s overwhelming joy only replaced by disappointment, frustration, and downright anger as the ups and downs of flipping used cars became more nightmare than a dream.
For years my brother dove deeper and deeper into the allure of immediate gratification. Our mother encouraged him to invest more, commit long-term, and build relationships with his customers. Our grandmother reminded him that anything of value required nurturing. My father, shook his head more than once, reminding him there was no such thing as quick fixes. But my brother never seemed to listen to the wisdom freely given and stayed subject to the ups and downs of sidewalk selling.
My brother’s unhealthy relationship with cars taught me many valuable lessons. For years, I applied many of the same principles to various areas of my life. Living for the moment, worrying about outside appearances, and seeking quick fixes cost me more than I wanted to pay. Taking the advice of friends, magazines, and culture never seemed to pay off. I became more like my brother than I cared to admit, and this is most evident in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
When I first met Him, I treated Him like a shiny new car. My relationship with my heavenly Father got caught up in a cycle of quick fixes. If I needed healing, then I prayed. When I needed a new job, I fasted. Times I needed a breakthrough, I would put more into the collection plate. When I needed Him, I’d do something new to try and make Him bless me. I thought I had to work to gain the favor of God.
Healthy relationships aren’t based on momentary thrills, polished exteriors, or short-term benefits. It took me a long time to develop a healthy relationship with myself, my community, and my God. My spiritual relationship with the heavenly Father has always been because of His love for me. God saw me despite my condition, He loved me despite my shortcomings, and He saw value in me even when I didn’t. Relationships take nurturing, commitment, and investment. And His love has cultivated me in every area of my life. He has made a lifetime commitment to me full of His great and precious promises. And He has invested more in me than I could ever repay.