If This Lemon Could Talk

Hello. My name is Toni and I’m a mechanic. Well, not really but I had so many car problems within a three-month span last fall that I could have been a mechanic.

In case you were thinking that you missed something, car mechanics is not my passion, nor my special assignment from God, nor my calling. It was, however, a thorn in my side.

From July to October, my car stopped on three different highways in Dallas while I was driving. First it was the radiator, then it was the entire engine, then it was the radiator again, then the lock on the trunk refused to unlatch, eventually the microchip in the key that controls the ignition stopped working, and ultimately the transmission clip came loose but when it was supposedly fixed the car could no longer drive in reverse.

One of the three times my car had to be towed from the highway. As documented on Snapchat.

Repeat after me, “AAA is my best friend. AAA is my best friend. And again for dramatic effect…AAA is my best friend.”

A couple of things you should know about my car, which was quite cute and did not give me any problems in the first nine months I owned it. Yeah, that part. I bought the car in October of 2016. In July 2017 I started having problems. By October 2017, I knew we were not going to make it.

Here’s the backstory: during my rough year and heartache and stressful experiences of 2016, I had some minor trouble with the vehicle I owned. At the time, I did a few blogging assignments for car companies that afforded me the opportunity to drive new cars for a week or so and write car reviews. After driving brand new cars that summer, I got bit by the new car bug. I knew that a brand new car wasn’t feasible, but I certainly thought I could find a nice used one that met my needs.

I think you know where this is going. There is always something better, prettier, and newer that can meet our needs. For the sake of clarity, my needs included that the car had to be cute, be large enough to transport my family, and did not make me look like a mom of three. (I had been driving a minivan for 13 years.) I believe my exact words were, “I need to drive something sexier.”

And I found just that in my blue Toyota Camry. Before you say it, yes I realize Toyotas last forever and if you take care of your car it will take care of you. But friends, when there’s a HUGE lesson from God that He wants to teach us, we can rest assured knowing that He will teach the lesson. That lesson may be full of contradictions to what we know to be true, but that is just in the beauty of who He is.

Even if you are stranded on Hwy 67 and your daughter is late for school and you have a class to teach that you won’t make, and cars are flying by you during the morning rush with drivers who only have one thing on their minds.

Let’s just get straight to the huge lesson first, shall we? I sold car number 1 and bought car number 2 on a whim. There was no direction from God and no reason other than “I want to look cute while driving” for me to get that car.

When we use illegitimate and unnecessary means to get something, God can and sometimes will make sure that our enjoyment of this “thing” is short-lived.

Because I spend a lot of time each week at my church, the car broke down on me several times at church. This led to several discussions with theologians and lay people alike about the smaller lessons…and it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t share them with you. Right here. Right now.

1. We are not supposed to continually drive around with baggage and not deal with it. I took the trunk of my car for granted. I put all kinds of things in there. From grocery shopping bags to dry erase markers to ace bandages to flipchart paper to a toolkit. At one point in time, each one of those things served a purpose to me and had a place. When I finished with them, I didn’t return them to their proper place and left them in the trunk of the car. When the latch broke and I couldn’t get in the trunk, I just knew I could pull down the back seat and get everything out that way. Except, for the first time since 1993, I owned a car where I could not get to trunk from the back seat. And of course, within days of me having that little trunk problem, I found a reason to need every single item that was in the trunk. Did I mention that according to the mechanic, that problem was totally unfixable? Driving around with extra baggage that we don’t put in its proper place is a hazard waiting to happen. Use all things according to their purpose and when that purpose is finished, put the things away.

2. Always move forward, not backward.This bit of wisdom came from the youth pastor at church. I was explaining to him just how odd it was that my car would not go in reverse. He looked at me and asked one simple question. “Toni,” he said, “Could it be that things in life are not meant to go in reverse and you are perhaps trying to hold on to something or someone from your past that you need to let go of?” Ouch. Just ouch.

3. Roadside Assistance is necessary. You know what I’m about to say. AAA is my best friend. We need to have a professional that we can call in times of trouble. We may have to pay for the service, but it will prove to be beneficial. In the biblical sense, God is our roadside assistance. He is always available, always ready, and always willing to help. The price for this has already been paid when Jesus died on the cross for us. On city streets and country highways, AAA is our best friend. In the road of life, God is.

4. Quick fixes never address the root of the problem. When I took my car in for one thing, the mechanics would always apply a quick fix to the problem. I’m not sure if they even checked to see if the minor problem was a symptom of a larger problem. In my case, there was always a larger problem that wasn’t addressed. That larger problem caused much inconvenience and heartache sooner rather than later.

5. Pay attention to the warning lights. Cars are equipped to tell us when something is wrong by the warning lights. One of the problems I had was that my warning lights did not work. When my car stopped on the highway, my check engine light came on two seconds before the car shut off. There was not a lot of time for me to maneuver at all. Cars have warning lights, we have guts to tell us when something’s not right. Pay attention to the warnings…even if they come from other people. My friend Kevin made it a habit to glance at my tires every time we’d go somewhere because he knows I didn’t always look for stuff like that – no matter how important they were. We reached a point in our friendship when he’d say, “You need some air in the rear passenger tire,” and I’d heed his advice and promptly put the air in the tire even though it looked no different than the others to me. Because you are my friends and you know how stubborn I can be sometimes, you probably also know that the first time he told me there was something wrong with one of my tires I ignored him and two days later had a flat on my way to work. Mmmmhmmm.

6. Things that look good on the outside can be extremely broken, and sometimes dangerous to others on the inside. When I would tell people about all the problems I was having with my car, they would simply say, “But that car looks so good.” And just like humans who look good on the outside but are extremely broken on the inside, they can be dangerous. Check under the hood, y’all. Make sure everything is fixed before you endanger others.

7. Always use a navigation system to guide you. This goes hand-in-hand with number 3. In this day of smartphones and savvy electronic devices, we should all have access to GPS/ navigation systems. In life, you know Who guides us. The catch is, do we always listen to His instructions? Remember the goal is to arrive at the destination safely. Sometimes in traffic and in life, our goal is to arrive quickly, and many times the quickest way is not the safest.

8. Something with a great reputation and good history means nothing if God doesn’t ordain it for your life. I know. It was a Toyota. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen to Toyotas. Unless that Toyota was never supposed to be in my life in the first place. And that, my friends also goes for relationships, jobs, people, and yes, even little black dresses. No matter how good the reputation, if it’s not for you, it’s not going to work.

So, what did I do? The Toyota officially qualified as a lemon the under Texas lemon law so I was able to negotiate with the dealer and return the car to them and terminate the contract with the finance company. Now, I’m driving a minivan – the exact same make and model I sold – but a different model year and color. So tell me…has there ever been something (or someone) in your life that didn’t belong? I’d love to hear your story. 

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