We sold my car this past weekend, the one that we have had since just a few months into our (almost) eighteen year long marriage. Let me tell you, that car has seen a lot of living.
It carried me faithfully through my final semester of school, and I felt positively luxurious trading up from my decrepit Dodge Omni to the Camry with an actual functioning door handle. I felt like a real adult behind the wheel as I drove to work; I could show up to an audit client's business in this car and feel like a professional. When I finished school, it whisked my us away to celebrate with a real honeymoon on Hilton Head Island. That was when it got that crack in the front fender, while driving down the interstate in South Carolina. I didn't mind that it remained cracked for the next seventeen years; that crack was a reminder of a beautiful week.
We brought both of our children home in that car, struggling to figure out the mechanics of car seats, panicking over how small and vulnerable the boys seemed, driving with the utmost care and fiercely hoping that every other driver would be equally cautious. We put some miles on that car, two trips from Virginia to Kansas to see friends married and siblings graduate, and then the trip from Virginia to South Dakota, car tagging along behind the rented truck which held everything we owned. Over the years the seats gathered crumbs and spills as we navigated trips with small children. Books piled the seat between them, toys littered the floor, bottles of water and snacks rolled just out of reach.
I did school drop-offs and pick-ups in that car, from the first tentative kindergarten years on through my oldest son's freshman year of high school. We've gone from wailing toddlers to deeper musings on life, science, religion, tolerance, and the benefits of a well-rounded knowledge of science fiction.
From the day we brought it home to the day we sold it, we've changed and grown as a family. Sometimes it has been painful, sometimes it has been beautiful. It has always been real.
It wasn't hard to let go of the car; it was time for it to go. But I must admit that it still seems odd to peek out into the garage and see a new vehicle sitting there. (Red!) Is this my life? How did this happen? One day I was a Camry driver and now I'm a Rav4. Who is this woman? Is she sassy? Sporty? Content? Adventurous? What does the vehicle I'm driving say about who I am?
On my bulletin board at home I have a quote from noted philosopher Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." This quote arrived at my home via the final class newsletter of my son's fifth grade year. It arrived just days after we made the decision to leave our former church. I've looked at that quote pinned to my board many times over the past year, reminding myself that sometimes even the vehicles carrying some of our best memories come to an end, and though the ending sometimes hurts, we still smile because it happened. Because life happened.
Merriam-Webster defines vehicle as both an agent of transmission, and a medium through which something is expressed, achieved, or displayed, and for nearly a decade our church was the vehicle of our faith. I learned there, grew there, figured out how to express my faith in community there. I knew who I was there. And now we're not there, and I'm trying to figure out this new vehicle I'm in and how I define myself in it.
Am I quiet or am I outspoken?
Am I involved or am I on the fringes?
Am I cautious about saying what I believe, or am I bold?
Do I care about blending in, or am I content to be my quietly quirky, cautiously charismatic self?
How much does the church I am in define me, define my faith?
I haven't entered this new church as the same woman who entered our previous church. I'm older, wiser, a lot more aware of the pain that churches can cause. But I'm also more aware of the joy of community, the value of deeper discussions, the comfort of being known. I bring everything that I am into this new vehicle, ready to let it shape me.
Ten years from now I won't be the same person I am today. I'll be an empty-nester. I'll be (almost) a 'senior citizen'. I will have weathered change that I don't even see on the horizon right now. I hope I'm still driving the Rav4. No doubt it will have needed some patches and repairs. I hope I'm still at our church. No doubt it will have needed patches and repairs of its own as things break down and people get messy. I hope that my faith will have continued to grow, to become even deeper and more vibrant. I am content to let it all unfold before me, these unknown roads and yet-to-be-discovered places. I'll smile because it happened, because it is all an adventure, every last little mundane bit of it.