Recently, my wife was declared one of twenty finalists for a $10,000 prize towards the purchase of a new car. Spearheaded by our neighborhood car dealerships, local businesses had gotten together and placed ballot boxes around town promoting this event. When we received our call we were invited to attend the giveaway raffle: a modest soiree with some food and balloons and promotional pitches from the car salesmen. We had never gotten within sniffing distance of any prize of this value, so this was a unique moment for us. We very much needed an automobile upgrade and to win would be a huge boost for us. Let’s just say that we are not in the kind of income bracket where buying a new car is a possibility. In fact, we’re not in the income bracket where buying a used car is a possibility. Frankly, I’m not sure what you’d call our income bracket; “Middle-Impoverished” comes to mind.
As the time approached to attend this raffle, I noticed that my love-hate relationship with my current car was veering dangerously close to a loathe-hate relationship. I was dreaming of a new car without old-fashioned roll down windows – Imagine that! As visions of something built in this decade raced around in my head, I puttered painfully uphill in my 2001 Ford Focus. Would my new car have heated seats? Would it have the guts to get me up this hill? Would it not leak inside when it rained? I allowed myself the fantasy or two involving a newer, sleeker ride to call my own. I envisioned a vehicular life of bliss in the near future.
You can probably guess what happened at the raffle, can’t you? Someone won the $10,00o prize; someone not my wife. Basically, we got a free meal out of the event and then trudged our way back through the cold February night to our measly-mobile in the parking lot. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like kicking my car as I walked up to it. But I’d also be lying if I said something very important did not happen for me that evening.
Being a part of that raffle, going through the days leading up to it, dreaming of something new, something better, an easier way to get the thing I desired, put me in a detestable mood; I found that my focus over and over was on what I did not have, not on what I have. Agitation, discontent, annoyance – these feelings dominated my mind, all because I had a tantalizing carrot dangling in front of me. The possibility of gaining something I perceived as far superior to what I currently had was causing me to despise not just my wheels but my lot in life as well. My mindset became less about getting a new car and more about getting a new life, as my current life looked dull and pathetic next to what I could have if I only had more money, more stuff, more, more, more…
I was becoming increasingly more disenchanted with my life as I approached this raffle evening. Yet something amazing happened to me after I realized I’d be going home with nothing: I was overwhelmed with the reality that in fact I was going home with precisely what I needed – I was going home with my wife, my friend, lover and partner through so many adventurous, monotonous and ridiculous days of life together. I was headed home to my two children, the daughter and son who I love so much that it actually hurts at times. I was headed home with the realization that I didn’t need anything, actually. A new car would be nice, sure, but that would never alter what is deepest and truest about my life; it would never find its way into my “Top Ten” list of Greatest Blessings. Not a chance.
Not winning turned out to be an awesome thing! Maybe that’s why we went through all of that in the first place. Certainly, the Lord works in mysterious ways and sometimes He even uses balloons and car salesmen. It’s not likely we’ll ever come that close to a big prize like that again but, honestly, I don’t care. What I have that can never be taken from me is priceless and it will be mine forever.
So stuff that in your ballot box.