For the past little while, I have been contemplating buying an SUV.
I have been driving a 2008 Volkswagen Eos Hard-top Convertible for 5 years now and, while I LOOOOOVE my car, it is getting more and more expensive to maintain, has zero bells and whistles such as Bluetooth, back up cam, navigation etc. and it can’t fit my 6-foot boys comfortably OR the large canvasses I’m painting on lately, unless I put the top down (totally cool in summer – not so great in winter).
A few months ago, my two youngest boys and I drove to Pennsylvania for a Christian Youth Conference. For the 8-10 hour drive, we needed a car that my boys didn’t have to squeeze into and which fit all of the stuff we needed to bring for the trip so we ended up renting a Hyundai Santa Fe. It was great… a perfect size, super easy to drive and it even played a song for me when I got in the car! My kids loved it, too, and my youngest son kept joking with me saying something like “If you really cared about your children you would buy a car we can actually fit into.”
From that point onward I began to think seriously about trading in my convertible but I wasn’t really sure I was ready to make the change. After all, I am a die-hard convertible driver. I’m the first one to drive with the roof down as soon as the temperature gets into double digits and I would sooner wear a hoodie, a down jacket and put a blanket over my legs with the heat blasting than put the top up on a cool night. In the past 5 years, some of the most profound experiences I’ve had were on the solo road trips I’ve taken. When I was going through a really hard break-up (which seemed to take forever to get over), my road trips were a means of escape while getting to know myself in a whole new way.
When I found I had 3 or 4 days off in a row, I’d just hop in the car with no destination in mind. All I knew was which direction I wanted to take to get out of Toronto and that I had to find a place to sleep each night before it got dark. I’d figure out how many hours I wanted to drive each day and picked a spot on the map that would take that amount of time to get to.
It was often scary not having a plan or knowing where the next gas station would be in the middle of nowhere (I try to stay away from big highways) but it allowed me to discover so many incredible places which I never knew existed. I found charming fishing villages, fireworks celebrations, castles, surprise ferry crossings, museums, festivals and I even drove to the top of a 5,000-foot mountain! Along the way, I took in the gorgeous scenery and listened to audiobooks, podcasts, and my favourite music… BLASTING all the way!
When it came to finding a place to sleep for the night, I’d start looking for lodging of some kind just before dark and always managed to find the greatest places. Once, I arrived in Burlington Vermont only to discover that there were only a couple of hotels in town and none of them had rooms available due to a convention. My last stop was at the Hilton and when I told the man at the front desk my situation, an amazing thing happened:
Front Desk Dude: “Well, there is one room we could give you, but you probably won’t want it.”
Dude: “Because it’s the Presidential Suite.”
Dude: “But how about we see what we can do?”
Me: “Great! Thanks!”
Dude: “How does $99 sound?”
Me: “Really ?!? That’s amazing!”
Dude: “And we’ll throw in free breakfast. How’s that?”
Me: “Wow! Incredible!”
Dude: “And we’ll give you a free parking pass as well.”
Me: “What? Oh-Okay…!”
Other Front Desk Dude: “Listen, at the rate you’re going, you better take her credit card now or you’ll end up giving her the room for free.”
Stuff like that happened everywhere I went.
I’ll never forget my time alone on the road with my convertible. It seemed as if my those trips were protected and sanctioned by a benevolent force. It was magical, healing and transformational.
My love of driving with the wind in my hair began at an early age when my dad negotiated a white, 1957 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud Convertible as part of his payment on a business deal. That car was iconic and representative of my dad’s signature, flamboyant style. He drove it everywhere… even cross-country, from Toronto to Los Angeles, when he moved there to open a new restaurant in the early 70’s. One of his favorite gags was to don a chauffeur’s cap and invite his passengers to ride in the back, pretending to be celebrities.
I always associated convertibles (or any other open-air vehicle) with my dad and with how carefree it felt to be driving with him. I felt so safe and special around him. He was handsome, eccentric, hilarious, adventurous and I adored him. After he and my mom split up when I was quite young, my life at home was extremely chaotic and often traumatic and, even though I didn’t see my dad that often, he was still (in my mind) the one, consistent and stable influence in my life.
Fast forward 40-50 years and here I am, with a convertible of my own… recreating those feelings in a whole new way. As you can imagine, that’s a tough thing to let go of, merely for practicality sake.
So, as is my practice when faced with embracing a new, uncomfortable thing, I decided to experiment with the possibility of giving up my car and what that might actually be like. I already knew that, if I did decide to go through with it, I’d want an SUV and that it would DEFINITELY need a sunroof. A BIG sunroof. So I researched used car models with panoramic sunroofs and a few of the newer gadgets I might like, such as apple car play. I eventually narrowed it down to one car… the Hyundai Santa Fe!
Coincidence? I think not.
Even still, I wasn’t in any hurry. I mean… it was barely June and so much more summer driving to do!
It wasn’t until the engine light came on in my EOS (and the subsequent $2500 maintenance bill) that the timeline got shorter.
As I pondered my options, I happened to notice a sign at a Hyndai dealership offering 0% financing untl the end of July.
Up until then, I had only (since my divorce) bought used cars, never new. In fact, the three cars I had before my EOS were all pre-owned Toyota Prius’.
[Side Note: All three Prius’ were written off in accidents and I was never even in the car when it happened! Each time, I just kept buying another Prius in an effort to be practical and help the environment. When the third Prius ended up being hit by a drunk driver in the middle of the night, dragged for almost a block, with its pieces strewn all over the street, it seemed like there was a message in there somewhere. (Huh… Ya think?) When it happened, I was just at the beginning of that really hard break-up I mentioned so I decided that maybe it was time to ditch the practical car and replace it with one that would bring me joy.]
So there were a few things I had to grapple with:
- Budget: Super tight. Should I even be considering buying new? Or at all?
- Vulnerability: I’ve never negotiated for a new car and don’t want to be taken advantage of or make a foolish decision
- Need vs Want: Is this even a smart move to begin with?
The first dealership I dealt with started out okay but in only a few days of working with them on a deal for new Santa Fe, I found myself panicking and walking out only moments before I was about to sign a really bad deal. The salesman and his general manager basically pulled every trick in the book and, even though I held my own pretty well for a while, it eventually felt like I was on a runaway train that I couldn’t get off of. Thankfully, after I had given a $500 deposit, they sent me to the dude who does the financing application and, while I waited in his office, the spell began to wear off. I managed to ask him a few important questions which I didn’t like the answers to and then I found the courage to pull the emergency brake and get off the train.
I was pretty shaken by that experience and needed to have emergency pow-wows with three of my closest friends that night. I was seriously confused about whether I should even be pursuing this. Maybe this was God’s way of telling me that my priorities needed to be re-evaluated?
Each friend had a slightly different perspective and all had some helpful wisdom to share on the matter. By the end of the evening, I had decided to learn as much as I could and try again with another dealership.
Talk about a steep learning curve.
By this time, there were only 4 days left on the 0% financing promotion so I hunkered down and did my research… like crazy. I prayed to God to give me guidance and wisdom and to protect me from making a decision which was not in my highest good. I realized that I was still not even convinced I was ready to give up my convertible so trusting in Him made the process way simpler. All I had to do was learn what I could, be properly prepared, show up with integrity, and let my faith in God take me the rest of the way. This really helped me to detach from the outcome and relax.
The next day, I visited another dealership. I went in knowing exactly what package I wanted, what the dealership paid for the car and how to stay on track with the negotiations and not get derailed. They had a lot more integrity than the first place and after 2 hours of back and forth haggling I actually made the best possible deal I could on the price of the car and what was included. Unfortunately, to get to that price, they would not be able to offer the 0% financing and this would have put me over budget for my monthly payments. It was soooo close and I considered just taking the deal but (thank God) I stuck to my guns and walked. I knew this probably meant I would not be buying a new car… or any car, for that matter… but I was okay with that because I had faith that God was handling it.
On the drive home, I passed another Hyundai dealership which I had come across in my research. They had really great reviews on Google so I figured… “Why not give it one more try?”
This time things went way faster. I had already negotiated a great deal for a Santa Fe at the other dealership and was hoping this one would match it and give the 0%. I do believe the sales manager was sincere when he said he could not come anywhere near to the deal I made at the other place. He was stunned that I came so close. I could still go back there, but the fact remained that the payments would be too high. I had a budget and I needed to stick to it… no matter what.
Then, just as I was getting up to leave, the manager said: “Hey, would you consider a Tucson?”
“A Tucson?” I said. “What’s the difference?”
Long story short, the Tucson had everything I wanted, was only slightly smaller than the Santa Fe and the price was EXACTLY where I wanted it to be… all with 0% financing. Still, I thanked them, said goodnight and told them I would decide by the next day… the last day of the promotion.
I woke up the next morning still unsure if this was the right move for me so I turned it all over to God and prayed. I asked if I should still try to haggle more on the price. I prayed that the dealership would act with integrity and honesty. I asked if I was just going through all of this because I simply “wanted” a new car with cool gadgets.
At this point, I was standing over the bathroom sink, brushing my teeth…
And then God answered.
His answer was in the form of an image of me, driving in my convertible, on my many solo road trips. His message came through with a powerful rush of emotions, reminding me of how it felt to be riding with such a feeling of peace and joy.
I burst into tears and sobbed because all-of-a-sudden I “knew” the answer as if I had all along.
The answer was this:
My experiences in my car helped me at the time of my life before I knew God or had God in my heart the way I do now. Throughout my life, he has carried me but I didn’t always appreciate that my Joy came through His grace. Like my dad, He has always been the one, consistent and stable influence in my life. I thought it was the car, the road and the adventure that inspired me, but it was Him, all along.
Now that I know Him and have Him in my heart at all times, the car becomes irrelevant and unnecessary because the Joy I associated with it is something I can have all the time and does not depend on anything other than Him.
Still sobbing and holding my toothbrush, I was overcome with a deep understanding of this Truth and intense gratitude for His love.
But there was more…
Next, I saw and felt my beloved dog, Roxy, who passed away on Mother’s Day of this year. Roxy had been a source of joy and comfort to our family for 14 years and yet, we had to let her go. Once again, I felt the enormity of the love she brought into our lives and how she had such a special purpose and touched the lives of everyone who met her. And yet, like my car, her time with us came to an end and her purpose was fulfilled.
The grief and gratitude poured out from me as I stood there, still holding my toothbrush, sobbing, and thanking God for the incredible gift of my little Roxy-Roo.
But He still wasn’t done yet…
This time, the image was of the home I just moved from, only a few weeks before Roxy died. When I bought that home I thought I would live there forever. It was my dream home, in my dream neighborhood, situated not far from where I grew up and close to the people I love. It was a place I hoped to live in with a new partner, to grow old in and watch my grandchildren grow up around me. And yet, I left it, quickly, easily and with no regrets because I knew God was moving me into a new season of my life and the house had to go.
By this time, I was calmer because I understood how all these images were related and what God’s overall message for me was, which was, essentially, this:
It’s not about the car.
It’s not about the money.
It’s not about whether the salesman is trustworthy or not.
It’s about letting go of my attachments to things of this earth, trusting and believing in Him and letting Him guide me in every aspect of my life.
I have entered a new season, which has required many things I have loved to come to an end.
But this does not mean the end of Love.
It does not mean the end of Joy.
It does not mean the end of Adventure.
Instead, it is just the beginning of a whole new level of these things.
Instead, it is the beginning of Peace.
Blessings to all of you,
TRACY B. RICHARDS