My New (Old) Car (Jen)
Written Nov 2018. We are getting a new (new) car today, having smashed one of the others. More on that later....
I (we) bought a new (old) car today. I say “old” because it is actually very similar to the car I had been driving, which was a grayish 2004 Honda Civic hybrid. My “new” car is a gray 2005 Honda Civic hybrid. (When you find a good thing, just stick with it. I hate stopping for gas. Or, I love rarely stopping for gas, to be my more positive self.) It has 110,000 fewer miles. Bonus! It was really cheap. Double bonus!! Sticking with the same car that I love had some advantages. I already knew where all the switches were. I already know what it looks like so I can identify it when I forget where I parked at the mall. I already know that it is a reliable, hardworking car (just like its owner, hmm….hmm). It’s familiar.
Driving home from Brooklyn after purchasing the new car, I noticed a difference. Actively noticed. As I zipped right through a toll booth in New Jersey, I got the all-caps message “TOLL NOT PAID- NO PASS.” (or something similarly ominous.) Oops! I quite suddenly noticed that it had no EZPass, the little prepaid device that allows a driver to just drive right through toll lanes. Now I happen to know (another story) that when you rip through a toll without paying it in NJ, the state is not super friendly about the little infraction. They send a bill for the $3 toll plus add a “processing” (read: punitive) fee of $150. Ouch.
At the next toll booth, I remembered my new pass-less status and wisely decided to stop at a staffed toll booth. I asked the toll taker how much the toll was. She paused, mildly irritated, and said, “You gotta gimme your ticket first.” (She didn’t include any description of her opinion of my mental faculties, but she was likely thinking it.) I then realized that the first toll was one where I was supposed to take a ticket. “Ah, yes! There’s the rub!” I cheerily replied. “You see, I just bought this car and I forgot it is not yet equipped with an EZPass as my old car was. So I kinda blew through the ticket part. What do I do now?” She told me the charge for a ticketless transgressor such as myself, and I happily paid it and got a receipt so that I can avoid the bill that NJ will be sending me for blowing through their tolls without paying.
Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but this is what I thought about the rest of the ride home: Sometimes, your life has an interior change. You look the same on the outside, but your inside went through some transformation. Maybe you recognized that a thought you had been thinking was a lie, and you chose to renew your mind, replacing it with God’s proper thought. Maybe you repented of an old sin pattern. Maybe you had a breakthrough in your identity. You were new! Perhaps shortly thereafter, you slipped up a bit and found that you went back to the old, familiar pattern of thinking or acting. What should you do? Well, don’t slap yourself with a punitive fine. Don’t worry that you are not really as changed and “new” as you hoped. Don’t pull off onto the side of the road, wondering if you are ever going to make it. Sometimes the old way pops seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps just the force of a long-held habit. The Jesus that changed and forgave you in the first instance has already paid the toll for every other transgression as well, no matter how large or small. Recognize the error, confess it, and then, recognizing the toll has already been paid, drive happily along as the “new” you.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2