“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” - Matthew 10:24, ESV
There’s something very humbling about brushing your teeth in a Walmart bathroom. I found myself standing there among torn toilet paper, a slightly scratched mirror and a bin overflowing with used paper hand towels wondering if I had made some radically stupid decision.
After flossing, which is somehow even more humbling than just brushing your teeth, I returned to my small SUV parked under a street lamp in the parking lot. Instead of the drivers seat I crawled into the back. Using 40-page binder clips, I hung borrowed lightweight sleeping bag liners and curtains along the tinted windows of my car, and laid out my borrowed sleeping bag on my borrowed foam pad.
About a month ago I signed up for a conference in Seattle and had a place to stay free of charge. About a week prior to the conference I find out my living situation fell through and I was without a roof over my head and a non-refundable conference waiting for my attendance. Unwilling to throw away hundreds of dollars, too broke to afford a hotel for five nights, and too much of a Marine to shy away from an adventure, I decided to go anyway and sleep in my car. I’d make it work. Adapt and overcome.
It’s my first night. With my back seats laid flat I have about four square feet of space to sleep between my suitcase, a cooler, my laptop bag, and the front seat. As a friend said, it’s a good thing I’m vertically challenged. It’s also a good thing I like to sleep on my side in the fetal position, because that’s all this space will allow for!
In all honesty, however, I have to admit the situation is more than a little humbling. Two years ago my ex-husband and I were able to afford five-star hotels around the world without blinking twice on the price. Even a year ago it wouldn’t have even been an option to sleep in my car. A hotel of some kind would have been provided for.
A couple of days before my trip, I wore my one nice pair of jeans to my equine ministry and ended up getting the thigh caught on a latch of our new trailer. It tore a beautiful “L” in the thigh, ruining my one nice pair of jeans. I was near tears and more than a little angry. Not at the rip in the jeans - it’s just a pair of pants after all - but at the ways God is continuing to humble me.
It’s not easy to live in a place where every penny is counted, budgeted and prepared for. When an unplanned expense comes up, or multiple unplanned expenses, it can feel like a devastating blow. Two years ago getting a hotel for a week wouldn’t have been a problem at all. Today, I can hardly spring for a hostel because every sputter of my car reminds me I need to save every scrap of change for the inevitable moment I’m going to have to replace my car for a vehicle that hasn’t crossed 200K miles and will dependably make it across town and through the elements.
Jesus didn’t have a car. I’d bet he didn’t have a camel to cross deserts with, either. He didn’t have a closet full of clothes. He also didn’t have a handful of sandals to choose from or, once he started his ministry, a secure place to lay his head every night. He trusted God to keep his shoes intact, and when they faltered he trusted his Father to replace them. He knew the Lord would provide protection while he slept, no matter where it was.
How am I doing at following in the footsteps of my master? My heart condition was no where near that of Christ’s, I can say that. I was willing to sleep in my car and wear jeans with holes in them, but you can bet my inside voice groaned and I shed more than a few tears at this process of being refined in humility. The truth is, the only thing any of us deserve in this life is hell. No matter how “good” we are.
I prayed and meditated extensively on the drive from my small, north Idaho town to Seattle. I spent the time pressing in and asking God the hard questions I struggled to answer. Questions regarding what it means to stand in victory when you’ve been a victim, to trust God is the Provider even when you find yourself sleeping in your car, and how it’s possible to be free and walk in freedom when circumstances and relationships tell you you’re in bondage. What does it mean to decide to follow Jesus, completely and with everything that you are, holding nothing back? What does it look like to decide, once and for all, to be the woman He says I already am even when people say and have said otherwise?
The only answers I received is that it all comes down to a choice, faith and relationship. As the Seattle rain taps on the roof of my car, the cool and moist evening drifting into my cracked windows, I feel a sense of peace. I know tomorrow the feeling of peace and rest may dissipate, though I pray it wont, I’m grateful that the God I serve doesn’t wane in the slightest.
No matter my financial status, my socioeconomic position, or where I brush my teeth at night, the God I love and serve won’t love me any less. He doesn’t care if I’m sleeping in a parking lot or at the Ritz Carlton. He couldn’t care less if I’m followed by a million fans on Facebook, or if my dog is the only one following me around the house.
All He cares about is if I’m in love with and choosing Him, every moment of every day. Even when those moments lead to nights sleeping in my car, relying on friends to supply me with pants intact, and lack of money to do what I desire, and loving others at the expense of myself.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” - Matthew 16:24-25, ESV