Farewell, old “friend,” and thanks for everything

A lot of people name their cars as a way of assigning a personality, as if their car is their friend or something. I never did that.

But for the last seven-and-a-half years of my life, my first car served as a stronger constant and companion in my life than any of my friends. That might sound sad, but it’s a simple truth of growing up that friends change as we go from high school to college and beyond. My 1996 Saturn was a part of my life on a daily basis from the day we bought it in July 2003 until the last time I ever drove it on Feb. 6. As incredible as the friendships I have enjoyed during that time have been, none has covered that entire stretch.

Now, simply owning a car for more than seven years does not make it a part of your life worth writing about because, obviously, it is just a piece of property useful for taking you from place to place. But in this case, my car served a far greater purpose.

I could provide a lengthy laundry list of “first” experiences involving my first car. But all of us can say that about our first anything. Instead I will focus on one thing, one moment in time: the day my Saturn saved my life.

March 5, 2004; about 11:20 p.m. The pastor of a church I attended while at PLU would refer to it as a “kiros” moment, a moment that changes everything. That night, six months after getting my driver’s licence, I fell asleep while driving home and nearly drove off the road. A guard rail prevented me from going over a 10-foot drop and the impact jarred me awake and allowed me to veer back onto the road and prevent anything worse from happening.

The extensive minute details about the specific situation would reveal just how miraculously everything worked together to keep me not only alive, but physically untouched. My car bore the scars of the experience, with holes punched in the plastic of the driver’s side exterior from front to rear fender.

It was a traumatic experience, to say the least. It took me several weeks before I got back behind the wheel, and that came only at the insistence of my loving mom who had grown used to not having to drive me places and did not appreciate returning to her past life as a chauffeur. But months later – I’m not sure exactly when – I came to realize the blessing of the moment. Since then that night has held an important place in my life, a sort-of “wake-up call,” to use a horrible, yet applicable pun.

One of the great questions of faith is the struggle over the whether or not God has a purpose for our lives. Books have been written on the subject and people have tried to provide logical arguments to support the claim, but something radically changes the moment you experience firsthand something so extraordinary that it wipes away all questions of self-worth and value. Naturally, some will explain away any situation as random chance, but I honestly believe that to hear every piece of the story and see where it took place is to convince you that if not for God’s intervention, I would not have survived the night of March 5, 2004.

I drove that Saturn for nearly seven years following that night, never forgetting the role it played in one of the most important moments of my life. But nothing lasts forever, especially 15-year old budget cars. After 55 thousand miles over 90 months that covered most of my time in high school and all of my college years, it was time to move on. And when events and relationships fall into place that allow you to upgrade from a Saturn to a Porsche, you don’t turn that down. Needless to say, my current car is much more exciting and eye-catching than the one it replaced.

My Saturn is long gone, sold and hopefully serving someone else as well as it served me. It is for the future to tell what kind of role my new car will play in the next seven years of my life. I have no intentions of naming it, as in the end it is still just a car. And I will never forget the experience seven years ago in my Saturn, when I discovered first-hand that there is a reason for me to be alive beyond just trusting that belief. I will never take for granted the fact that God gave me the perfect car for the perfect situation to teach me a life-changing lesson. And for that I will always be thankful.

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