From the "be careful what you ask for in prayer" files…

July 18, 2007 | 10 comments

Starting a couple months ago I started regularly praying that God would show me all that I take for granted, to see my life more through his eyes and appreciate all the abundance that surrounds me.

Meanwhile, we bought a minivan since we’re about to have three kids in car seats. Perhaps because of the fruits of prayer, or maybe just because I had been reading too many Dave Ramsey books lately, we bought a very cheap, used minivan.

When I initially set out on the car search I had a list of just a few little things that I “needed” in a car. I was open to making sacrifices but, hey, this is not the third world. There were certain things, I decided, that are just too crucial to live without, and at the top of that list was an automatic passenger door (for the minivan illiterate, some models now allow you to open that side sliding door by remote control). Every one of the mothers I talked to about the minivan purchase spoke of the automatic door as if it’s something mentioned by name in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, so I decided that I too must have one.

After a lot of searching we found a deal on a minivan in Houston that was too good to pass up. It had a lot of great features, except no automatic door. My husband offered to keep searching since he knew how much I wanted that feature, but I told him that I could do without. Through my deep spirituality I would find a way to make this sacrifice. (Some people wash the sores of lepers in Calcutta, others drive minivans without automatic doors. Every saint has his or her own path to holiness.)

When my mother-in-law first drove the car up from Houston (we had her handle the deal since she lives there), the first thing I thought of was the door, and my great sacrifice. I walked up to the car and pulled on the handle to magnanimously open it the old fashioned way…and the stupid thing came off in my hand.

“Oh, yeah, ” my mother-in-law said. “The seller mentioned that that passenger handle is broken, just a total mess. It really takes some work to operate it. I didn’t think that would bother y’all so I forgot to mention it.”

So, after nearly breaking my arm patting myself on the back about my great willingness to use one hand to open my car door, I now own a minivan whose door requires not just the use of both hands, but the dexterity of a ninja, the strength of a weightlifter, and the focus of a Zen master (anecdotal evidence indicates that loud profanity is helpful as well).

It’s about a nine step process, involving pulling hard on one side of the handle while carefully balancing the other side so that it doesn’t come off, in which case you have to start all over. Every time I’m in the middle of this endeavor and it’s about a thousand degrees outside and I have groceries sitting on the ground and a toddler who’s imminent to bolting out into the parking lot, the thought pops into my head, “Still think that having a minivan with a regular door is such a sacrifice?” It’s probably my subconscious, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it’s not the very voice of God.

I am not a big fan of stating definitively what is and is not the hand of God directly acting in my life to teach me lessons. It’s impossible to ever know for sure. However, I cannot help but think that this situation is far too humorous to be coincidence, as well as the perfect answer to my recent prayers — a much-needed slap upside the head to remind me that I’m not a living St. Clare for making changes in my life that only the richest of the rich would consider a “sacrifice”. Touché, God, touché.


  1. Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    automatic doors on vans! Wow! We have the pullvery hard & grit your teeth on our 17 seater!

  2. Melanie B

    Be careful what you ask for indeed.

    Let me tell you about the time my sister, who was in college at the time, asked for some help with drinking. She thought her drinking was maybe getting excessive and she wasn’t sure she could stop. So she turned it over to God.

    Sometime later she started to get this really bizarre rash sort of thing on her hands and especially under her fingernails. Yep, sure enough, she’d developed some sort of intolerance to yeast (and also to caffeine).

    Now, not only can she not drink anything alcoholic, she can’t eat food cooked with alcohol. Or vinegar. She can’t eat leavened bread and about a zillion other products you’d never have suspected have yeast in them. (Why do crackers need yeast? Why does chicken broth?)

    She’s been a bit more careful since then about asking God for help.

  3. Bekah

    Be thankful. I have a friend who, only by the Grace of God, managed to keep her child from being crushed in her van’s automatic door. In my personal opinion, I like fewer electronics, because they’re likely the first things to fail. But I sympathize with your door handle struggles.

    Also wanted to let you know that your scorpion issues were an object lesson in our bedroom last night. We had a huge bug of unknown etiology flying around the room last night. Dh hates bugs, but chivalrously jumped out of bed to save me from the beast. After disposing of it, with a twinkle in his eye he says, “At least it wasn’t a scorpion.” I’d shared your list of personal policies with him the other day. LOL

  4. Melora

    Funny story, and certainly a good way to put a positive spin on an unfortunate circumstance! I was afraid, when I started reading, that you were going to describe something a little more Dramatic that had made you appreciate the blessings of your life. About three years ago, I was driving my daughter back from speech therapy and a woman suddenly pulled out in front of me to made a left turn. Her van was thrown and flipped, and the front of ours was smashed, and I gained a deep appreciation for air bags and child safety seats (my daughter was two). I’ve never heard of automatic doors for mini-vans, though! The mind boggles.

  5. Christine

    Jen, I’m glad that your minivan is good (with the exception of that handle). Perhaps you should ask God for a hand in finding someone who can fix it for you? (Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Worst thing that can happen is He says no.)

    My friend and I were discussing the way God answers prayers for us. Very often when you pray for a virtue, He gives you reasons to have said virtue. When I pray for patience, I get ready for my kids to suddenly act as though possessed because like the best father or teacher, God doesn’t GIVE us these virtues. He helps us to LEARN them. 🙂

    I was sharing your scorpion woes with my mother when I was visiting her last week, and she cried, “GRACIOUS! Why doesn’t the poor woman call an exterminator?” I had to explain that you aren’t daft; you’d already had one out!

    I’ll keep praying those mean little things go away soon.

  6. Literacy-chic

    It’s not a Toyota Previa, is it? That’s what happened to my mom’s over the years–well, one of the things. It’s not a problem now because her neighbor had it towed out of my mom’s driveway after Hurricane Katrina because she wasn’t returning fast enough and wouldn’t sell to the neighbor, & she didn’t have the $$ to get it out of the pound in time. Oh well, it takes all kinds!

  7. :o)

    Yep, I’d say that was a little poke from God. Funny.

  8. Stephkneek

    You still have a great attitude about the whole thing it seems 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    Okay….stupid question, but, er, why don’t you get it fixed…? Our non-automatic door handle broke and our mechanic fixed it pretty much just for the cost of parts during our regular tune-up. Wasn’t that expensive. Like $130.00, IIRC.

  10. Jennifer F.

    Okay….stupid question, but, er, why don’t you get it fixed…?

    Oh, believe me, I will! The Kia dealership said it would be close to $200, and that’s out of the question right now. Since I’m still paying off medical bills from the last baby and the next one is due to arrive in a few weeks, I’m so nervous about spending money that even $1 purchases pain me right now. 🙂

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