Out of Shape

Cars2The day has come to return the car we've been borrowing from our friends. Our one car went into the shop two weeks ago, and when we got it back over a week ago, we just didn't have the heart to go back to one car. Nancy said this morning, "We've got to give the car back, I'm getting too used to having two cars." She sounded like an addict coming to grips with the reality that if she doesn't turn back now, she'll lose the will to say no. See Dispatches and We're Going to Thailand for more background on our decision to live with one car instead of our usual two.

This little respite from a one car life for our family of four has shown me that this change has been our biggest adjustment. It has added a level of complication in our lives that, at times, has left me at my wits end. When our car broke down for the second time in two weeks, I found myself re-discovering the usefullness of some long dormant choice words. I was fed up with the inconvenience.

Let me just add here that I don't have any illusions that what we are doing is much of an accomplishment. We have friends with kids who have lived with one car for years and it's no big deal. They are our heroes because we're learning that we have been deeply shaped by the rhythms of a mobile, come and go when you want, two car life, and it's hard to change.

I'm reminded of what Marshal Mcluhan said; "We shape our tools, and they in turn shape us." He was talking about the innovation of the TV, but the same truth can be extended to the sanctuaries in our churches, the laptops in our backpacks, the internet we click around on, and maybe more than anything, the cars we drive. The car is an innovation whose impact is so large it's almost hard to grasp all the ways it has shaped us; the design of our homes from front porches to prominent two and three car garages, the decisions we make about the proximity of our residences, schools, workplaces, churches and friendships, the quality of the air we breathe, the margins we have in our budget, and on and on.

This recognition of the ways we've been shaped is providing us with a prime opportunity to sort out questions about how we really want to shape our lives. What does it look like to intentionally shape a family life, and bring the tools of our lives in service to that, instead of unintentionally being shaped by them?