May 13 2012
Pride, Pain, and the Price of Gas

This story is simple. It's about me, being an idiot.

I did the following:

1) Bought a new car. First time ever. Still not sure it was a good idea, but we did it. Gets 50 mpg, because it's a diesel, which is interesting because

2) I filled it with regular gas, and that's interesting, becuase

3) That kinda destroys all the fuel lines and stuff, and that means

4) That'll be $7,000, which I don't have, so

5) I rode my bike, carrying extra stuff to work while going uphill and

6) Managed to injure my back, rendering me bedridden for several days, and in excruciating pain, and 

7) I'm an idiot.

And so we come full circle.

-----

I felt dumb. And guilty. And stupid. And like a failure. And some other stuff. 

As I rode my bike in difficult weather, I thought, "I deserve this." As I lay on the couch, in pain from my bike injury, I thought, "This is what I get for what I did. I'm paying the price for my screwing this up."  I was doing penance, and I deserved it.

...and then Volkswagen called, with the total cost, including towing, tax, everything:  $0.

Nothing. The service guy said the parent company was paying for it. It wasn't a warranty thing. We couldn't make them do it. They just did it, in hopes of winning long-term customers, I guess.

ZERO DOLLARS.

I was happy about this, but here's where it gets weird:  Something in me wasn't elated. There was a part of me - there's STILL a part of me - that wanted me to pay a price for it.  Yes, on one level, this makes no sense. Maybe you've never felt that way. Simultaneously thankful, and... strangely helpless.

I blew it, my wife knew it, and she didn't begrudge it. I blew it, and the repair guys didn't make me feel stupid.  I blew it, and did something harmful, and didn't pay a dime. What I got, for my idiocy, was free towing and fixing. And I got a free detailing of the car, and they changed the oil, too. That's what I got.

I had to figure out why this didn't sit entirely well with me: It turns out, I hadn't been "paying the price" at all. I had no control over this. I'm not being held responsible. Even feeling guilty didn't help. There's nothing about me in this, at all.

And that's the problem. It's not about me, not about Brant Hansen.

At. All.

In sports, there's the guy on deck in the bottom of the 9th. He's struck out four times, already, but he has - as they say, all the time, in sports - "a chance to redeem himself," if he gets to the plate. He can still be the hero, and win the game for his team.  

A chance to "redeem himself."

But I'm the guy who struck out four times, waits on deck for his chance... and doesn't get to the plate. The guy in front of me hits the game-winning homer. We win! We're the champions! He did it, not me. I didn't redeem myself. Now, I'm sitting in the locker room, and I should be celebrating with everyone else. 

-----

Truth is, we find this very, very hard to accept, but we can't redeem ourselves. Oh, we like to think we can, deep down, so it's still about us. Carrying around guilt? Still about us. Feeling stupid? Still about us. Feeling like a failure? Still about us. Turning our guilt into seemingly productive energy, seemingly "right" things to do? Still about us. Seems so... so... so "righteous", and yet, when we can't take our eyes off ourselves to celebrate the win, it's just plain about us. That's pride.

And pride always hurts, but it's positively deadly when masked by our attempts to pay our own way with our religious activity. 

The game is over. We're in the religious locker room, still trying to redeem ourselves.

And God is popping the cork.