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Marriage, minivans, and marred perfection


Picture, if you will, a young married couple. They have one baby, a 6 week old little girl. It’s Saturday night and they are headed out for one of the biggest milestones (minus wedding and newborn) of their married life: to buy a new minivan. This is a token item. A symbol of their status as parents. They will have a brand new van to go with their brand new baby. They’re really doing things, aren’t they?

They’ve each bought cars before, mostly used, but this is their first car purchase as a couple and it’s their first new car, straight off the lot, only seven miles on the odometer, shiny and perfect.

Wow. For those of you that have experienced this, take a minute and reflect. Remember the smell? It’s so chemical-ful but delicious. The interior is slightly greasy because the dealerships put polish everywhere but it’s the kind of grease you never want to go away. The floor mats are clean, not just vacuumed clean, but like never had a blemish clean. You can see through the windshield, and not only the parts where the wipers go, but every part of the windshield. The hubcaps are basically mirrors.

Yes, it was a big day for this couple. The wife turns into the driveway and watches the odometer click over to ten miles. Double digits. The husband says, “you should back into the garage.” To which she retorts, “shh, don’t ruin the moment,” and pulls in.

Next day, Sunday morning, time for church. Have you ever noticed how the devil sneaks in on Sunday mornings? Suddenly everything is just that much more difficult. The baby blows out a diaper. The dogs get covered in mud and need a bath. You’re walking out the door and realize there’s spit up all over your nice shirt. He’s very aware what day of the week it is and it’s his mission to keep you from going to church. Or at the very least, send you there in a bad mood.

But it was okay. Because for this couple, they were going to church in their new van. Everyone is fresh and settled, the wife fires it up and starts backing out of the garage.

But see, the devil is in the details. Because she was backing out.

(I think you all know who this couple is, but for the sake of the art of storytelling, I’m going to continue with the anonymity theme)

She made it 3/4 of the way, and then ever so slightly scraped the side of the van against the garage door. Slam on the brakes, throw it in park, stare straight ahead. The husband draws a deep breath through his nose and exits the vehicle.

Everything is quiet. He returns. Another deep breath, then, “there’s damage.”

Then follows a silent drive to church. Even the baby is quiet.

You’ll never believe what the sermon topic was, truly. Earthly treasures. Not even 10 minutes into the sermon the pastor gives an example of earthly treasures fading and I kid you not he says, “like that new car you get and within the first day you ding it?”

Husband and wife crack up laughing and marital harmony is restored. I still have the ding in the van and it makes me smile every time I look at it. Hubs, not so much smiling on his part.

It was almost a relief. Like, okay, got that out of the way. It was inevitably going to happen, better it happen immediately and with both of us present.

I’ve been thinking about that experience a lot lately. Because I got a new wetsuit for this triathlon season. Well, my mom got me a wetsuit (She’s my first official sponsor. Thinking about clever ways of working her logo onto my racing kit πŸ˜‰) I’ve been studying, analyzing, and coveting wetsuits for seven months. Flexible enough for my shoulders, buoyant enough for my swim style, long enough for my height, but not so wide that it’s wasting space. It’s become a thing for me. My identity as a triathlete has started to hinge on this wetsuit. Like, once I get this suit, I’ll be set. Once I get this object, my season can begin. I can’t start one more race with a ratty, used one I bought for $75; that thing with holes and tears that’s 3 sizes too small for me. I need a brand new, perfect wetsuit to reach my goals. I need it.

Finally, the wetsuit I’ve been eyeing, goes on sale.

It arrived within three days and I dove into it to try out the fit (pun intended). It takes 10-15 minutes to put on a triathlon wetsuit, they are that tight. They are made of such a thin neoprene that you must handle them incredibly carefully. Don’t pull with your fingernails, use the pads of your fingers. Don’t put it straight on like pants, try to unroll it up your leg.

I’ve been putting on wetsuits of one sort or another since I was six years old. Not to mention I’ve spent the last season whipping in and out of my race suit at lightning speed with nary a hitch. So standing in my bedroom in solitude and using the utmost care and precision should be no problem.

Folks, I felt it go and it was like part of my soul ripped along with it. The weight of grief that descended on me was crushing. Blemished! My golden ticket, my token object, my guarantee to a great season, was marred. Imperfect. I had done everything right! I used my finger pads! I unrolled the legs! I pulled gently! I know what I’m doing and I’ve never in all my life ripped a wetsuit.

In reality, it doesn’t matter at all. I know that. It won’t slow me down. It won’t harm the suit’s performance. It won’t tear further or cause weakness elsewhere. It’s not even noticeable. It’s literally not important. Wetsuits rip all the time. Especially in the middle of a race. Especially in transition where they get dumped next to bikes and people ride over and step on them. This suit was going to rip and I knew that. It was just so soon! I hadn’t even swam in it. But then I remembered my van.

Is it possible I idolized the wetsuit like I idolized the van? Likely. Seems that I needed a reminder of that lesson from years ago. It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, physically or spiritually. What matters is on the inside. Your condition as an athlete, and the condition of your heart.

So when I line up in 2 weeks for my opening race, I’m going to look at that tear and smile, just like my van.

And thanks, Mom πŸ™‚

thank you heart text
Photo by Řaj Vaishnaw on

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