Out of the Prius and Into the Frying Pan

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In the first big change of this change-filled summer, I sold my Prius. Good old Blue-y, the first new car I ever bought, back when you still got a giant tax rebate for buying a hybrid. It travelled 120,000 miles with me, in Chicagoland rush hour traffic, over the rolling rural highways of central Pennsylvania, and the countless trips from my house to daycare here in Mankato. It was terrible on even the tiniest bit of snow and ice, but fantastic on gas mileage. If there was ever a car that perfectly suited my ideologically stringent, yet hip and stylish personality, it was that Prius.

Can you tell I miss it?

Especially because I now drive this:

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That’s right: I went from the most fuel-efficient car Toyota makes to the Toyota rated most difficult to park. I can’t comment on the gas mileage of the Sequoia because I conveniently switch cars with Marrett every time the gauge hits E, and because I steadfastly refuse to do math unless I have to. What I can say is that I now drive an 8-seat vehicle to and from daycare and work everyday, with just one of two of those seats filled.

There are things I like about this car, don’t get me wrong. I like the feeling of superiority I get when I drive past all those puny sedans, and I can look down to see the tops of their drivers’ heads. I like that I can haul 16 boxes of old hymnals and not even remember that they’re in there. I like how Ollie climbs up its running boards and crows about getting to sit in the “way back” where “it’s peaceful” (by which I think he means that he can’t hear me talking to him).

And of course I like it for the real, practical reasons that I’m driving it around: because it fits my entire new family, dogs included, and because it tows the boat on which I just caught my first Minnesota fish.

But I also feel guilty, especially when I drive it around by myself. I imagine my Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint overshadowing my teaching and preaching about responsible environmental stewardship. I try to assuage these feelings by taking shorter showers, and reviving the compost pile in my backyard. I vow to ride my bike more, but then I remember that no one wants a pastor pouring sweat to pray at their hospital bedside.

Mostly, I am reminded every time I climb into the great beast that fills my entire garage of how difficult it is to live a life fully reflective of my values and commitments. Just as I am ecologically sinner and saint in the Sequoia (also, Sequoia, really? Did Toyota really not see the irony in that name), I am simul justus et peccator in all areas of my life. Even the things I believe with every bit of my heart I don’t always live, and like most good Lutherans I spend a decent amount of energy beating myself up about that lack of integrity.

Perhaps driving the Sequoia is less an act of shame-inducing hypocrisy, and more an opportunity to practice extending grace to myself. Yes, I’m obnoxiously green, and I’ll continue to make those hard environmentally-friendly choices at the grocery store, around my house and yard, and from the pulpit. But at the gas pump, as I watch the dollars roll into triple digits, I’ll simply sigh a prayer of repentance, and know that the Creator of all that is won’t hold my sins against me.

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