Pastoral Perspectives

When a BMW hardly felt like an answered prayer

Most of us are familiar with the idea of how God answers our prayers in the following 3 ways, namely “Yes”, “No” or “Not now”. But up till now, I will admit that I still cannot figure out what God’s answer is with regards to the car that my family is currently driving. This is because never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that I would drive a brand new Mercedes A200 in 2020 and after about 8 months later find myself cruising down the roads of Singapore in a BMW X1. Even if we could afford either of those vehicles, neither my wife nor I have ever any desire to own such “luxury items”.

Furthermore, we had no complaints with our Honda Vezel which itself was an unexpected gift from my wife’s non-Christian uncle who is rather distant from us. We are so thankful that for almost 3 years, that car did not give us any trouble. With its comparatively lower fuel consumption and roomy boot space, the car had served our family well. Having the Vezel meant that it was more convenient for me to accompany my late wheelchair-bound father for his chemotherapy and medical appointments. It also opened doors for my wife to reach out to the PFS Care Club children as she helped chauffeur them to church and back to their homes on Sundays. As the Vezel has come in so handy, our prayer has always been for God to help us maintain our car in such a good condition so that we can renew the COE after 10 years of driving it.

Thus, when we received a phone call at the start of 2020 from the same uncle saying that he wanted to “upgrade” our car to a Mercedes, this offer came as a bolt from the blue. We tried explaining to him that such expense is totally uncalled for. Moreover, as a pastor, driving a Mercedes would put me in a somewhat awkward position and cause misunderstandings. The last thing our family want is to give others the impression that we are born with a silver spoon in our mouths or that we have some wealthy backer for all our needs.

Unfortunately, no matter how we tried to turn our uncle down, he remained insistent. Even as we prayed to God to change our uncle’s mind, the latter stood his ground. For him, he was more interested in utilising the $10,000 deposit that he had placed with Cycle & Carriage (C&C) a year ago when he contemplated getting a Mercedes for himself than placing this deposit with C&C indeterminately. To be honest, we could hardly agree with his reasoning. But in order to keep the peace within the family, we reluctantly conceded to his decision.

Yet in our hearts, I confess we found it difficult to be thankful for receiving such an expensive gift. We were bemoaning the fact that this uncle would have been a blessing if he had given us the cash to pay off our HDB mortgage instead of “splurging” (he had paid in full for the Mercedes without taking a loan) on a non-essential item. After all, we saw no value in owning a Mercedes when my family can continue driving the Vezel and get closer to achieving our goal of being debt-free. But alas, such a blissful state of being debt-free was not part of God’s plan for us at the moment. Given the complicated family dynamics, we just had to “make do” with something that we do not need and have never asked God for.

To make things worse, it did not take very long before the Mercedes turned out to be a lemon. There were recurring issues and it meant making several trips down to the workshop. Over time, we realised that the ergonomics of the driver’s seat was causing backache for Sharon. It also didn’t help that the backseats were a bit too low for my in-laws and they had difficulty moving in and out of the car.

As we prayed about this matter, my wife and I felt that we needed to share with our uncle about our negative experiences with the car. Initially, he was rather upset, thinking that the problem lay with us. It was not until he heard his friend’s daughter had similar problems with the same model that our uncle was willing to consider alternatives with regards to the car.

But this presented us with another predicament. Although we were not keen to continue driving the Mercedes due to the various issues, we were also very mindful that getting another car within such a short span of time is not exactly a shrewd financial move. Moreover the brand that our uncle was thinking of switching to was BMW! As much as we are not the ones who will be forking out the money, we did not think that would be good stewardship. In addition, considering that several sectors have been adversely affected by the pandemic and people are losing their jobs, it is only befitting for Christians, especially Christian leaders to be known among other virtues, for their love for neighbours, prudence and modest lifestyle.

Seeing that we were caught between a rock and a hard place, we committed our struggles to God trusting that he will provide us a way out. Then one day, we thought that God provided us a solution in the form of trading in our Mercedes A200 for a Toyota Corolla. We figured that this would be the most viable option as that would help our uncle save some money and the ubiquitous Toyota would not draw attention but serve as a good workhorse.

Since we could not just sell the car unilaterally without getting permission, we thought of softening the ground by approaching our auntie to help persuade her husband. We called her on a Friday evening and we were so hopeful that by the end of the week, we would be given the green light to proceed. We earnestly prayed for God’s favour and were looking forward to a happy resolution. For us, the answered prayer would come in the form of a Toyota Corolla.

But little did we expect that on Sunday, our uncle called and instructed us to come down to Performance Motors’ showroom. He had already made the downpayment and we only need to complete the paperwork. I suppose at that moment, a common response for most people when they have just received a BMW as a gift would be punching the air with their fists. For us, it felt more like a punch to our guts. It was as if our family have prayed in vain and that God was pulling our leg. Surely, this cannot be what it means when we say that “God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) right?

As I reflect on my family’s experience with the cars, I am reminded that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). In the same way that God extended his grace to Israel who was often unfaithful unto him and “sends rain on the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:45), it is God’s prerogative to decide how he will provide for my family. The assurance my family can have is that in contrast to any other human beings, God our Heavenly Father knows and gives what is good (Psalm 85:12, Matthew 7:11, James 1:17). There are certainly far more important and pressing issues that I should be praying about since God’s Word is clear on those matters. As for the BMW, I suppose it would suffice to leave it as just one of those “mysteries” which God remains silent about.

Rev Edwin Wong

January 10, 2021