Where I Park Affects My Heart

Okay, yes, this is admittedly another title stolen from Pearl Jam; this one from an album of their’s. What can I say? I’m a fan and oftentimes their lyrics and titles connect ideas for me.

One of the common questions I get when people visit me at my office at church is “Why do you park where you do?”

Now, I need to give you the context. We’ve got a pretty good size parking lot and during the week there’s only 4–5 cars parked in it all day. Those cars belong to our staff.

Sure, there are groups that come and go throughout the day different times of the day and days of the week. But for the bulk of the week, it’s only our staff’s cars in the lot.

What that means is, we’ve got the pick of which spaces we want to park in. None of us has reserved spaces, but we each have our general areas that we tend to park in.

Most of the staff choose the smaller part of the lot near our office wing.

Not me. I like to be different. (That’s probably a whole series of posts that should be guest written by those who know me.)

I recognize my parking space isn’t a parking space at all. It’s still in the parking lot. It’s still on the asphalt. But it’s not a painted space. It’s actually the corner space between two perpendicular rows. And it’s way in the back of the lot.

I think it’s the space furthest away. (At least I hope it is.)

I park there almost all the time. In almost all weather. In the wind. In the rain. In the snow. In the arctic Wisconsin winter.

And now, you’re probably echoing the same question I always get asked: “Why do you park where you do? Why do you park way out there?”

Honestly, my initial reason for parking there was to help me get more steps in a day. I have a goal of reaching 10,000 steps each day and when you happen to sit at your desk for hours at a time you need all the steps you can get.

(I have lots of schemes to be able to get those steps in each day.)

So while that initial reason is still true, it’s not the main reason I still choose to park way in the back of the lot. No, my reason now, and the answer I give to people who ask is this:

It helps me fight the entitlement of my heart.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I have no problem thinking I deserve more than others. Yeah, I think I deserve more than you. In my heart, I think I deserve more. I think I should be first.

I think I should have the front spot.

It’s true. I’m sorry.

When I’m driving, I think I should be first. I should be fastest. You shouldn’t cut me off. My time is more valuable than others’. I get pushy. I’m in a hurry and everyone should know that.

When I’m out to dinner, I should get the best service. When I’m in line at the grocery store, I shouldn’t have to wait. When I’m at a 4-way stop, I was there first. When I’m at a get together and we line up for food, I should be first. First to get food. First to get dessert. First to get a seat.

I’ve got a serious problem.

I wrestle these impulses and this selfishness on a regular basis. And parking in the back of the lot helps me fight that entitlement.

Being a backspacer helps me curb the wrongful passions of my heart.

There’s this thing Jesus said once about where to sit when you get invited to a party:

“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor . . . Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table.” Luke 14:8, 10

Now, Jesus went on to talk about humility and honor and that by humbling yourself you might also be honored. He said that it would be better to presume humility and be surprised with honor than to presume honor and be surprised by humility.

But honestly, I’ve had to put most of that latter part away from my mind because I’m twisted enough to believe that by feigning humility I’d be able to ensure my honor.

Once again, I’ve got a serious problem.

Parking that far out — by choice, in all kinds of weather — helps me set aside my selfish desires so I can be reminded I’m not the most important. I don’t just deserve the best space. I’m not the most important person in the room, on the road, in the parking lot.

So I willingly become a backspacer.

And while you might not always see it when I’m passing you on a double-yellow on a country road, there are more times now than there were in the past when I don’t circle the Target parking lot for 10 minutes finding the closest spot. (Yeah, that was me glaring at you while you were backing out.)

Now, I often pull into the first open spot I find. But this doesn’t make me better than anyone either.

Wouldn’t that be ironic? If in my attempt to set aside my entitlement and belief that I’m more valuable I started to think that made me more important?

Again, I’ve got a twisted way of thinking. And so I have to daily remind myself that I’ve not yet arrived. So I park in the furthest spot . . . because my heart depends on it. In fact, I’m parked so far away it’s likely I’ll be late by the time I finally do get there.

Husband. Father. Leader. Connector. Learning to write, run, and enjoy sustainable rhythms. Writing about faith and what it looks like trying to live it out.

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