When Steve and I were first dating in 1963, I clearly recall being on a bus bound for Wednesday services at a local church (since as freshmen neither of us had a car.) We were still in the get-acquainted stage, and Steve told me his life goals. He said he wanted to return to Bedford, Indiana, go into the auction business with his Uncle Mark—and buy a red Corvette.
At the time, I knew nothing about the auction business or Bedford, Indiana, so that didn’t startle me as much as the red Corvette desire. Really? A life goal? Oh, well. This was a passing relationship, or so I thought, and what did it matter?
Fast forward forty-four years later. Steve has enjoyed his low-budget Mazda Miata red convertible for thirteen years and he is still occasionally mentioning his infatuation with a red Corvette—this time specifically the 2003 50th anniversary edition. I have heard his admiration and desire for this car for forty-four years.
Finally I decided it was time to make something clear.
He may recall my exact words better than I can, but it was something like this: “Steve, I know you really want that red Corvette that you’ve talked about ever since I’ve known you. And I am happy for you to have it, but let me put it this way. You are welcome to get it after I am dead and gone. Then you can buy whatever your heart desires.” A slightly gentler approach than “over my dead body,” but not much.
He got the message, without a doubt, for he told our children as much. The red Corvette issue was dead.
As far as he was concerned, that is. He did not mention it again.
But my ultimatum still nagged at me–for four years, on and off. (I admit it–I’m slow to accept guilt.) So recently I grudgingly decided to pray about it. An answer didn’t come right away (a relief!) but I was waiting for a clear answer, so I occasionally prayed about whether or not I’d made the right decision. It weighed on me more and more. I thought I really wanted an answer; I guess I really wanted to be absolved by God of any guilt. I was not.
Then, as so often happens when we pray in agony of spirit, I got my answer. It was simple, as usual. (God isn’t nearly as wordy today as to the Old Testament prophets.) I prayed, and the answer came: Release him.
Release him? What did that mean? Had I bound him? Yes, I obviously had. I had bound him to my own value system and my own desires. This man, the most generous I know, had one heart’s desire in a worldly sense, and I had denied it. Because of his love for me, he had allowed me to deny him that joy.
So I waited a few days, but no other message popped into my mind. One evening as we sat quietly together reading (an empty nest luxury for some of you to look forward to), I told him I had something to say to him. Of course he immediately looked uneasy, for that was probably the way I’d laid down my ultimatum about the red Corvette in the first place.
“Steve, I want you to get your red Corvette. I take back what I said. Go ahead and buy it.” I really wanted to add, “If you think we can afford it,” but I held back. I was releasing him without strings.
He was more than shocked. It took a while for him to absorb what I’d said. When he actually believed what he’d heard, he grinned ear to ear. “I never thought I’d hear that from you,” he said. “You know I’d given up on the idea after your ultimatum.” He couldn’t quit grinning.
So I waited for the invitation to go car shopping. I wondered if he would find “the” one online and have to travel to pick it up. I saw no clues as to where he was looking for his heart’s desire.
And then, a few days ago, he said to me, “I need to talk to you.” I waited.
“I’ve given a lot of thought to the red Corvette purchase, and I cannot tell you what it means to me that you would release me to buy it.” (Wow—did he actually use the word “release”? Yep.)
“I’ve thought it over a lot, and I just can’t do it. I think about what else we could spend that money on—on mission trips, to missionaries, even taking our family on trips, splurging on little things we want. And I’ve decided that I really don’t want a red Corvette after all. But thank you so much for letting me make that decision on my own.”
I was a bit surprised, but not very. After all, how could the most generous man I know spend that much money on himself?
Have you ever made demands that you had to release? It’s very freeing.