This morning I woke up in the middle of a dream. In my dream, some anonymous person had given my wife and me a cream-colored Rolls Royce. There it was, sitting in our driveway in all of its glory. Some of the outer parts were still covered with masking tape and paper. It hadn’t yet been “detailed.” I looked closely at the model name and it read “Corniche.” I’m reasonably sure there is a model of Rolls Royce by that name, but that’s what I read on it. The name was just above the back left bumper.
As I looked around me, I realized the house where the Rolls had been parked was not the one I’m living in now. It was a much larger, much older, house. As I tried to figure out where the Rolls had come from, and why I had it, the neighbors started to drift over, driven by curiosity. What was a nice car like that doing in a neighborhood like this? They walked around it, touched it, felt its textures, and made little approving sounds.
I was utterly baffled. When my wife arose, I told her about the dream. She’d had a bunch of her own that night, none of them involving Rolls Royces. We compared dreams, and then we started talking about Rolls Royces. I told her that when I was young I had had the thought that it might be a good idea to buy one good hand-made car and keep it a lifetime, than spend money on regular assembly line cars that lasted only a few years. Turned out she’d had the same thought earlier in life. At the time I had that thought a Rolls was selling for around $10,000, and I was earning just over $3000/year before taxes.
For most of us, Rolls Royces are simply well beyond reach, as are BMW’s, Mercedes Benz’s and Ferraris. Some SUV’s are getting pricey too. I recently read that the starting base price of a couple of models is in excess of $60,000. Forty-five years ago, I could’ve purchased six Rolls Royces for that price. That’s almost three times what I paid for a 3-bedroom house in 1972. In fact, in 1972, Life magazine ran a full-page ad for a Volkswagon “Beetle” that sold for about $1750.
The Rolls Embarrassment
Some years ago, I suffered an embarrassment involving a Rolls Royce. I was working as a freelance business writer. I had rented a studio in a grungy part of Duarte, California. Next door was a florist. I needed the studio because my small apartment provided no work space. The “studio” was simply a large room with a painted over store front window. It was a quiet place to work – to paint and to write. It had no phone, but lots of room.
At that time, I did a lot of work for Atlantic Richfield Company. My client there also did some freelance work. At one point, he was unable to do a project for that client, so he gave me the job. Whenever I visited a client, I made sure I was dressed to the nines, and that no one ever saw the car I drove. For all they knew, I might’ve had an office in the Wilshire district.
In any event, I finished the job I was doing for my client’s client, and I was going to deliver it to downtown LA the next day. The client, however, was impatient. He wanted it now. He sent his driver out to my studio address to pick it up. I wasn’t expecting him. A knock came on my studio door. I wondered, “Who could that be?” Dressed in my shorts and tank shirt, my beard untrimmed, I opened the door and was confronted with a uniformed chauffer. Behind him, parked in front of the studio store front, was a shiny black Rolls-Royce Limo. The chauffer gave me a look of regal disdain, and asked for the work I had done. I said, “Wait there!” and rushed in to get it. I didn’t want him coming into my workspace, which was typically in chaos. I put the documents in a manila envelope, along with a bill and some business cards, and sent the chauffer on his way. I believe he was glad to leave. I speculated on what he might report to his boss when he arrived at the LA skyscraper and its penthouse suite.
If nothing else, that story shows the importance of having a prestige “address” and dressing the part if you are doing work for high-end clients.
Come to think of it, my dream concerning the crème-colored Rolls might have been a reformatting of that old experience. I’m sure the dream was not prophetic. It was just a garden variety dream in which I reprocessed some old images and experiences to form a new picture. Dreams are like that. I believe we can learn from our dreams, without lending them more significance than they actually have.
Dreams are the product of mind, and mind emanates from the meat of the brain. All of the data we have ever taken in throughout our lives is “in there” – in the meat. The subconscious mind restlessly works with that data, regurgitating it in the form of ideas and sometimes dreams that bubble up from the subconscious. Some of the most brilliant and helpful ideas in human experience have been born of these processes. So too have some of the most evil ones.
So what did I learn from my Rolls-Royce dream? A few things: First, we must be prepared for unexpected blessings. God loves his children. We never know when God is going to pour out a blessing on us. Didn’t James write, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow turning” (James 1:17). God loves to bless and give gifts to his children. The gifts God gives may be spiritual, or they may be material. The question is, are we ready to receive them once they come? If God blessed us in some unexpected way, could we “handle it”? And do we actually expect to be blessed? Would we be appropriately grateful if we were so blessed?
Secondly, it might be wise to adopt the old Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.” We never know who’s going to show up on our doorstep. Sometimes representatives of the upper crust “condescend to men of low estate.”
Thirdly, the greatest material and spiritual gifts require vigilant maintenance. In my dream, I wondered how I would ever be able to protect and maintain the crème-colored Rolls in my driveway. How would I keep it from being stolen, or otherwise trashed. It would never fit in the garage; that was already filled with things we couldn’t get in the house because it’s too small (our real house, not the one in the dream). How would I afford the servicing of such a car? Where would I park it when I went to the Post Office or the 7-11? A car like that comes with a lot of “baggage.” These thoughts gave arise to another lesson that is expressed in the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things…” (Matthew 25:23). Whatever we have, we must take care of it to the best of our ability. In the material sense, we may not have much, but what we have requires a sense of responsibility and stewardship on our part. I must take care of my 1999 mini-van with the same painstaking zeal with which I would have to maintain a Rolls-Royce, if I owned one.
The dream, in other words, has given me an impetus for repentance. I realize that I need to be a much better steward over the relatively “little” that God has blessed us with. I use the term “little” comparatively. In reality, God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve. Unlike millions of people in the rest of the world, Lorraine and I have a solid roof over our heads, heating and air-conditioning, food on the table, a 1999 mini-van that works, and a nice big yard to plant a garden in. We are able to pay our bills and my wife has medical coverage. We are blessed! But blessings are like muscles – if you don’t maintain them, you lose them.
I don’t expect to be driving a Rolls-Royce any time soon; besides, I’d prefer a Lexus or an Infiniti. But in dreaming about that Rolls I did get a wakeup call about the quality of my own stewardship over the blessings that I have. Rolls-Royces are a symbol of quality, dignity and class. Typically, they are part of a larger universe of wealth and excellence. A Rolls in my driveway would be incongruent. A well-maintained mini-van would not.