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Tuesday, December 16, 2003 AD
I've recently developed a theory about covetousness.

When I moved back to my mom's house 12 or 13 years ago, the couch needed to be replaced. It was a) hideous, 2) worn out and iii) hideous. About five years later, I finally bought a slip cover for it. Sarah G. may remember helping me wrestle that slip cover onto that couch before the blogger get-together at my house last December. Over the years, I would wander through furniture show rooms, stare longingly at the upholstry shop display window on my way to work, flip through catalogs, and just generally covet a decent couch. But the time and the money never seemed to be right, so I continued to live with the increasingly ugly, ratty, uncomfortable couch.

About a month ago, I went to a moving sale. Friends of mine are attempting to raise support to go to South Africa as missionaries, and are at the point of getting out of their current home. And there it was -- the hundred dollar couch -- and I bought it. (And two chairs and two bookcases and a breadmaker and a food processor and a chalkboard and a stack of books and casettes...it was shopping-as-ministry and I did my part for the cause!)

A couch! I finally have a couch! But whaddaya know...I can't seem to stop looking for one. I can't get out of the habit of gazing at that upholstery shop window. And the color of the couch isn't quite right. And the style isn't quite right. And it's not quite as comfortable as I want it to be.

On the other hand. The clothes dryer was also not in good shape when I moved into the house. And it went up a few years later. I never really considered replacing it. I have clothes lines in the back yard for when the weather's nice and clothes lines in the basement for when the weather's not so nice. It was a much higher priority for me to spend money on a computer than on a clothes dryer, so I lived without one for several years.

But my dear mother decided that my dryerless state was Not Good, so I came home from work one evening while she was in Baltimore for a visit and discovered that she'd bought me one! I love my clothes dryer. It is so convenient and quick. I'm grateful for it every time I use it.

So here's my theory -- if you are discontent, you will remain discontent even after you get the thing you've been coveting, and you will keep coveting it...or some improvement on it. If you're content, you will be grateful for whatever you get when it comes as a gift. You'll keep shopping for that perfect couch, that perfect house, that perfect spouse.

This has incredibly scary implications for me, especially if I apply this thinking to my longing for marriage. I think of the bad habits I've gotten into, such as running down a mental evaluation checklist when I meet an eligible guy. Whether or not he shows any interest whatsoever in me (not that he ever does), I size him up and pigeonhole him. As time goes on, I might take him out of his pigeonhole for further evaluation. I do this almost unconsciously, the habit is so ingrained. Like looking at couches in shop windows. I've come to call this habit "emotional lust" just so I can remind myself of how ugly it is. What if I got married and kept up such a habit when I met other men? What if I kept comparing my husband to that list of ideals and found out he didn't measure up? I shudder to think of the seeds of future bitterness and misery I might be planting.

If I ever get a husband, I would want him to be a clothes dryer, not a couch. I would want to be able to look at my marriage as an amazing and undeserved gift from a gracious God, not as something I've been shopping for for years and finally happened to find.

Discontentment cannot be gotten rid of by fulfillment. Grateful contentment with whatever God provides (or withholds) is the only alternative to discontentment. The Gospel is the only antidote, and I see my need of it again when I consider these things.

And the Gospel is always a couch clothes dryer (keep up with your own metaphors, girl!). No matter how long you might have searched for enlightenment or the right theology or whatever, the Gospel is always an unexpected, gracious gift that takes you utterly by surprise.
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 12/16/2003 06:43:00 PM • Permalink

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