I learned a lot from my couch.
Yes, it’s true. That awful, ginormous hunk of ugly that is my overly expensive Pottery Barn couch. It’s the color of poop and it sits in my living room as my daily reminder that the things of this world will never satisfy…and will often disappoint.
Immediately upon marrying Dan I joined him in Greenwich, CT where he had been the youth pastor at a church. They say that the 5 most stressful things in life are births, deaths, marriage, moving and starting a new job. I was doing 3 out of 5 simultaneously, and I was feeling it. Looking back now, I don’t know what I was thinking – marrying, moving to a different country and becoming a pastor’s wife all at the not so ripe age of 20. Talk about pressure! I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but God certainly did.
You see, even though I took on a leadership type of role, He was about to teach me some extremely valuable life lessons. Some who may know me, might categorize me as the “good girl”, but I confess that deep down in the crevices of my heart, there are things that aren’t good at all. By being vulnerable and bringing them to light, I hope it both keeps me accountable and truly helps all of you in the process.
I have always loved beautiful things. I have always cared about looking the best I can, and I’ve always been drawn to gorgeous homes. I’m a sucker for packaging. As a younger girl, my bedroom always had to be a certain way, I strived for makeup that was flawlessly done and hair that was never out of place. I felt pressure to achieve perfection. And, of course you all know (and I know now) that in this world, perfection is impossible to attain.
When Dan brought me to Greenwich, Connecticut, though, perfection is all that my eyes saw at first. Just outside NYC, it is one of the most beautiful and wealthiest towns in America. Celebrities, Wall Streeters and the richest of the rich call Greenwich home. I had never seen anything like it. It was a botox, Burbury and Beemer world.
For a girl that loved and aspired to achieve this Martha Stewart type of world (of course, Martha has a home just minutes from Greenwich), you’d think I’d have died and gone to heaven. But, over time, it became a literal hell. I began to feel the stark contrast in our income bracket compared to the many friends and acquaintances we had there. I chose to dwell on my wrong thoughts that I was so hard done by, and just didn’t fit in. My wallowing grew into resentment, bitterness and ungratefulness. I began to whine to God and ask Him why the heck He brought me to this place. Was He rubbing my nose in the fact that I’d never be like these people or have what they have? I was beginning to catch the materialism fever that was seemingly rampant in the area. I had amnesia, forgetting that I’m the rich minority on this planet. I coveted the things in my friend’s home and dreamed of a “perfect” life surrounded by beautiful things. I thought I’d be much happier if God “blessed” me with more things.
Several of my closest friends had THE most comfy down and duck feather filled couches from Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. Amongst other things, it became a dream of mine to one day own my very own Pottery Barn couch. Needless to say, my priorities were way off. If this was my big dream, something wasn’t right. And, indeed, something was terribly wrong.
We then moved to Nashville, TN to chase some other musical dreams that failed to say the least (a whole other blog entry). It was upon our exit from Tennessee that something awful happened to us and we lost all our earthly belongings. We were forced to return to Canada with whatever could fit in our car. The brand new washer and dryer we had just bought – gone. Furniture – gone. Much of my clothing – gone. Even the few things we tried to haul back across the border in a small truck were completely shattered in pieces when they arrived to their destination. It felt like destruction to us, but God was building. He was constructing character and gratitude. He was teaching us what was truly valuable in this life. I can recall a day I laid in bed and listened to a song by Nichole Nordeman, entitled “Gratitude”
Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger’s view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case . . .
We’ll give thanks to You
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead And if we never taste that bread
Oh, the differences that often are between
What we want and what we really need
Turns out I didn’t miss our junk one bit. After two years of being without our own home, we eventually moved into our own dumpy apartment, with the wonderful view of a bright orange Home Depot sign and the aroma of marijuana from the neighbors. I was more thankful for that place than I was our first apartment. We moved to other homes that weren’t ideal either, but it didn’t matter anymore. Several years ago we moved into our current home, which is far from perfect, but FAR beyond anything I’d ever dreamed God would give us. I wonder if I hadn’t gone through that process, if I would be grateful for the blessing of this home. I wonder if I’d still be miserable, but with more square footage.
Gratitude was growing in me, but God still wasn’t done with me.
Now, about that couch…
My dad came to visit overnight and slept on our falling apart Ikea couch. Don’t get me wrong – it had been good to us, but our boys had not been good to it. The springs had seen better days. When my dad woke and said that he felt like he was sleeping in a coffin all night, we knew it was time to go shopping. We had the means to splurge on something nicer. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to get my own Pottery Barn couch.
Dan agreed, and I immediately began the hunt. I was ecstatic (I mean, happy dance, clapping in double time ecstatic) that I, Danielle Macaulay was finally going to have what I’d sat in my friend’s homes day dreaming of. We had it custom designed according to our desire. I could barely wait until it was delivered just after Christmas. I’ll never forget the day. We lugged our old couch down to the basement to make room for this long awaited, glorious piece of furniture. The delivery men carried the beast up to our living room, set it down where I told them…and then…
I didn’t like it.
I kind of hated it, in fact.
I wasn’t doing the happy dance any more. That thing I had wanted for so long not only left me unsatisfied, but completely disappointed.
My Pottery Barn couch let me down, but I just couldn’t let Dan know. I had to grit my teeth behind my grin and try to be happy. But I wasn’t happy.
In my dismay, it hit me like a Mac truck that earthly things (whatever, or whoever it may be) that we put too much stock into for our own happiness will without a doubt fail us. They will not only leave us unsatisfied, but often disappointed. In fact, the more weight and worth we put in something that isn’t eternal, the more we feel a void upon receiving it.
It’s probably not a dumb couch for you. Maybe it was your long awaited vacation, or the Christmas morning you were banking on to bring you all joy. It might have been the guy you swore would make you feel complete.
It could have been the piece of cake that enticed you but left you feeling empty and remorseful. Or, maybe it was the 29 lbs lost that reminded you that looking “better” won’t make you better. Maybe you’ve discovered the same thing.
I wish that couch episode was the only time I fell victim to a poverty mentality (never enough), but it wasn’t the last time I’ve been let down by stuff. All too often I can be like my toddler, who immediately upon receiving a new toy begins asking for the one that’s next on the list.
Yet, nothing I have ever desired from God has failed me.
Nothing God has ever offered me has ever disappointed. He undersells and over delivers EVERY TIME. He unexpectedly blesses me and he keeps me in awe. He satisfies me. His word says it, so why shouldn’t I believe it?”
“For He satisfies the longing soul. And The hungry soul he fills with good things” Psalm 107:9
[bctt tweet=”God undersells & over delivers EVERY TIME. ” username=”DanielleMac80″]
The rich, powerful, wise and famous will tell you either from their own mouths or by their actions that none of their earthly gain has been what they’d hoped for. And now, I knew this to be true. I’d seen this in Greenwich. The town was crammed with people who had everything this world has to offer, yet were unhappy as hell.
Ann Voscamp’s books “1000 Gifts” and “The Broken Way” so convincingly share how gratitude and giving both lead to living fully – fully satisfied. Even Jesus gave thanks, and then broke the bread and gave it away. These very acts are communion with God. Communing with God will never leave us unsatisfied. I had once been ungrateful and never seemed to have enough to give, and I wasn’t ever fully satisfied, so I believe every word she has to say.
I want to live content. I want joy. I long to be deeply satisfied. I don’t want to be cyclically disappointed and trying to fill a void. And so, that couch remains plunked down in my living room as my daily reminder of who never disappoints, and that stuff can never take His place. He reminded me in His word again even this morning. He said:
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me…when you get serious about me…you won’t be disappointed.” (Jeremiah 29:13 The Message)
As I type, the tune to “Great is thy faithfulness” hums in my head… “All I have needed your hands have provided. Great is your faithfulness, Lord unto me.” God, I pray it hums on repeat, loud and clear.
I am learning not to give the things I want this Christmas, a New Year’s resolution, my dreams and my bucket list more value than they are worth. They won’t do the trick. They were never designed to. But, if I look in the right direction, I will be filled to the brim and overflowing. And you: when something is luring you in, recall the time you read a blog once about a girl who learned lessons from a material world, and from her Pottery Barn couch that under delivered – lessons about gratitude and where real satisfaction comes from.
“For He satisfies the longing soul. And The hungry soul He fills with good things” Psalm 107:9