Seeking a Settlement – Part 1

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

~ Coldplay’s song, “Fix You”

$666.51.

That was how much the brand new couch would set me back. I didn’t really have the money, but I was recently divorced and wanted another place to sit down in my small apartment, so I walked into Rooms To Go and picked out a bright red love seat (ironic timing).

The ominous amount on the check should have given it away. It took about a week to realize that the butt on my beige shorts was turning pink and my white T-shirts had a nice pink glow about them on the back as well. Apparently the couch needed to be treated with some sort of chemical to prevent the red dye from bleeding over onto my clothing. So instead of dealing with the problem, I covered it up with a blanket (which would eventually turn pink on one side) and looked the other way.

After 10 years of covering up the couch I am happy to report that we are selling that couch as part of a newfound journey to simplify our life. Over the past 60 days, we’ve been selling furniture, giving things away, and tightening up our budget. I must tell you that it feels great. And just like the red love seat, I look at some things and wonder why I ever bought them.

We are also working on prepping our house to sell. The toughest part of this is that we thought we wanted this house when we bought it. We thought we wanted the neighborhood, the square footage, the big yard, and the all-brick construction. But once we settled in, we quickly became unsettled. We didn’t actually get what we wanted:

Peace and contentment.

There’s nothing wrong with looking for peace and contentment. These are common themes throughout the Christian Scriptures. The problem comes when we look in the wrong place to find these things. While I never would have said out loud that I was buying a house to satiate a spiritual and psychological hunger, somewhere in there I had a subconscious belief that having this kind of house would bring me contentment. So we made a decision, and a very hasty one at that, and borrowed a truck load of money to buy a house.

It didn’t take long to become frustrated. We didn’t really have that much, but there was an unspoken pressure to get more stuff now that we had more space. That feeling of pressure led us into conversation about what we really want, and the true value of the things that we own.

I began to question the cost of everything. how important is it that we have monthly cable TV? Why do I need every one of these gadgets? The obvious answer is that those things are not ultimately important and that I don’t really need them. So the natural follow-up question hit home:

Am I willing to pay the cost to purchase and maintain these unnecessary and unimportant things?

How much is all of it worth to me? Because when I start to add up $60 here and $90 there, the cumulative effect of all that spending is disturbing to me, especially when I consider how long I’m away from my family each week to create the income for these things. Could I be home more during the week if we sacrificed some of our luxury items? What could I have done for the future of my family with all of that money over the past five years? How much more could I have helped a couple of specific families locally who recently needed an extra influx of cash because of an extreme difficulty?

It is so hard to talk about this without coming off as judgmental or condemning toward others in the way that they spend money. But this post is about me and my family. I hope there is some insight for you as you read it, but ultimately this is a cathartic exercise for me; it’s a confession of sorts to get some of this out on the table.

We want to sell our house and have a more simple existence, not because we think we are better than anyone else, but because we know what we want and now it seems that we are closer to the right ways to go after it. Television, movies, video games, and other such trivialities have their place as a moment to separate from everything else and just enjoy a good story. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that, but I do think there is something wrong in my soul when I habitually turn to these things to satisfy unspoken longings.

Entertainment is just one example of an amoral undertaking that doesn’t serve very well as a God. I could fill in other anecdotes, but it seems like entertainment is one of those areas where it’s easy to spend a lot of money. And a lot of time.

So what do I really want? I’ll have to save that for part two. It seemed important to first deconstruct some of the ways I go after what I want. For now, suffice it to say that DirecTV doesn’t have a channel for what I’m looking for.

Oh, and I’ve got a red love seat I’ll sell you for $66.60.

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