Marketplace of the Heart

Marketplace of the Heart

It started innocently enough. We recently moved into a new house, and in our old house, we had a square dining room and a lovely old set of cherry wood dining room furniture, including a large round dining table that filled up the room nicely. In our new house, however, the dining room is long and rectangular, so my husband and I decided to look for new furniture to fit. I had used Facebook Marketplace a few times before, without giving it much thought, and I hadn’t been on it in months.

But somehow with this furniture, during this recent stressful transition of moving, Facebook Marketplace took on a new role in my life.

Oak (dark or light), maple, pine, formica, acacia wood, cherry, laminate. Store-bought, farmhouse, custom made, Amish-made, handmade, locally made, made in the shade, needing to be re-made—every variation of dining table was available on Facebook Marketplace, both new and used, and I began obsessing about the details and brands and prices and shapes and dimensions of these tables. It didn’t help that my husband and I sometimes have different aesthetic preferences, and we struggled to find something we both liked.

“Pro-tip:” Phil posted on Facebook with a tone of slight aggravation, “If you describe the table you’re selling as a ‘farmhouse’ table, you can charge at least $250 more.”

My response: “I absolutely love farmhouse tables.”

About a month into a search that I already felt we had put too much time and energy into, I realized that for me, the fun was in the searching, and not in actually bringing something home. I’ve always loved shopping, particularly at thrift and consignment stores, and Facebook Marketplace is just a never-ending thrift store where you can browse indefinitely. I began broadening my searches from “dining room table” to just about anything that I thought we might ever need in our new house. I don’t want to use the word “addiction” lightly, but at times my virtual window shopping felt like it was crowding out people and activities in my life that were much more important: my children, my husband, contacting a struggling friend, making dinner. The possibility of finding a deal at any moment of the day or night became something I looked forward to, and something that soothed me, to a degree that made me feel uncomfortable and even ashamed.

I knew I had a problem when my 13-year-old daughter said to me, “When you and Daddy actually find a dining room table, what are you going to do with all your time?”

“I am making everything new! …To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

Revelation 21:5-6b

The apostle John has a vision of what heaven will be like, and he writes about it in the book of Revelation. I’ve always been captivated by how frequently Jesus talks about “the water of life”—or some variation of that phrase, like “living water”, “stream of life”, and “fountain of life”. What does it mean that Jesus gives us this life-giving water?

For awhile this fall, Facebook Marketplace began feeling like a fountain of life to me—anachronistic as that sounds. Like a stream with an ever-filling source, I enjoyed my changing view of sales and treasures and deals a little too much. There was something so alluring about this virtual world of consumerism, and it captured my time and attention far more than it should have. I used it to cope with a difficult transition in my life, and while coping mechanisms are not inherently wrong, they can quickly turn into time-sucking quicksand rather than life-giving water.

This Advent season, ask God which streams you’ve been drinking from that don’t really flow from him. Where have you placed your time, your attention, and your heart? If your habits and hobbies have become obsessions and addictions, know that Jesus makes all things new, and ask him for ways to adjust your focus back to the baby in the manger. Keep in mind, too, that we all get distracted, and we all struggle through difficulty and disillusionment; if that describes you right now, prayerfully consider whether you might need professional help. God cares about our mental health, and if we find ourselves perpetually unable to cope, it’s probably time to reach out to a counselor or doctor for guidance.

Whether you need professional help or not, once you’ve identified streams that you want to walk away from, ask Jesus what “water of life” might mean for you. When I’m frustrated or upset and want to drink from the stream of Facebook Marketplace for more than a few minutes, I’m going to try to set my screen aside, take a deep breath, and say, “God, I need you in this moment. Where is your water of life?” For me, that deeper spiritual satisfaction might come in actually looking into the faces of my children, in paying attention to a book or a show that delights or challenges me, or just in checking things off a list and persevering through an ordinary day. Living water often flows as I’m giving myself to the people and tasks that are nearest to me.

You may not get an immediate answer from God, and you will probably still feel the temptation to speedily self-soothe. But just asking for living water when you long to drink from other streams is the first step in preparing the way for the Lord this season. Jesus became one of us at Christmas, and now is the time to admit our weakness, confess our sin, and prepare our hearts to receive the living water that will quench our thirst even more than a good deal.

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