A couple months ago Ike and I realized that we’re probably going to be in the Chicago area for awhile, so we began to pray about buying our first house. Since then, we have visited a lot of condos and townhouses, run the numbers and talked through what we can/should buy.
The whole process has been an eye-opening experience for me. Before this journey began, when I looked at houses I would see them in terms of personal preference; now I just see dollar signs. And in some ways that change of perspective is symbolic of the temptations this process holds. Houses easily become status symbols since other home-buyers have a fairly good idea of what you spent. And while I never thought I would be affected by that dynamic, I have noticed a subtle pressure to stretch our money as far as it can possibly go.
As I have examined my heart in all of this, I have noticed some old idols from the past that I thought I’d left behind. In particular, it’s striking to me how similar home-buying is to dating. Inherent in both is the temptation to get carried away by my imagination about the future. And as a result of this day-dreaming and planning, my heart slowly wraps itself around those future plans and begins to depend on them for joy and satisfaction. In the past, I drew confidence and security from my relationship status and the future I thought it would provide me. Today, I am tempted to draw similar confidence and security from owning a beautiful home, especially one that others would envy.
It’s kind of funny to me that these two completely separate pursuits are fraught with the same temptations. But it should not be surprising. That is the nature of any “pursuit” that requires such time and personal investment. When you pour yourself, your future and your schedule into any one person or activity, it’s easy to lose your point of reference. The thing you would “like” morphs into something you “need” and then something you “can’t live without.” And when this happens, your initially well-intentioned pursuit succumbs to blatant idolatry.
So whether you are currently in the process of dating, buying a home, designing the perfect nursery or picking a school for your kids, be aware of the pitfalls inherent in these pursuits. As John Calvin once said, our hearts are like “idol factories” that constantly search after something other than God for security, confidence, peace and joy. So check your heart and be honest about your motives. What is driving you? What is your source of refuge and hope? Is there any part of your pursuit that is driven by a desire to make others jealous? Are you spending your time and money in a way that still enables you to be generous to God and others? And most importantly, if you fail to obtain the object of your pursuit, is Christ still enough for you? I’ve had to continually ask myself those questions throughout this process, and I suspect I will continue to the rest of my life.