What does our furniture say about us?
I’ve got a garage full of furniture that my brother and I inherited after my parents deceased. In the rectory is furniture that has been donated or loaned to me over the last ten years. It doesn’t all match, but after a while it becomes more familiar. Perhaps my furniture says I have different sorts of s(h)elves.
Or that I’m just too lazy to throw any of it away.
The furniture we love the most is that which lasts. We associate memories with furniture thats been around a long time. Such timeless furniture is also the most expensive, and sometimes requires the care of talented artisans. It is even more ecologically responsible.
Most of us have probably bought furniture that is beautiful but doesn’t last very long, like at Ikea – good enough, of course. And I remember in college taking some cinderblocks and boards and thinking I had some very elegant bookshelves.
Of course, there are times when when we have to move furniture around. Although moving furniture is exhausting, it can completely alter the sense of a room. Moving a desk, a trash can, a bed can change the way we work. I have a garbage basket next to the mail box so I can throw away bills I don’t want to receive. I have my desk next to my library. I have a little island in the middle of the kitchen. Furniture in the right place changes the way we move and think. Puting a TV in the bedroom makes it our bedroom companion. Putting one in the dining room does the same. Personally, I think it’s best to have only one, and put it in the den. Not that I’m judging others who do things differently.
A little more than a year ago we moved the furniture in the church. We did this in part because the nature of the spirit is one that should bring people closer together and see the image of God in people who are different: old, young, black, white, male, female, bearded, and limping. To name a few. Having to see each other makes us aware of the many dimensions God is reflected.
There is a style of having furniture called “feng shui.” I’m not a proponent of this style of arranging furniture, but it does point to the fact that arranging furniture is important, and it reflects a sense of our own humanity and sense of the sacred.
There is a small irruption to thinking about furniture too much, and that is because our Israelite forebears were very much pilgrims. Perhaps this means we are not to be so concerned with furniture: we’re reminded that God is not an idol – a piece of furniture – but actually works in our lives when we have arranged spaces for Him to express His life.
Have you ever been in a place that is too crowded? A closet, a room with just too much furniture? A space that doesn’t allow for movement? The word “salvation” comes from a concept of opening up space: and perhaps this is what we are trying to do now: move the furniture so that we have space. Space to love, space to play, space to touch the God that seeks to move in our lives.
So when you see the furniture moved in our sacred space, ponder what it feels like. And perhaps it is useful to consider what your space says about who you are, what you value, and how you work. If you’re stuck in your mind, in your work, or in your life, perhaps the simple answer is to move some furniture around and see what happens.
Which is exactly what we’re trying to do here. Just see what happens. Because that is what the church is for: making things happen.