How a Visit to IKEA with Gout Helped Me Practice Denying Myself

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I didn't get to blog about it immediately after it happened, but I've kept this event in my mind ever since as mental bookmark of what the gospel-call to deny ourselves means.
It was the day before I left for the DG Regional Conf in Greenville, SC (Bob Jones University land). I was in utter pain with gout. My wife was excited about our move to a new home somewhere in the Athens, GA neighborhood.

Our kids need beds, plain and simple. Our little ones have slept in borrowed beds or jimmy-rigged babybeds for who knows how long. And our oldest have slept in a set of bunks that seem to have been made an aeon or two ago. The problem with their beds is really quite simple. We move too much. The beds are made of pine and require lag bolts connected the headboard and footboard to the side rails. It doesn't take but one or two moves of having to disassemble and reassemble the beds before those lag bolts just don't catch the wood inside the rails any longer. So you have to graduate to either a thicker bolt or a longer one. I've done both. So that means I had three sets of lag bolts. Each bed required six. Six times two bunkbeds times three escalations in lag bolt sizes means I had 36 lag bolts. We'd like everyone to praise God with us that a charismatic carpenter (from the Full-Gospel Businessman's Association) walked into our garage sale on Friday and bought the beds. If anyone can extend the abnormal life of those poor beds it is a charismatic carpenter!

Anyway, realizing we would eventually dump the beds off onto someone with a more stable residency, Sherri wanted to visit IKEA, the Swedish furniture sensation that has swept the world with really quite wonderful, reliable products at amazingly low prices. Atlanta just got a new one in June.

We had locked onto the sensation through our seminary neighbors Tim and Sarah Gombis (Tim is now professor Bible at Cedarville University). Their apartment, just two doors down, seemed to contain indestructible furniture that withstood the shock and awe which all their kids were able to muster. Our furniture did not.

My wife was sold when we visited the Burbank store. Let's see. There's free childcare - an hour and a half max (which is more than enough time for any husband to shop there!) - in what they call Smaland (Swedish for Small Land). Our kids loved it! Then there's the IKEA restuarant, placed conveniently either at the beginning of your semi-guided tour, or in the middle of it. Here you can indulge yourself in authentic Swedish meatballs for a pretty decent price.

The store in Atlanta is about 366,000 square feet. That's about 15 acres. You start upstairs and wind your way along the guided path with over 10,000 furniture products displayed and arranged before you on either side. Then you head downstairs for the self-serve area. Here, you pick up what you liked upstairs, plop it on a steroid-enhanced grocery carts, and head for one of the 600 checkout lanes. It's mind numbing. There's a style for almost every taste. Thankfully, we were met at the end with their snack bar which serves hot dogs, icecreams, and other health food items for around a buck. My kids go the for ice cream every time! (That's my only daughter Sophia enjoying hers, by the way!)

What made our trip so interesting, and this gets to the point of this post, is that I had gout that day, and my wife wanted us to meander through 15 acres of 10,000 furniture products. The goal, of course, was to locate and study the bunk bed products for our kids. We settled on the sale-price bunks for the little ones, and a couple of loft beds for the older two boys, under which we'll stash a desk for homeschool work, a chest of drawers, a bookshelf and a chair (all from IKEA, of course).

How did I manage this winding pathway of furniture frenzy...with such an inflamed and angry toe? Embarrassingly, in a wheelchair with a broken left foot peddle, with my trusty cane propped between my legs. My wife pushed me around, and everybody looked at me trying to figure out what was wrong with me. She never left me, though I tried to break away at times and do a wheelie.

When she prompted me, all excited and bright-eyed about going, my foot said, "Are you crazy woman?!" But I love my wife so very much. This is where living the gospel counts, isn't it? Paul told us to, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count otheres more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:3-5, ESV). That passage would be a very appropriate interpretation of what Jesus meant by denying ourselves (Luke 9:23).

The gospel teaches us to stop listening so much to ourselves (including our gout-filled toes), and start listening more to others. The mind of Christ, of which Paul speaks here, is that mind which considered our interests, namely of being saved from sin, above His own. And that's one of the main ways we interpret the gospel of Christ...with our lives. (I'll be posting on this sometime in September in a post called, "The Hermeneutic of the Gospel.")

In a closing word to husbands who feel as though they are dragged along on shopping sprees with their wives... Don't do it begrudgingly. What joy is there in it for you if you do that? Maybe you don't care about that kind of joy. But I'd suggest that putting your heart into it, and seriously considering her interests above your own, will bring what you may find to be a new kind of joy you might not have experienced yet. This isn't sarcasm speaking here. It's the truth. Despite the throbbing of the toe while en tow in a wheelchair, I found great joy in praying (or in my wife's case, preying) over bunkbeds and loft beds, wondering which one would serve our kids the most. It really is amazing to experience just how much joy comes when we have this mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12 :2). If that brough Him joy, surely enduring IKEA, despising the embarassment of a wheelchair was worth it for what little joy I got in comparison!

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