Everyday Christian: A Facebook skirmish over a vintage couch ... and Jesus

I am currently in the middle of a Facebook Marketplace “situation”. I think it’s case of misunderstanding … but it may turn out to be a bit of a scam to try to get more money out of me.

This is what happened. Last night, I saw a gorgeous, green velvet vintage couch for sale for $150. I knew it was a bargain, despite needing some work and I responded immediately saying I would take it and asking if I could pick it up today.

The seller responded ‘yes’ and asked if I could come at 2 pm. I set about trying to figure out exactly how I would pick it up. My father-in-law and his ute were not available but said he could do early Saturday morning. My husband said we could rent a van and get it after work.

The seller, who was hoping I could come between 12 and 2 pm, said she would hold it for me until Saturday morning. I said I was so grateful. That I wanted it in time for my daughter’s bridal shower the following afternoon.

The seller said, “As long as you are aware of the minimal damage that you can see in the pictures”.

I replied that it was fine, the bridal shower was going to be held in the garden and then it would be coming home and I would either fix it up or, if the damage was too much, I could re-sell it.

“Oh, you’re planning on re-selling it?” she asked.

“I hope not,” I said. “I’ve got a spot under the stairs that I hope it will fit in.”

Before I knew what was happening, she told me she had another buyer who could probably pick it up today and she really would prefer not to sell it to someone who was going to put it outside or store it under the stairs.

How had this gone so horribly wrong? I wondered.

I tried to explain. “Under the stairs” is the lounge room in our house. I sent her a photo of under the stairs as proof.

Of course I had no intention of leaving a vintage velvet couch outside, I told her. I just wanted to use it outside for one single garden party, I tried to explain. We were trying to create a vintage garden tea party with an eclectic mix of furniture and flowers and teapots – couldn’t she visualise the style?

How had this gone so horribly wrong? I wondered. I had been trying to reassure her that if there was a small amount of damage, it wasn’t a problem. Why oh why had I given more information than was needed? I’ve watched enough courtroom dramas to know better than that! What was I thinking? Now I’d gone and confused her! She thought I was some kind of irresponsible vintage couch owner!

I felt like I was in a job interview and my answers were exposing me to be utterly lacking the necessary skills for the role I had applied for. I felt panicked. The couch was slipping away.

The seller told me she was going to try the other buyer and would get back to me if they fell through. It was like a scene in a movie where the protagonist tries to get into some swanky new restaurant or bar and is turned away for not being cool enough. And there was nothing I could do. The door had closed. The burly bouncer had crossed his arms over his chest.

* * *

A couple of hours later it occurred to me that I was the one purchasing the couch. The customer, so to speak. I felt like I had been asked to sing for my supper – except,  wasn’t I the one giving out the supper? How had I ended up on the back foot like this?

Was it a clever ploy to make me think I was in a bidding war with someone else and offer more money? Quite likely.

Regardless, it was all ridiculous, I realised, and I let the couch go emotionally. In the grand scheme of things, it really did not matter at all, I knew.

* * *

This afternoon, doing some work planning and scheduling of Eternity stories for the Christmas period, I thought about the gift of Jesus and the wise men bringing him gifts.

The practice of gift-giving at Christmas isn’t something I have thought about much in recent years, except to lament Christmas consumerism.

But it occurred to me that, in some ways, gift-giving is an increasingly counter-cultural act.

So much of what we do in life requires us to earn it. We work and get a wage. We invest in relationships and receive the support of friendship. We exercise and our health benefits. Apparently even buying a second-hand couch on Facebook Marketplace requires us to prove our worthiness these days!

It is all very transactional. But receiving a gift is not transactional at all. It doesn’t require us to have done anything.

We all experience those occasions when someone buys us a gift unexpectedly.

I know we usually want to be able to give a gift in return. We are very prone to transactionalism, us humans.

Nonetheless, we all experience those occasions when someone buys us a gift unexpectedly. We are left surprised and sputtering about how we didn’t know we would be exchanging gifts with this person and we are so very sorry we haven’t got a gift for them.

And what is it the giver always says? Isn’t it always something that goes like this:

“You don’t need to give me anything. I didn’t expect a gift from you. I just wanted to give you this. I saw it and I knew you needed it and it just seemed perfect for you.”

These scenarios are not unlike those moments when we become aware of God’s great generosity in giving us Jesus. The first moment in accepting salvation. Or the many moments of remembering we have been saved and responding again.

We find ourselves tripping over our words, trying to say that we’re sorry for not having anything to give in return. Awkward that we didn’t earn it. Faintly embarrassed because we clearly don’t deserve it. Humbled by his grace. Grateful.

And there’s God, saying something like, “You don’t need to give me anything. I didn’t expect a gift from you. I just wanted to give you this. I saw it and I knew you needed it and it just seemed perfect for you.”

It’s so lovely. He’s so lovely. And who needs a vintage couch when you’ve been given Jesus?