I love IKEA but it is a poor model for Christian living

I love Ikea. Can anyone deny the beauty of minimalist Scandinavian design they’ve managed to introduce and propagate across the world? Visiting an Ikea store is never just a simple affair to view and order furniture, it’s a full day out; licence to stroll through showroom after showroom, get distracted by affordable knick-knacks, have a meal of meatballs and chicken wings and finally head down to enjoy the agency of pulling parts out of a warehouse. Yes, you are building your own furniture, you are master of the hammer and allen screw!

Recently, Ikea launched an ad campaign where I live — touting the ease of their smart storage solutions. No, no RFID tagging, no radar searching for those lost keys or misplaced wallet. Just simple categorising and sorting (separating and compartmentalising). I felt kind of cheated because that was exactly the way I lost things — I would sort them neatly away and once they were arranged in a coherent manner, my brain would tick them off and conveniently forget their locations. I never felt smart ever having to pull out multiple boxes just to remember what was in them.

I am no Marie Kondo. My life is chock-full of people and places and memories and attached to all these are specific objects I can never throw away. The only way I have been able to live in a decently organised room is to be a ninja packer — compartmentalise, sort and box away obsessively. And increasingly I realise I live my life the same way — no two spheres bleed into each other, or if they do, they do so minimally. Family stays at home, school stays in school (what is homework?), and church stays in church, mostly confined to weekends. Whether my packing influenced my living or if it was merely an extension of the way I lived, I cannot tell.

In Ikea, you walk through showroom after showroom, marvelling at everything in it’s place, perfectly decorated bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. Many wish they could live in Ikea, but these are not rooms that are lived in. Their pristine organization doesn’t have the mess of human life strewn across the table or undone on a bed. I never could accept praise when I was younger, I would cringe inside at their exuberant words thinking ‘you don’t know a thing’, if they could only see the staff pantry. But of course, in Ikea, that’s out-of-bounds.

But of late, I’ve come to realise, that this Ikea living is unsuitable for the Christian I envision myself to be — one who is deeply connected to God, and influenced by His love, joy and hope in every way, everyday. When I invited God into my heart and life, I opened the grand doors of Ikea and proudly led him through. I let Him rearrange some stuff, maybe even shift around the showrooms, and told some people about the wonderful work this designer did. But at the end of the day, I’d announce closing time, and everyone had to get out, including God. Each day I’d open for business, and each day, I’d close again. And after so many years, I’ve found myself travelling so far in space and time, but always staying on the same spot.

Where is the growth and miracles these other Christians speak of? Where is the transformation that leads them to do things they’d never done before? Where is the voice that they say speaks to them in the stillness? I never saw or heard any of that in my preciously curated life.

So I decided to break down some walls in those showrooms. I let some people into the mess of my life, shared with them my struggles and sin. I started opening my bible more often, letting God work in areas other than those labelled church, especially in the lives of the people around me. I started to see healing after my prayers, receive words of encouragement and empowerment for others that I would never think of myself, and started to see some of my friends turn to God.

And I admit it’s still hard for me to let myself be vulnerable like that, to stop pretending I’m perfect and I’ve got things under control. And some days, I still end up closing IKEA for the day and shutting everyone out. But I’ve learned to relax about people spotting an undone bed, or a messy table. I’ve also learned that I have to discern who to be vulnerable to, to open up to the people who really care and who are also committed to pray for me and walk alongside me in this journey with God. One day, I hope to have a home that God lives in, and not just a business I run from 9–5.

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