Giving Up House Hunters for Lent

I haven\’t started shaking yet. I\’ve not begun to whine (or, at least, not too much). But hey, it\’s only been two days. The worst is yet to come. Giving up HGTV for Lent will not be easy.

I know that most people, when they observe Lent at all, make more impressive-sounding sacrifices. They give up alcohol or fast food or some horribly bad habit. I was once in a play where one of the main characters gave up electricity.

I might be the only person who\’s going on an HGTV fast during this holy season–though it seems like, according to a Christianity Today story, almost everyone on Twitter is giving up something. Many  are giving up Twitter–the No. 1 ironic sacrifice being made by the world\’s tweeting masses. (At least the Twitterverse will immediately know if there\’s any backsliding.) Chocolate was No. 2 (a particularly cruel sacrifice, considering Girl Scouts are hocking cookies even as I type), followed by swearing, alcohol and soda.

At No. 11? Giving up Lent.

Since I don\’t swear and just gave up regular Mountain Dew earlier this year, I decided to give up something that is truly a sacrifice: Thinking about houses.

This is not a problem most folks have, I don\’t think. But a couple of years ago, my wife, Wendy, and I stumbled across this show called House Hunters, wherein people–get this–hunt for houses. They\’re looking to move, see, and the show gives them essentially three houses in their price range from which to pick. For thirty minutes, they ogle granite countertops and whine about back yards and occasionally throw small fits over the color of the bedroom walls. And then they pick a house and live in it, presumably, happily ever after.

This may not sound like an extreme vice, perhaps. But here\’s the thing: Wendy and I got sucked into the HGTV vortex, and rarely does our dial move off the network these days. We watch The Property Brothers. We watch All-American Handyman. We watch every sort of House Hunters show HGTV decides to put on: House Hunters International. House Hunters on Vacation. Island Hunters. If HGTV execs decided to unveil a House Hunters: Unfinished Basement edition, Wendy and I would be on our couch watching the thing, chatting with one another about the house\’s unfinished concrete walls.

And here\’s the thing: I think all that couch-bound house-hunting we\’ve done has made us want to sell our house–a house that, for 13 years, has served us pretty well. We think, \”Oh, wouldn\’t it be nice to have a back yard like we saw on House Hunters?\” Or \”You know what our house could use? An indoor pool, like the one Mandy and Bob looked at when House Hunters went to Reno.\”

Now, this isn\’t to say we won\’t or shouldn\’t get another house eventually. Maybe we should. But that\’s not really the issue: For me, these HGTV shows do something a bit insidious. They make me dissatisfied with a living arrangement that\’s worked pretty well for more than a decade. They make me want more space or higher ceilings or shinier countertops–none of which I need or would use or, in some cases, even want. Or I wouldn\’t have wanted it had I not seen House Hunters.

And suddenly, I\’m thrown into a position of telegenic envy. I can\’t fully appreciate all the wonderful gifts that God has given me because I want something else.

For me, giving up something for Lent is about giving something–whatever it might be–that interferes with our relationship with God. It doesn\’t have to be inherently bad stuff. It\’s just stuff that gets in our way. And in our consumeristic culture, very often that stuff is, literally, stuff. In my case it\’s tile floors or ocean views. For other people, it might be a new dress or new car or the very latest video game.

So for the next six weeks or so, I\’m giving up HGTV. I\’ll have to watch something else at night: A basketball game, maybe, or a cheesy Syfy movie. Or maybe we\’ll check in with Ancient Aliens on The History Channel. That\’s always good for a laugh. But House Hunters will have to make do without us for a while.

Hey, I wonder what\’s on the Do-It Yourself network?

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