SOUDER: Once upon a mattress – and a religion

-A A +A

Shopping for a mattress is confusing, but shopping for a religion is not about comfort.

By Chuck Souder

Sometime ago, my wife and I determined that we needed a new mattress. We determined this based on the fact that we had begun to experience aches and pains that we hadn’t noticed before, and rather than admit the obvious (that we were getting older), we found a scapegoat. Obviously, it was the bed’s fault.

I’m not sure how long a mattress is supposed to last, but apparently the lifespan for the best mattress $200 could buy at Value City is about 12½years.

Going into the process, I thought “how hard can this be?” There are only the three main brands – Serta, Sealy, and Simmons – and a handful of other lesser-known ones. I simply wanted one queen-sized mattress. I assumed we would just waltz into the store, test a couple in our price range, come home with a new mattress, sleep peacefully that night (and each night for roughly the next 12½years), and awake as refreshed as the people in the Irish Spring commercials.

Rarely have I been more mistaken. (Well, my wife might say I am actually just as mistaken about a lot of things on a pretty consistent basis, but that’s a different article.)

As we began testing out the different mattresses, never have I felt more like Goldilocks – this one is too hard, this one is too soft – all the while looking for the one that was “just right.”

Over a period of two weeks, we went to 47 different mattress stores, spoke with 47 different salespeople and reclined on approximately 47,000 mattresses.

You see, there were a dizzying number of different types of mattresses: firm, extra firm, ultra firm; plush, extra plush, ultra plush; pillow-top, Euro-top, ultra plush pillow-top, extra plush Euro-top, etc., etc., etc. And that is just what’s on the outside.

On the inside there were mattresses with 375 coils, 536 coils, 800 coils, 810 coils, 850 coils, and 924 coils. And all coils are not created equally.

There were horizontal coils and vertical coils. There were tightly wound coils, alternating coils, individual coils and connected coils. Then there were mattresses with no coils at all.

There were some made of foam, visco-elastic foam, or latex foam…well, you get the idea. And to make matters worse, from one store to the next, all the model names were different to make it harder to compare. Let me tell you – it works!

Some of the salespeople were very helpful, explaining all the different models and sharing tidbits of wise counsel like, “There are two things you shouldn’t skimp on – your mattress and your shoes. If you’re not on one – you’re on the other.” (I had on my $10 tennis shoes from K-Mart, but this appeared to go unnoticed by our salesperson.)

Given this sage advice, I did the only reasonable thing I could do: I went out and bought new shoes. But I digress.

In the end, after trying so many mattresses, it finally got to the point where they all started to seem the same.

I think some people may have a similar experience in their search for God. They notice that life brings with it some heartaches and pains and questions that are unaccounted for by their current way of thinking, so they decide to give “religion” a try. It seems like it should be easy, since there are really just three main “brands” – and a handful of other lesser-known ones.

But after going to many different “stores” and hearing from many different “salespeople,” it seems there is more to the decision than they first thought. In fact, after trying so many different varieties of ‘spirituality’, they all begin to seem the same.

But let me borrow the mattress salesperson’s advice: If there is one thing you don’t want to skimp on, it’s your relationship with God (the shoe thing is good, too). This is definitely a decision you want to get right.

When buying a new mattress, the most important question to consider is “is it comfortable?” However, when selecting a spiritual belief system, the most important question to consider is not “is it comfortable?” but “is it true?” Let me encourage you: Do your research, examine the competing truth claims and look at the logical consequences of each system.

Just as all mattresses don’t produce a restful night’s sleep, I am convinced that all roads do not lead to God. In fact, Jesus said there was only one such road – so choose wisely.

Well, we finally settled on a new mattress, and it has served us well these past few years—although I still sometimes have aches and pains. Maybe it wasn’t the old bed’s fault after all.


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org. Find other columns by Souder at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.