The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need. Psalm 23:1
I know that not every person who calls himself a minimalist also identifies himself as Christian. I don’t believe that in order to be a Christian a person must also be a minimalist. I want to be very clear about those two things before we go further today. Throughout the month I have shared mostly how-to’s and observations about minimalism that could be applied to most people in most life situations. Today, I am sharing the more personal story of how my faith and minimalism are bound together.
As I mentioned earlier this month, we came to Georgia from Florida unexpectedly. This move is what finally spurred us down the road to minimalism. But even before that, we made two decisions that would forever change the way we handled money and possessions. In the spring of 1998, I became pregnant with my second child. My oldest child was two months old. We joke now that we prayed for God to make it possible for me to stay home one day, but we didn’t enunciate and God thought we said MONday. At the time I was a high school teacher. We crunched the numbers a thousand ways, but there was no way to arrange them that made returning to work after the birth of our second child a wise financial option. Honestly, I never wanted to return to work after our first child was born, so I was ecstatic that the math only proved what I already knew: it was time to come home. Our family of four soon grew to a family of five living on one income. We lived more simply than many we knew, but we still hung on to the American ideal, and lived well beyond our means. Leaving the workforce was a step, but a tiny one, and we still had far to go.
About three years after the birth of our youngest daughter, my Hunky made the decision to leave his position as head athletic trainer at the same high school I left three years earlier. That year we entered ministry for better and for worse. We were part of a very mission minded congregation, which slowly began to change our thinking. Over our six years there, we began to look at the world and our place in it quite differently. However we still tried to reconcile what we knew of a world in need with what we wanted from the American Dream. We overextended in buying our first home while attempting to live generously in other ways. I certainly don’t think it is wrong to own a home, but I know for us, it was not one of our wisest choices. Yet, I believe it was all part of God’s plan to teach us what lifestyle He intended for us. I do not regret the time we spent in that house, in fact I have many wonderful memories of our time there and even today would love to live in a smaller space as that house was.
When it was time for us to leave Florida, the decision was sudden and shocking. We had not prepared for a drastic life change nor had we expected to leave the state. Our little house which we bought at the very top of the real estate bubble was next to impossible to sell from the market basement, add some catastrophic flooding to the area three months prior, and we were stuck. The house foreclosed and the financial consequences were beyond our ability to absorb. From a cultural standpoint, we were ruined. From God’s viewpoint, we were finally ready to get started. When you’re standing in the rubble of a life, about the only thing you can do is reevaluate everything. You know there is going to be rebuilding, but it’s time to decide if the same blueprint is what you want any more. For us, it wasn’t, and it still isn’t. As we packed…and packed….and packed….and packed our possessions in preparation to move, I began to question the contents of every box. As we considered places to live from the viewpoint of everything being temporary, we found our needs had drastically changed. The family that came to Georgia four years ago, bears little resemblance to the family that resides here today. Every thing we thought we wanted, every marker of success, every physical possession we have retained has been through a refining fire. We have new eyes and new hearts to go with our new lives.
We lost everything, but it wasn’t until we willingly let it go that we were truly free.
We have gone from financial devastation to being more fiscally stable than we have ever been.
We no longer view possessions with permanence but place our priorities in eternal pursuits.
We’re living more prosperously with less than when we let culture define prosperity for us.
The road to get here is one I would never have embarked on voluntarily, but I am grateful to have been set on it all the same.