On the day that Adam and I got married, we fell into the same routine as everyone else. We said, I do to each other, and then we started saying “I Do” to everything else. I don’t know if it’s because we had been alone so long that we wanted to give each other everything, or whether or not it was just what everyone else seemed to be doing. Perhaps since we were newlyweds at nearly 40, we felt like we had a lot of catching up to do.
With one daughter and one on the way, we exploded with material goods. We left our two bedroom condo and found a huge house in the best neighborhood. We went to Living Spaces and bought all brand new furniture to fill up this house. We had so many empty cupboards in this huge kitchen, that a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond came next. We spent the first year and a half collecting our stuff so that we could keep up with the Jones. Adam remembers a friend of his telling him that the president of a company deserves a house like that.
We had the two beautiful cars in the three car garage. We spent thousands of dollars on expensive summer trips, and dropped a small fortune our first Christmas on friends and family. We had so much stuff that we filled up that 3000 square foot home in the blink of an eye, and then stood there wondering where it had all come from. We were living self-serving lives of personal gratification. How two people so active in ministry could have gotten so far off track was a mystery I am still striving to understand.
This summer, Adam and I moved to the desert and a new church. I will confess that we hadn’t been going to church since our baby was born, and it was refreshing to be back in community and fellowship. As we settled back into the rhythm of life lived God’s way, we started to notice how far from His Will we had drifted. We looked at all the stuff we had collected in our three years of marriage and were convicted of our materialism. We both realized, that we weren’t living life God’s way at all. We had become seduced by the desires of the world.
Further, we realized that it didn’t make us any happier. During my periods of greatest financial struggle, I was just as happy as I was living in that huge overpriced dream house. Sure, it was nice, but God has something better in mind. He has a higher standard of living.
God’s idea of a higher standard of living has nothing to do with real estate, material goods, or vacations. It has very little to do with what’s under the Christmas tree each holiday season or what’s on the hangers in your closet. If you look into God’s Word you find people that have found happiness with very little. If you look at Christians around the world, you find people that are blessed with almost nothing. These people are happy and blessed because they are living according to God’s Higher Standard of Living.
Adam and I looked back over our own lives and we reflected on all the times in our lives that we were truly happy, and it was because we felt loved. We felt loved by our savior, Christ Jesus. We felt loved by our families in moments together. We felt loved by each other in moments of quiet stillness. We discovered that our relationship was best when we had the least. We found that our greatest happiness came from giving rather than owning. After that, the next steps were easy. We want God’s Higher Standard of Living for us and for our children.
So we started to implement this plan, and have started what we call “Downsizing,” even though it feels like we are moving up. We have been going through all of our stuff, and we have been trucking loads of books, clothes, and furniture to the local charitable thrift stores. We have been selling thousands of dollars of hobbies and collectibles on eBay and Amazon. We have also contacted our landlord and have asked if he would be willing to allow us out of our lease so we can leave our beautiful home with the pool in the backyard for something more modest. We have decided that instead of taking our children to visit Mickey and Donald, we will take them to visit Grandma and Grandpa. As cool as a week at a theme park might seem, a week with Grandma is always better.
Now that’s the immediate change, but it goes further than that. We don’t just want to let go of material goods, we want a different lifestyle. We also came up with a strict budget that doesn’t include any of the things that we are supposed to want, like trips to the movies or eating out. Instead we are focusing more on quality dinners sitting together as a family, and enjoying the movies we already own at home on the couch. Trust me, the popcorn will be a lot cheaper.
We have also included our children. We decided that we want them to not grow up separated by stuff, like technology. When we were kids our only escape was our imagination, and the only person that “liked” what we were up to was our siblings. We recognize that despite the difference in age, we want our girls to grow up depending on each other. We want them to get on each other’s nerves and have private stories that only they get. We realize that the best times that they will have together are the ones that we as their parents aren’t involved in. The late night whispers and secret adventures that only they know about. So, we’ve also decide that despite the size of our next house, our girls will be sharing a room. More than a room they will be sharing a childhood.
Adam has cut down on his work schedule and is devoting time to continuing his higher education in seminary, even if that means we have to live on less. We hope that when he finishes his Masters of Divinity that he can leave this line of work behind and move into full-time ministry. We want to be ready to go wherever we are called to go, so that we can both serve in full-time ministry.
But there’s even more than that. We want to free up our budget and our time, so that we can serve and give more. We want to create a life of financial margin, where we give on more than we live on. We don’t want to give just ten percent, we want room to give as much as we can. We want to be able to provide scholarships for kids, backpacks of school supplies, food for food banks, and so much more. We want to live on the minimum so that we can give at the maximum.
We want to live lives of testimony, where we are visibly Christians and not just because we attend church. We want to serve first, and live for ourselves second. We want to model what a life of faith looks like for our children. We want to leave this world with no material goods to will to our children but an inheritance of faith that can never be taken from them. We want to shine like the light of Christ is living inside of us.
This isn’t about us or who we are. We aren’t judging you are calling you out for how you live. We don’t think that we are better than anyone, because we are so far from that. We just recognized that we were doing life wrong, and that we could do better. I am not writing this to impress you, but to impress upon you that God has something better in mind for us.
God wants a life that is lived on purpose, intentionally with a greater goal. He calls us to live with more than just this life in mind. This isn’t about us, it’s all about Him. If we manage to reach this Higher Standard of Living, you’ll know and not because it’s written in some blog somewhere, but because you’ll see it in every aspect of who we are and who our children become.