In sharing this part of our story we don’t want to make our experience the standard for everyone. God leads each of us differently and this is how God led us.
It had been a full spring. We had just put in 110 feet of raspberries, and were scrambling to keep up with our large lawn and garden. Plans were afoot to build a dream playhouse for the kids, and we had a large piece of outdoor power equipment on the docket to purchase. Our 10th anniversary was coming up, and we had a week-long Maui getaway booked and planned out to a tee (like down to where we were going to eat). But God had other plans, and when He started to pull back the curtain that weekend in July, we began to re-evaluate the trajectory of our lives.
We essentially live in the country-living capital of the nation. We have a large garden. We planted 600 strawberry plants in our backyard last year. We have been known to can almost 1000 pounds of apples, and two years ago our potato crop surprised us with double the yield we were expecting, leaving us with 1500 pounds of potatoes to deal with. Country living and providing for your own family is important. But it’s not life’s only goal. We realized how easy it can be for this type of life to turn into a subtle form of prosperity gospel. It’s too easy to live in isolated splendor preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming without a thought of the needs beyond our own walls. Yes, our own families are our greatest responsibility. And they should never be neglected. But they are not our only responsibility. And in treating our families as our only responsibility, we miss out on giving our children the valuable lesson of fellowship with Christ in service for others.
As we began to study more about foreign missions, quotes like these made us think hard:
“What are you doing, my Christian brothers and sisters? ….If you have confined your efforts mostly to those who are of the same faith as yourself, what about seeking those who are lost? If the curtain could be rolled back, you would see souls perishing in their sins, and the church idle, indolent, unsympathetic, absorbed in selfish interests, and caring not whether souls are saved or lost, so long as they themselves can have an easy time, and be secure in the hope of salvation. But no one will ever enter heaven who is not a laborer together with God.”The Review and Herald, February 12, 1895
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”, is Christ’s command to His followers…In view of this command, can we educate our sons and daughters for a life of respectable conventionality, a life professedly Christian, but lacking His self-sacrifice, a life on which the verdict of Him who is truth must be, “I know you not”?Education, page 264
We also realized that the fact that we live in an expensive area had affected what we thought was normal. The weekend we spent with our friends discussing the needs in Thailand gave us a mental jolt as we contrasted the unconcerned way in which we were living our lives against the needs in the 10/40 window. We often define our life in reference to those around us, and because we live in an expensive area of the country, we compare ourselves to fairly wealthy people. This in turn, over time, led imperceptibly to a shift in our standard of living. What we never would have purchased or done in the past over time became normal. As the old Yiddish proverb goes, “To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.” And we had been living in expensive horseradish.
In fact, just that week we had been discussing purchasing a large piece of outdoor equipment, and one night we finally made the decision to purchase it. It was getting late, so we decided to do it after we got up. The next morning when we went to buy it, it was sold out. In hindsight we see God’s providence in preventing us from making that purchase.
We began to think about some of the spending choices we had made over the last few months and years. One that we began praying over particularly was our trip to Maui. Investing in our marriage is a high priority for us, but we questioned if it was right to shell out multiple thousands on that trip when we could have an enjoyable time elsewhere at a fraction of the cost. Although we had everything booked and paid for, it was far enough out that we still had time to cancel our room, car rental, and our snorkel tour. But the airfare we had booked was a non-refundable fare booked through a third-party booking agency. We decided to pray and leave it up to God. It would be enough of a miracle to get our airfare refunded that we decided we would take that as a sign that we were not to go. Otherwise, we would continue with our plans.
We spent time on the phone with multiple agents, all with the same response: ours were bottom-of-the-barrel, non-refundable fares. Finally an agent told us that if the departure time changed by two hours or more off our original booking time, it would be possible to refund us 100%. At that point it had changed–but by an hour and fifty minutes. We thought it was fairly unlikely for it to change again. So that’s where we left it for several weeks, and just continued to pray that God would show us His will.
One morning several weeks later, Matthew happened to check our booking. Our flight times had changed ten minutes–exactly two hours later than our originally booked time. He called the booking agency and yet again was told that the fare could not be refunded. Then the agent noticed a note on our account. It had been made by the previous agent that Matthew had talked to, stating that if the flight time changed by two hours or more, we could receive a refund. And sure enough, a week later, the money was back in our bank account. Every penny of our fully-booked trip had been refunded.
We still had an amazing tenth anniversary. God knew just what we needed–time away at a quieter place and slower pace to be able to talk and pray over our future, and we were able to spend a relaxing week just enjoying being together.
And the amazing part? The amount that we spent for our anniversary plus what we ended up spending on our tickets to Thailand is almost exactly what we saved on our canceled Maui trip.
The issue is not the money; the issue is living life for self. It’s easy to live a respectable, conventional, selfish life. It’s easy to look to those around us to guide our standards, our expectations of “normal.” But we must look to Jesus, to His life of sacrifice, and to His work to use the blessings He entrusts to us.
“There are only two places in the universe where we can place our treasures,—in God’s storehouse or in Satan’s; and all that is not devoted to God’s service is counted on Satan’s side, and goes to strengthen his cause. The Lord designs that the means entrusted to us shall be used in building up His kingdom. His goods are entrusted to His stewards that they may be carefully traded upon, and bring back a revenue to Him in the saving of souls. These souls in their turn will become stewards of trust, cooperating with Christ to further the interests of God’s cause.”Counsels on Stewardship, page 35
In August Matthew shared a message at our church on the cares of this life with more of what God has been teaching us in this area.