There were multiple reasons why we decided to uproot our family and move to Guatemala. “Uproot” may seem like kind of a harsh word, I mean picture grabbing a plant by the stem and pulling it up out of the ground. We all know that those roots that come out of the ground are where the plant gets its nourishment and without the roots being in contact with the ground, the plant will die.
That is actually a pretty good picture of what we did to our family. When I look back on it, it was physically and psychologically hard on all of us. Our roots ran deep in Indiana. We had built a house on the family farm that I grew up on and that my dad grew up on before me. My parents lived at the other end of a trail that ran through our woods. My kids had, what now seems like an unlimited amount of safe space to play outside. My wife’s parents lived 20 minutes away. We were actively involved in our church. We spent time with friends we had known virtually our whole life. Our kids had friends they had known their whole life. Our life was very comfortable. We pulled them out of that environment and we didn’t really know what the environment was like where we were transplanting them. What we did know, though, was that God was telling us to do it and we had to obey. Following God will probably not be easy, it wasn’t for us, but easy rarely = best.
Our why starts with the way that God was working on my heart in the years before we moved. As I read the Bible and as I read other books, I began to realize that my life, and the life that I was leading our family in, lined up pretty well with the current view of how our culture defines a Christian life, but it didn’t really line up with the Biblical definition of a Christian life. (Please, please, please, please, don’t take offense at this. This is not a condemnation of your life. This is not a condemnation of the United States or capitalism. This is not me, saying that what we are doing would be the right path for you, or that the path you are on is wrong. That is entirely between you and God, just as this was entirely between us and God. You have to have those conversations with God. I would never presume to have them for you. This is in no way a judgement on you or your church or my church. This is just my why.)
So, what is a Biblical definition of a “Christian” life? Of course, the Bible is where we get that definition. If I had to pick one passage, I think a passage that can define our Christian life would be Matthew 22:35-40 “Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Love God. Don’t just say you love Him, but love “him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with al your mind.” When that happens, our lives will show it because it is all encompassing. When we love God, we will love what God loves, we will want what God wants. Our main job as Christians is to bring glory to God. That happens when our lives show Godliness through things like grace, mercy, justice… Do you love God with all your heart, mind, and soul?
Love your neighbor. If that ended there, it would be kind of easy. The problem is, though, that verse doesn’t say to just love your neighbor, but it says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I love myself a lot. I want to be safe, I want to be comfortable, I want to be successful, I want to be healthy. I don’t have a really hard time extending those feelings to my wife and kids. I want the same things for them. What about my neighbor? Do I want the same things for him or her? How do we define who our neighbor is? Is it only the person who lives directly next to me, or is some little kid or some mom or dad in a village in Guatemala my neighbor (they are my actual neighbors now)? Do I hunger for their safety, comfort, success and health the same way I hunger for that of me and my family? These are all questions we had to answer. These are questions we should all answer, no matter where we live.
Other books and people, have helped me process and put into practice what I read in the Bible and were instrumental in shaping our why. Two of my favorite books are “Desiring God” by John Piper, and “Radical” by David Platt. My copy of Desiring God was given to me by my in-laws and it has helped me put into perspective and practice the idea of loving God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind. I highly recommend it. As far as Radical, I think I was introduced to that book by my good friend Mark Kelly. I was going through that book with a group of 5-6 guys and while we were reading it, one of them said, (this is not an exact quote) “We are all reading this book, and talking about it, but who is really going to do it?” It was like somebody hit me between the eyes with a baseball bat. The things that David Platt was talking about were things that were in the Bible. He wasn’t making them up, he was helping us focus. If I wasn’t willing to make the changes to bring my life more in line with what the Bible says, then my Christianity was fake. My example was leading my family astray. Instead of moving my family toward a life of loving God and loving their neighbor, I wasn’t moving them anywhere. Instead of leading them toward real security, happiness and success, I was leading them to work for their security, happiness, and success from material things. I was teaching them to succeed in what doesn’t really matter and to fail in what really does matter. That Bible study in Chris and Kelee’s living room was a turning point for me. The guy who made the comment probably doesn’t even know what he did, but God used him to bring about a change in my life. Aside from that guy, there were other people who were a positive influence. There were people who we watched leave comfort, roots, and security to follow God. Their example, prodded us. (People are always watching, believers and unbelievers.)
So, that’s our why. In the end, it came down to God speaking to Jodi and I through His word, through other books, through other people. When we really listened, there was no other choice for us. We will always miss that familiar ground our roots were in back in Indiana, but God has planted us here in Guatemala and it is from this ground God is nourishing us for now.
Now, I have just one question for you. Why are you where you are doing what you are doing? You should have a why.
Below are a few of my favorite quotes some from of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read “The Holy Bible”, “Desiring God”, “Radical”, and “Crazy Love”, I highly recommend them.
Paul (the apostle) Ephesians 3:20-21: Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.
CS Lewis (by way of John Piper): “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
David Platt: “We don’t have time to play games with our lives, and we don’t have time to play games in the church. We do not have time to waste our lives on a nice, comfortable, Christian spin on the American dream.”
Francis Chan: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”