Strange for a Purpose

09/18/14

My wife Jen and I recently took a trip to Seattle to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Our home is in the suburban Midwest, so we got a kick out of sampling city life. In the suburbs, most people are trying to “fit in,” while in the city it seems most people are trying to stand out. People do some pretty strange things to stand out—and some are just plain out of their minds! 

 
It got me thinking about Paul’s reference to being “out of our mind” for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:13. Does following Christ mean there are ways I should appear out of my mind to the world? I don’t know about you, but this is not my instinct. However, in one area my wife and I are actually strange on purpose—or more accurately, for a purpose.
 
When Jen and I began dating, I spent three weeks in Africa visiting a few missionaries from my church and listening to see where God was calling me. I went with anticipation that a great plan for my life might unfold, but returned feeling disappointment that I hadn’t seen a direct role to play.  
 
However, as I processed the trip, three things seemed clear to me. First, there were a lot of children who lacked essentials like clean water, food, families, opportunity, and hope. Second, there were great organizations like COTN eager to meet these physical needs while also giving people the hope that only Jesus offers. Third, simply by having an average American income, I could do a lot to resource the effort.
 
 
I never appreciated how financially leveraged I was by virtue of where I was born. Please don’t hear me saying privileged, or lucky, or blessed—I simply mean leveraged. The Africans I met were blessed in many ways that I wasn’t. But in one area of life—finances—I was given a grace that I began seeing more and more as a responsibility. Before I went to Africa I saw myself as an average person with average income, which was true. If I thought about how God had equipped me for service in His kingdom, finances would never have entered my mind.
 
But as I processed what I had seen in Africa, I realized how wrong I was about my “average” income. The average American home earns around $230 a day. The average home in the African countries I visited earns about $1.50 a day. A shocking thought occurred to me: In one hour, the average American can earn the same money that my new African friends would have to work 153 hours to earn. Think about that for a second.
 
 
Once the injustice of that thought sank in, I realized I had an opportunity—if not an obligation—to live differently here in the land of plenty. I began sponsoring a child through COTN while I contemplated a grander way to respond to what God had shown me.
 
In God’s perfect way, He had been preparing Jen with similar perspectives. As we began our marriage, we made an intentional choice to be "strange" with our income. We developed a below-average budget for ourselves and committed to living on it. We also committed that we wouldn't spend anything God might provide beyond our expected income. Our plan was to save half of the extra, if there was any, and give the other half to God's kingdom.
 
At that time, I had begun a new business and our income was completely unknown, so making a budget was a shot in the dark. In the first few years, we just barely made our budget. But then the business grew and God began testing our nerve. Would we really stick to the plan? I’ll be honest that there have been several times when I needed Jen’s resolve to keep our plan on track. I’ve said to myself more than once, “You are crazy! What if you need that money? Do you realize how strange this is?”
 
But we stuck to our plan and along the way something truly strange began to happen. We expected to experience the joy of helping others, and God exceeded our expectations. What we got that we did not expect was freedom from wanting more for ourselves. Financial freedom means something totally different to us now, and having more income is not necessary to attain it.
 
Ten years later we are still living on our “average” budget. But our life feels anything but average. God is using our life to meet the needs of others in a way that any average American could do. At the same time, we are being freed from the grip of materialism, we are part of something bigger than our own little kingdom, we are being pulled into meaningful relationships with other believers, and we are getting a taste of what life in Christ can look like. God’s strange medicine has a way of healing others and healing us, all at the same time.
 
 
I hope you don’t think we’ve done something special. If you met us you’d realize how ordinary we are. If you are feeling average and don’t see how God could use your life for anything special, think again. An opportunity to change the world for a few people—or maybe for a whole community—could well be within your reach.
 
Are you inspired to change the world for a child? Choose a child to sponsor today.