Living in the richest country in the world I find it hard to utter the words “I am poor or don’t have much”. Those words used to roll off my tongue growing up in Montana. Growing up was spent living in a trailer, hand-me-downs, Kmart Specials and Goodwill clothes, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and a lot of time we had no health insurance. I was ashamed of what I came from and being looked down upon by the community only it made it worse.
My parents owned 28 acres of land and while we weren’t a sprawling ranch it was enough to keep us busy year round. My responsibilities growing up included feeding & watering the animals, cleaning out the barn, bucking hay bales, mowing a ½ acre of grass as well as cleaning the house and making meals. While there was time to play, there was a very clear expectation to take care of our chores first before we did anything else. It only took a couple of times of not doing it to learn it was better I did it than getting in trouble.
Living here in Portland I miss those responsibilities I had as a kid. My kids main responsibilities is keeping their rooms clean, doing their homework and a couple other chores around the house. They think they have it rough and don’t want to do what we ask of them. Looking at my life growing up compared to what we have now is so vastly different. My kids have yet to fully understand what it is to have to get up and work hard.
Looking at my life as an adult, I am incredibly thankful. God has blessed me with a large home, 3 vehicles, a large family, friends, church, work and a state I love living in. I live in a city that is wealthy with resources available to folks if you want to take advantage of them. I don’t consider myself poor or disadvantaged. Even in times where I say I don’t have any money left, in all honesty I still have money available. I know where my food is coming for every meal and I have shoes and clothes to choose from. I do not consider myself poor, I am wealthy in many ways.
My wife and I chose to have a large family. We chose to have 4 children, and after having them we chose to have 2 international college age exchange students to come and live with us. We also chose to adopt 2 more children. When purchasing our first home we bought a larger house so we could continue with all of this. We made our children share rooms instead of giving them their own so our exchange students could have rooms to use. In doing all of this – family, friends and folks from church and strangers have felt it necessary to tell us how wrong it was we were doing this. We were crazy, ridiculous, thinking only of ourselves, even polluting the planted by adding more life to it. We’ve had people just look at us like we are crazy or be at a loss for words, even telling us it takes “special people” to do this.
Why do we do this? Are we rich by America’s standards, probably not, we’ve lived on one income most of the time and my job in social work isn’t a place where people go to get rich. We do this because God has blessed us. We have more than we could ever need. We are not hurting for anything, we have an abundance. Life isn’t easy in terms of raising a large family and all the extra we added in. We wanted and chose the life we have. It takes work to make it all flow, establishing boundaries, taking time out and getting away, refreshing and recharging. Communication and scheduling are key to our survival. We looked at all that God has given and realized we still had room to do more. We are making sacrifices to impact this world. We are giving up things in our life so that others can be blessed. Does this make us special or deserving of some award or trophy? Does this mean I am bragging and trying to make myself seem better than others. Absolutely not, that is the last thing I want.
What is has done is to challenge me on just how much am I really willing to sacrifice in this life. I know that Jesus chose to sacrifice his life for others, that was his whole purpose. What more I am I willing to sacrifice and give up so that others can benefit. I’ve told my wife and countless others that 6 kids was my limit. I am willing to continue having exchange students live with us, but I want to be done parenting at some point. This past weekend I was at a conference listening to Coach Tony Dungy speak along with Donald Miller and Todd Scott. They were talking about The Mentoring Project and the 1000 kids in our city who need men involved in their lives. A statement made during the conference was “our life is about serving others” . That really resonated with me. As someone who grew up being incredibly selfish and wanting my way all the time, God has given me new lenses for viewing life. Today those lenses are about serving others. I still have moments of selfishness, but when I stop and think about it, really everything I have, comes from God and I am only using it to help others. None of the “things/stuff” I have will be going with me when I pass from this life. Even when my kids are grown and gone, there will still be kids needing good parents, there will still be kids who need love, attention, affection and that someone is there for them. Am I willing to sacrifice for the rest of my life so these kids can be impacted and changed for good?
I have more to think about in regards to sacrifice. I know that my life is going to be lived giving up of my own selfish needs for the needs of others. How much do we truly sacrifice living in America? To what extent are we willing to give up things so we can help others out? These questions have been running through my mind as of late and I think I have the answer, do you?