Captain Comfortable and the Second Income
It’s a fair question really. And one I’ve heard from about as many people as I’ve told what we’re doing.
“Wow! What made you decide to do this!?”
Often times, in the tone of the person's voice, I can hear the question that they really want to ask:
What makes a guy with such a great life want to chuck it all and sail away into uncertainty? Let me answer that question– the one I think most people really want the answer to.
Let's start with this “great life” of mine. First off, I’ll agree 100% that I really do have a great life. I don’t think it’s a great life for the same reasons as the people asking the question, but it is indeed great. I think what people really mean when they say “great life” is “comfortable life.” And well, it is indeed that also.
I have a secure job that I love and that compensates me quite fairly. My chances of losing that job, other than by my own accord, are very slim. I get 4 weeks off a year, health insurance, and a very handsome retirement plan. Amy has a similar employment situation, and so while we are not wealthy by this nation’s standards, we are very comfortable.
We have a beautiful home and nice vehicles. We are known and respected in our community. We belong to a wonderful church that provides an outlet for us to serve people in the name of Jesus. Our children and grandchildren, whom we have great relationships with, all live within two miles of us. I don’t think life gets any more comfortable than this! We could just continue to do all these comfortable things. We could continue to build a comfortable retirement fund, and make little improvements to our comfortable home. And to a lot of people, I’m sure that sounds great, but I want something else.
Frankly, I want something better.
But I haven’t always. In fact “comfortable” is exactly what I’ve been striving for most of my life. Up until quite recently, it seemed unattainable to me. I spent the first nearly 20 years of my adult life as an alcoholic/addict. Trust me when I tell you a comfortable life is not within reach for the alcoholic or the addict. When I finally met Christ and he gave me victory over those things, I was 20 years behind. I felt like others my age were so far ahead of me in every way that I made some very poor financial decisions trying to “catch up” to everybody else.
All I wanted was to be “comfortable” – to have the same things others had and to not wonder how the bills were going to get paid every month.
Just as I had with the drugs and alcohol, I finally gave my finances over to the Lord (well, and Dave Ramsey). Slowly but surely, I started to creep out of debt, and began to think that just maybe I could be comfortable someday after all. I was really starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I met Amy. Soon there were two incomes for just one household, and before I knew it, we were debt free other than our mortgage.
That's when things got really comfortable. We moved into a more comfortable home. Started driving more comfortable vehicles. I play more comfortable guitars. I use more comfortable woodworking tools. There is never any question about whether or not the bills will get paid. We have attained the comfort I so desired and then some.
The problem is that now that we've made it here to the comfort zone, I don’t think this is where we’re supposed to be.
We headed here because that’s what people do. We never questioned why, or if it would really bring contentment, and I guess it hasn’t for me. It’s hard for me to admit that. I think of Philippians 4:11 where Paul says he has learned to be content in every single circumstance, and I want that to be me, but it’s not. If I was certain God wanted me in Monmouth, IL for the rest of my life, I think I could and would be content, but I don’t think He does. I believe that He has placed this discontentment in me, and I’ll tell you why I believe that - why I don’t think this is just a fleshly desire for lazy days and warm tropical breezes. There are two reasons actually.
First, because I think that fleshly discontentment results from wanting more, and our plan is decidedly a step in the opposite direction. We are making a giant move towards less in almost every area of our lives. I guess the only things I think we’ll have more of, are the things that God would prefer our lives to be about anyway. Things like: complete reliance on Him, freedom from the bondage of excess possessions, appreciating the stunning beauty of His creation, moments of actual peace and quiet, and meeting new people to love with the love of Christ.
Second, because this plan, or some variation of it, has been rolling around in my head for over a year, but God would not let me feel any peace about moving forward until I figured out how we would serve Him in it. It started out as just a desire for a different life, in a different place. It was a very intense desire that was constantly on my mind. I wondered how we would serve God while living that life, but didn’t have an answer. I prayed fervently to God to take the desire away from me if it was not His will for us, but it only grew stronger. I finally just decided that God would show us how to serve him as we went, so we decided to go. But as soon as we made the decision, I was instantly plagued with doubt. I couldn’t sleep that night.
Something was very wrong.
I’m not sure what exactly it was that my pastor said on the following Sunday morning, but something in his message triggered the vision that I now have for serving God in this new adventure. I couldn’t wait for church to be over so I could share it with Amy. This was it! This was the missing ingredient! The reason it hadn’t felt right! When I told her, she too felt so much better about the whole endeavor. Now we could really move forward knowing that God was in it and God was for it. I haven’t felt a twinge of doubt since. A twinge of fear maybe, but not doubt. And I have no intention of letting fear dictate our course.
I’ve reached the age where I’ve begun to think about the end of my life.
Yes, I know, I can hear you 60 or 70-somethings screaming that I’m just a pup, but as each year passes by faster than the last, I know that in the blink of an eye, I’ll be nearing that glorious day when I will go home to Jesus. When I feel that day drawing near, I’m pretty confident that I’m not going to look back on my life and wish I had invested more time and energy trying to be comfortable. I feel pretty certain that my greatest regrets will not be the things that I did, but those that I let fear prevent me from doing. When the time comes, I don’t think any of us will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant! Your comfort was an inspiration to the Kingdom!”
So back to the original question:
What makes a guy with such a great life want to chuck it all? Well, I suppose one answer is that I don’t see this as chucking it all. I’ll be giving up some things. There’s no denying that. But I'm not giving up any of the things that make my life great. My life is great because I am a sinner forgiven. Because I am clean and sober. Because even though I swear too much and lose my temper too often, God loves me. Because I have an incredible marriage to a wonderful wife. Because I have awesome family and friends that love me and pray for me. Because I have good health. Because I have the gift of being able to make music.
And I’m not leaving any of that behind. I am not chucking anything of any real importance. Nothing is being left behind that can’t be easily replaced. There are some dear people that will not be as close in proximity, and that is certainly the hardest part, but they will remain just as close as ever in our hearts, and the relationships we have with them will continue no matter where we are.
But Russ, where has your wife been in this process?
I think it's best that you hear that directly from her, so I've asked her to write a post about her thought process leading up to the final decision to go. You can look for that later in the week. But I will share a little of my perspective on it here.
There were different versions of this plan floating around in my head for at least a few months before I ever verbalized it in any way to Amy. When I finally did, it was probably in such a nonchalant manner that she didn't think much of it. Eventually I started talking more seriously about it: "I'm really thinking this might be a good idea. What do think about?"
Her predictable response the first few times was: "I'm your wife. I'll go where you go." To which I responded: "I appreciate your willingness to follow me, but I'm going to need a little more input on a decision of this magnitude. We're not choosing a restaurant here. I don't want to drag you someplace where you're not going to be happy." From there her response became: "You are what makes me happy, as long as I'm with you, I'm good." To which I continued trying to get at her more specific thoughts.
In the end, she admitted that while she was willing to try it, she simply did not know whether to think she would do well in the situation I was proposing or not.
There was a part of it that was very exciting to her, but an equal part that was absolutely terrifying!
We both prayed about it a lot. I gave her quite a bit of time and lot's of opportunities to say, "No Russ, I just don't think I can do it." We talked it over dozens of times. I know that she knew I was getting more and more serious about it with each passing week. Finally I just asked her if she was ready to move forward and she said: Let's do it.
I know my wife well enough to know that at least part of her agreeing to go was her living out Ephesians 5:22-24, and submitting to her husband. But in my heart, I hope it's more her trust in me than her submission to me that makes her willing.
Deep down, I truly believe that she will take to this new lifestyle completely. I believe it will be good for our marriage, and good for our individual walks with Jesus. I believe that God will get more glory from our lives in this way than if we were to stay the course we're on. If I didn't believe that, we wouldn't be going.
I've given Amy the right to say the word at any time once we're out there, and we'll sail back to shore and hang it up. I give her that knowing that she's a strong woman and not a quitter. That she will give it a real try and not give up in the first few months just because it's not easy.
So once more: What makes a guy with such a great life want to chuck it all and sail away?
In a nutshell: God. God does. He instills a desire. He gives us a mission. He plants a vision. We’re going to water it together and pray that it grows.
What else would we do?