Have you ever been so sure about something, so confident that you made the right choice,
— only to see it blow up in your face? Maybe, just maybe, despite all that frustration, those experiences are actually blessings in disguise.
That’s what my wife and I have learned – and are still learning – after spending three years in our dream house we had to give up.
Three years ago we moved from Pittsburgh to Charlotte, and purchased the perfect house for our expanding family. We didn’t want to be delusional about our choice here, so we consulted with others, we prayed about it, and everything went together so smoothly. I obtained employment with ease and we were just in time to take advantage of the stimulus money that was available then. We took it all as a sign that the Lord was giving the green-light.
Our plan was this:
We would go into this house knowing it would be tight, but also betting that my pay would increase, making it a more comfortable situation over time. We agreed on some things we would live without for a year or two, because we loved the location, the pool amenities were incredible, and of course the house was awesome.
It was also our first house, so we were extra excited to have a place to call home.
We were so confident with this move, and felt certain the Lord was giving the nod to go ahead. However, my tune quickly changed about six months in. The mortgage I could handle, but now all these hidden costs started showing up, as well as medical debt due to two of our children requiring NICU stays at the hospital.
It all quickly became suffocating, and as obligations were missed, credit card debt went up. We became stuck in this vicious cycle that gnawed at my core.
I’ll never forget one night when I began realizing that I may not be able to make next months mortgage payment, realizing that this situation we’re in might never improve and, in fact, just get worse.
I fretted so much, and remember feeling like God had kind of abandoned me,
—questioning why He ever allowed us into this house, questioning why the mortgage lender ever agreed to give us the loan, but deep down knowing that I have to own my own decision here.
Skip forward two years, we joined a small group that was going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. While everyone else was finding ways to save money and reduce debt, we just received confirmation that we were battleship-sunk.
We didn’t even have enough money to meet all our obligations, even despite severe cut-backs we had made. It was a very frustrating time to see friends look like they were getting ahead, while we were literally sinking and indeed sunk. I again became frustrated at God, and myself, but even more determined to get out of this mess.
There was one thing in Dave’s program that shook me to the core.
Dave pointed to a verse that basically said debt makes you it’s slave. For me, I wanted to be slave to nothing except Christ. And I say that with all seriousness, much thanks to Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. I didn’t want this type of existence for my family any more. I didn’t want to be slave to debt. I couldn’t for Christ’s sake, and my families sake. I wanted to be set free.
So, using Dave Ramsey lingo, I decided to get us out of this situation with gazelle-like intensity. I consulted with a pastor, and shortly thereafter put our house on the market and downsized considerably. We went from a very nice 2800 sqft home to just a little over 1000 sqft, with four children!
I would like to have said I did it just to be able to better serve the Church, but it’s only partially true. Yes, I not only wanted out to better serve Him, but also because I flat-out needed to.
Yes, I could have maintained in that house if I really really wanted to.
God actually did bless me with a higher paying job half-way through the time we were there. But to really do this right, it would have taken me away from my family for a long time, something we were definitely not willing to do.
Friends and family were shocked, but also understood, and were a great source of encouragement. And our move has definitely been applauded as the courageous and smart thing. Now of course I get that, but I really just was responding to what the Lord pressed upon us to do, despite how hard and insane it felt, and despite how much we really didn’t want to.
And it was indeed hard to downsize. After we signed away our house, I remember immediately wishing things could just stay as they were. And there were times I unfortunately questioned God again, and became angry what He had given us was now being taken away.
It’s now been two months since we downsized,
—and I would like to report immediate financial and emotional relief, but that’s not quite true. Things are still a mess, but we are finally in a better position to do what we feel like God is calling us to do. And we feel extremely blessed by it all, in a strange sort of way.
He got is into that house and He helped us get out. He taught us where he wants our heart and focus - on Him and not on the American Dream. Our marriage experienced some turbulence through this, but we also grew deeper together. Friends have stepped up to offer incredible support.
I realize owning a home is not all it’s cracked up to be and living with less will allow us to do more for Him, and our family. God has shown us that despite downsizing we are still extremely, overwhelmingly blessed.
I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
[Photo: functoruser, Creative Commons]
Donald McAllister believes it’s not just about agreeing with Jesus, it’s doing something about it. He is a writer and host of the BibleDoing podcast, where he interviews those who are courageously engaging culture and making an impact for Christ. He lives in Waxhaw, North Carolina with his exquisite wife Nicole and four young children. You can follow him daily on Twitter or Facebook. Read his personal blog here.