I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions this year but I definitely jumped into this new decade with a challenge to choose what matters most to our family.
My husband and I came incredibly close to buying our dream house, and then, at the last hour, with all our number-crunching and life-planning efforts exhausted, we gave it up. With tears in my eyes, we told our friend, the owner of the most charming old house in our town, that we had to back out of this amazing opportunity. It was with heavy hearts, yet sound minds, that we had to choose between the dream house and the life we have always felt called to.
Despite the years of living overseas as missionaries, and many financial, family and comfort sacrifices, we had never, before this house, felt so pulled in two directions, so torn between something we want and the way we want to live. Moving to the Philippines with two kids under 2 wasn’t actually a hard decision; we were excited and more than willing to start the adventure. We knew the sacrifices we were making but we never hesitated.
We thought this dream house would still fit into our dream life, but once we realized some unfortunate added costs, the numbers just didn’t add up. We weren’t willing to give up valuable volunteer work for paid work, nor were we willing to sacrifice days at home with my toddler, after-school pick-ups and playtime for daycare, and more work days.
A friend asked me, after I shared all about our house ordeal, if we had prayed about this decision and if God had showed us an answer. I told her, yes, we had prayed about it, but I also shared that we didn’t wait for a clear answer from God; we didn’t offer him a fleece or wait on a sign.
There have been times when special moments helped us to make decisions, when paths coincided so well that it felt God was explicitly leading us in a specific direction. Like the time, a day after our move home from the Philippines, when my husband ran into the former pastor of the church he was candidating at. It felt divine that he happened to drive by the church manse at the exact hour the former pastor was moving out and driving to the Prairies. Meeting the former pastor, praying together, and getting an unexpected tour of the house as the couple packed their final belongings, was so special. It was a gift from God and gave us extra clarity in our decision.
But this time, throughout our decision process, in many ways we felt led to buying the house. Yet when we realized the sacrifices we’d have to make in order to live on this beautiful 0.2-hectare lot, we knew it wasn’t the path we should choose. We knew what matters to us, and we knew that these values we carry, coming from a lifetime of commitment to Jesus, would always come first.
My husband and I stumbled into this new decade with a reminder of what matters to us, a reminder to choose a life of service to others, simplicity and commitment to family. I feel as if we inadvertently were asked to decide our path for the next decade. Welcome to 2020, now make a decision on what matters most!
I didn’t feel like I needed to make resolutions this year, but I know I have to live out the one big decision that led us into the new decade. I choose to serve God by serving others—my family, the church, those in need—and our life path will always be guided in the direction of this calling.
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Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.