Unconventional Decision Making
I think I’m going to buy a car.
I’m sure thousands of cars are sold everyday so this isn’t mind-blowing. But I’ve driven a van for the last nine years and I have three children. Among families like ours a mini-van is par for the course. Room to haul everyone and all their junk around; space to pick up friends and family; leg room to stretch out a little (although as much as everyone complains about sibling interaction, you wouldn’t know it). But I’m going to try a car, because I’m convinced we don’t need all this room and the smaller payments will have a big impact on our tight budget. I’m trying to downsize some parts of my life.
I tried to find other families of five who drive a car, but the list is short. My husband has a crew cab truck we often drive for the five of us – it’s rare we all go anywhere together anyway considering how our schedules are – so it’s not like this will be our only mode of transportation.
Basically I decided the kids can sit closer together because it means it’s easier to pay for all the things they love like dance and volleyball and soccer. So they can sacrifice a little too.
Decisions like this go against the grain of what’s typical in the my peer group. There are a lot of really good reasons to own a van, especially when you live out in the middle of nowhere. But I’m noticing I have a habit of wandering off from the group.
I’m as insecure as the next person and my life decisions haven’t helped. Over and over again I’ve been out of step. Too conservative for the liberals, too liberal for the conservatives. Asked too many questions, spoke too loud, married young.
All my friends were teachers, but I decided to quit. Stay-at-homes mom were making stunning cakes for their kid’s birthday parties, while mine could be found in the best of Pinterest Fails. I’m a woman who wants to talk about theology, doctrines, and church history in a confessional Lutheran community, so typical responses range from skeptical to blank stares. I’m a part time farm-hand who drives a combine in the fall and a manure spreader in the winter on my dad’s farm. I’m also a middle aged woman who longs to be a published author. Enrolled in seminary classes with mostly men seeking completion of a deaconess program amongst church members who barely know such a thing exists.
And now I want to buy a car for my family of five.
It’s no wonder I’m constantly questioning my plans. Clearly I’m not normal. Why can’t I just have regular goals? Why do I have to be such a nerdy oddball?
Can you relate? Maybe you don’t want to talk about church history, but you have some other interest or life-strategy that puts you in the minority. A lot of how we are perceived and received depends on where we live. What might feel normal and healthy in the heart of Saint Louis, sounds strange and confusing to those in the hills of rural Wisconsin. In some ways the average family lifestyle is going to look very different in Seattle than it does in Northern Louisiana.
The doctrine of vocation says that we all have a call to serve our neighbor. Each of us have to determine, based on our current circumstances and the skills and talents we have to offer, how best to carry out the call to love and serve our neighbors. First and foremost this means meeting the needs of one’s family if you have one. And considering families and paychecks and priorities vary, we should not expect all decisions to synchronize either.
Really no one expects that. This more about me and my insecurities than anything else.
But it’s also about recognizing that God might have a plan for you, a call to you, that looks different than it looks for your friends or neighbors. Over and over this past year God has placed people in my life at the right times to remind me why I’ve made some of these unconventional decisions. Conversations that arise at the right time affirm the idea that I have something to offer through my writing or speaking. A note to encourage. Reinforcement that there are reasons for the strange decisions I’ve made and the outcomes will be worth it. If I try to fall into step with the marching around me it doesn’t last long. There just isn’t an existing line for me to join and I have to find peace with forging ahead, against the waves of ‘normalcy,’ potentially starting a new line of farm-hand female theologians.
I know as I’ve pushed forward I HAVE found a peer group. I have discovered mothers who seek to be a voice in the church for and to the women who are often marginalized. I’ve found common ground with men and women who have created rich online communities for discussing where theology and real life intersect. And people have cheered for me as I pushed through a tough harvest on the farm.
My unconventional life is what it is. When I take it a day at a time, I know I’m moving in the right direction and I have the support of my husband as we seek to do what’s best for our family. I know I’ve tested our decisions against God’s Word and found favor and inspiration. If you find yourself out of step with the lines around you, be encouraged. Seek out the line that God is calling you to. There probably is a community for you out there and I praise God for the technology that brings those communities together. Let’s encourage and uplift one another to make the hard decisions necessary to best serve our families.
I’m going to go talk to someone about a car.