We were happy together in our house in the trees, yet our minds and hearts remained restless. We were brimming with questions. We wanted to find our “calling.” We’d wonder, “How could this be all God has in store for us? Working, raising a family, being involved in our church. There must be more.”
This was not helped by the fact that I continued to read books and listen to sermons on the subject of missions. One book that particularly influenced me at the time was Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. He made me want to do something out of the norm. Something that required risk. This theme of “taking a risk for the kingdom of God” was repeated in many of John Piper’s online sermons that I listened to.
I have never been on a “missions trip.” Rachel went on a good many, both in high school and college. What she loved most about these was the common sense of purpose, working together with others towards a common goal, whether it was caring for orphans or building a structure or moving dirt. She would come home from those trips feeling unified with her teammates.
Here in the suburbs it felt like just the opposite. We felt isolated and purposeless. We longed for a deeper and richer sense of community. Play groups with the kids, small groups with other couples, and even accountability groups within the church did not seem to be meeting our needs for friendship and community. These groups felt separated from real life. There were abstract questions and conversations to “dig deep” into one another’s lives, but never time to cultivate the soil that deeper relationships require. This was perhaps where much of the discontentment stemmed. I would hear Rachel’s reminiscings and we would talk about our philosophy of community. It seemed that only one thing could consummate our communal longings: full time missions.
I vacillated though. Deep within I wanted to just settle down, but Rachel was not excited about the prospect. She wondered if I was merely going along with the flow, doing what I saw my friends doing, or that which I felt others were expecting me to do. And there was some truth to that, because that is what I mainly saw – friends and family, settling down, working, loving, teaching and training their children, being committed to their church for a very long time. To me, there seemed to be something special about such a long term commitment. Rachel valued such commitment, too, but only if it led to growth in community and a common sense of purpose and mission. And that is precisely what we were not experiencing.
To complicate matters, we were newly married and adjusting to life together on a grand scale. Rachel still felt that I was too connected to my old life. That is, my life before I was married. She wondered if she married me and my family. Me and my friends. Me and my interests. And I, on the other hand, subconsciously expected things to continue as they were. The same family routines, the same friends, the same pursuits and interests.
So there were two things at play. One, a need to get away from all that was comfortable to me, so that we could be more unified in our marriage, and two, this desire for purpose in our new life together.
With these thoughts ruminating in the recesses of my mind, I listened and read.
On a Friday afternoon in August I was on my way home from work, listening for the second time to John Piper’s sermon “Proclaiming the Excellencies of Christ Among the Nations, Not Prosperity.” As he spoke, I felt like he was speaking directly to me:
No, it isn’t for lack of money that there are 1,568 peoples with no missionaries. It’s because we have so much. The comforts of the West have made us soft and cautious and fearful and indulgent and self-protecting, instead of tough and risk-taking and bold and self-controlled and self-sacrificing.
Was I being pushed over the edge? In such moments it is hard to discern all of the inner-workings of the mind at play against the outside influences of conversations, books, articles, and sermons. But here I was. Questioning if indeed I was called to become a missionary. “When I die, what do I want people to remember me as? What do I want my children to remember about me? My grandchildren? What kind of legacy will I leave? I don’t want to be remembered as self-indulgent. I want to be remembered as a risk-taker. I don’t want to be ruled by the love of money. I want to be free from money and give all for the sake of this great cause.” I said that I felt a burden for these unknown peoples to know Jesus. Surely if I pursued this great mission I could protect us from falling into self-indulgence.
At that moment, I decided that we would not pursue the image of the “American Dream” that I had in my head. No. Instead, we would pursue this Great Call. We would be Risk-Takers.
There was only one path to take. Move to St. Paul, join John Piper’s church, and become missionaries. I resolved to tell Rachel as soon as I got home.