A couple of months ago I published a little piece called You Can Take Your Quality of Life and Stick It. I realize the title alone is a bit provocative but it actually does convey exactly what that concept of “quality of life” can do, as far as we’re concerned.
But let me back up and tell you where that title came from.
I can’t quite explain why or how people get here and read the words we write and see the photos we share. For my part I think I began writing a blog when my eldest was a baby simply because I was looking for a way to reach out to like-minded people in a very isolating time and place in my life.
And it has evolved into me sharing our (odd to some) life and why we are living it. Except, I don’t really post about the why very often and every time I do someone, somewhere says something ridiculous. Something along the lines of “Well, what you’re doing isn’t really practical for everyone.“
Okay, exactly along the lines of that.
So, I sit reading that from my inbox and I snort… and steam visibly escapes from my ears. Because it’s funny, you know, in the way that factually-incorrect, historically-unprecedented statements can be. And because, as I said before, it is actually the way we live now that is not practical.
- Is it practical to have no idea how to maintain life for your family in the form of food, water, shelter?
- Is it practical to know how to do calculus but not know how to butcher a chicken?
- Is it practical to live in a place where you can not put seeds in the ground or raise animals in order to feed your family?
- Is it practical to be dependent on non-renewable resources for an entire society to function?
- Is it practical to buy land, homes, cars, education, or stuff when you don’t actually have the money to do so, but on the promise that you will be a slave to that debt for a decided upon number of years?
It is that last concept, the concept of debt – done openly, freely, happily - that baffles me the most about our society and creates a culture whose priorities have to be compromised because they are enslaved to that debt.
The Importance of Starting with Nothing
Once upon a time you started simply, with nothing really, when you came into adulthood. Of course at that time the majority of families worked the land as their means of feeding their family. Many probably helped out on their parents farm, or took over a portion of it, until they had enough to buy land of their own. Because debt was frowned upon.
And when you had land you were wealthy. That was it, that was the one thing that meant you “made it” – a simple patch of bare land.
And then you built it, from the ground up, with your bare hands, maybe with the aid of some animals. To have to live on credit when you bought the very basics of supplies was shameful and made it difficult to sleep at night.
It was in that process of building from the ground up that you learned to truly value everything you had and cultivate a spirit of gratitude because it is in that leaning upon the Lord for all things, in all situations, and through the toughest of times that you understand that everything you have is by God’s grace.
That is not something you can cultivate when you graduate from college and buy a house on a 30 year mortgage and live in a world where everything is at your fingertips instantaneously.
Seeing Both Sides
That time you spend working at a very specific task for some large corporation who doesn’t give a lick about you, your family or your deepest convictions; that is time you could have spent working alongside your children, both mama and papa, digging that soil, building that home, planting those seeds. That is time you will never get back, memories you can never re-make, lessons you will never have the opportunity to teach.
I say that because I know. I’ve watched my baby stand at the end of a hallway, pudgy hands outstretched for Papa, who just came home from his day at the office only to walk by that heartbreaking scene on his way to job number two. All so that we could pay off those student loans that I accumulated… so that I could acquire a certain “quality of life”.
And I’ve watched my babies stand alongside their Papa on a daily basis – learning, living, loving – and building something together from the ground up. There is no replacement for that time spent, those memories made, those questions answered.
That’s not to say that we don’t spend time away from our children working, because we do. But it seems more balanced and deliberate now and less “What the heck are we doing this for anyways?“
But the decisions we make in how we spend our time, how we raise our children, how we cultivate relationships with each other and those in our community, and how we can live in obedience to the Lord looked very different when we were paying off student loans and living near town and in the thick of industrialized society.
Rather than making decisions based solely on biblical principles, we were inclined to compromise and make them based on our dependence on, and therefore allegiance to, an ungodly system.
So while you might see it as impractical to give up your job, move to a couple of acres, and set out to live as subsistence farmers – working the land in order to provide only what we need – I see it as the opportunity I want everyone to have.
It is an opportunity to see things more clearly, to have more historical perspective on just how blessed we really are, to have the peace and contentment that can only come from working with your hands, and to cultivate relationships with the ones you love based on the shared responsibility of building this life from the ground up… building a life from scratch.
And just because we started down this path (and it may seem idealistic to you) doesn’t mean we have “arrived” or don’t still really struggle at times. We may never get to where we would like to be (or ought to be) along this journey, but in the process of separating, living simply, and seeking the Lord there are two things I can tell you. One, it is worth it. Two, it is all a lot more clear from where we are now than where we were then.