Editor’s Note: Author Chris Marlow shares that we can live on mission wherever we are in the world. You don’t have to move overseas to have a big impact as a family.
I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. — Gandalf (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit)
When I tucked my daughters into bed at night, I saw kids on the other side of the world who lived on the other side of the gate. I would wonder what it was like for them to have no place to call home, no mom or dad to tuck them in.
Every night my kids would find joy as they snuggled under the blankets, held their stuffed animals tightly, and rested in peace and safety.
When my family would sit around the dinner table, eat good food, laugh, and share stories of our day, my mind would often drift back to kids in the gas station. They had no table, the stories they would share would not be filled with joy and laughter, they had no family and very little sense of belonging.
The words of William Wilberforce were so prescient: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know!”1 I realized I knew too much. I saw the palpable suffering, heard the tragic stories, but I also felt a mesmerizing sense of hope.
God wanted to use normal people like my family to make a true difference in the world.
The timing could not have been worse. I was in my thirties, I had moved my family too many times, and I already had a failed church plant on my résumé. Our life was finally stable after years of chaos, and I did not want to do anything to disrupt my family! We were moving steadily toward the American dream. I had a dream job at Vista Community Church, my oldest daughter had just started school, and we had just purchased a home. Life was great.
But I’ve always known the American dream can be a gospel nightmare if it becomes an idol.
If the American dream gets in the way of following God’s call, it becomes like the millstone that hangs around our neck, causing us to drown (Matthew 18:6). Of course, I’m still human. I felt compelled to act, but I was terrified to fail. For the first time in years, my family had a sense of security. Yet I knew I was about to blow it all up; I was going to trade our comfort for the chance to really make a change in the lives of children like the boy at the gas station. That boy, that grip, my words to him—it was just too much.
Our New Normal
Doing good can be simple, but simple and easy are two different realities; we have to learn how to wrestle with that tension. Loving our neighbor will always cost us something. However, it will always give us something far better in return: a deep sense of worth. We ache for meaning and long for a life that matters, and I realized that I was discovering my purpose. This is vital, for neither families nor individuals can be healthy without a deep sense of meaning and mission.
You see, my little family chose to live for others; we wanted to become “others-focused.” On the outside, not much had changed, but on the inside, a transformation was beginning to take shape. Is this not the call for the Christian, that we should live a life that is radically normal, a life that does not seem to make sense to most except for those who are following in the footsteps of Jesus? To live a life that reflects faith, hope, and love? To have a normal, but not normal, way of living?
We had seen the power of doing good. Real lives in the middle of Zimbabwe had vastly improved because our little family and small group of friends decided to be intentional and find ways to live more simply so that those thirty orphans could just live.
We wanted to do more. We wanted to help more. But that was going to cost us.
As a family, we had to pick up our cross and take one step forward at a time; we had to learn to live more simply, to embrace the unknown future, and to exist in the chaos of the nonprofit world. This is what faith does. This is what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus. It is beautiful and hard, and it requires faith, trust and sacrifice.
It’s also for incredibly “normal” people, just like you and me.
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Do Good Well.
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- Cited in Unesco, “The Slave Route,” accessed December 14,
Excerpted with permission from Doing Good Is Simple by Chris Marlow, copyright Chris Marlow.
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