Long-Gone American Dream

This week, my Facebook was inundated with friends in graduation robes, proudly adding letters to the ends of their names. They will go on to become professors, doctors, pastors, and artists. They’ll be successful, and I hope they’ll be happy too.

As I look into their smiling faces, I can’t help but think that I could have been them. In fact, I would have been them, had God not intervened in my life plans. But here I am, far from the professional world, rocking a baby and fundraising my salary.

I’ve walked so far away from the American dream, I probably won’t ever get it back. 

My future holds no white picket fences, no suburban comforts. If I do get back into the normal workforce, I’ll never earn as much as if I’d stayed the course. I don’t regret opting out, but it’s sobering to know that I’ve likely passed the point of no return.

I’m a mom with an arts degree, a sparse resume, and a track record of working for free. The last time I had a semi-normal job, I got paid in food and tent space. And that was four years ago.

During my senior year of college, my options for post-grad life seemed endless. I had job interviews lined up. I was considering graduate school. I knew which volunteer programs would look best on a future resume. But I ended up walking away from all of these. Instead, I chose to enroll in an intensive discipleship school. I believed God was calling me to take some time out of my busy life to focus on Him and learn to be a better part of His church.

I thought it would only take six months, but it ended up becoming my whole life.

I made no intentional vow of poverty, but my life took a surprisingly monastic turn from that point on. I found myself in service roles, doing work that was “rewarding,” but not literally, you know…rewarding. Instead of a wedding registry, my husband and I asked for the funds to volunteer abroad. We moved to Eastern Europe and worked in schools, churches, and missions organizations. We produced free articles, blogs, and music. We committed ourselves to doing whatever God asked of us, trusting that He would provide the means for us to do it.

After a couple years, we became parents—the ultimate unpaid volunteer gig. Now we’re working with the organization that started it all: we’re leading a discipleship school just like the one I attended after college, and we’re fundraising our way through it.  

Of course, plenty of our friends are just as poor as we are. Piles of college debt and a rough economy haven’t made the American dream easy on our generation. But while many of our friends are beginning to settle down—buying houses, adopting pets—we’re still running in the opposite direction.

When given the choice between financial security and Jesus, we can’t help but choose Jesus. Even when it seems impossible or scary or irresponsible. Even when it means going through another embarrassing round of asking people for money. Even when I wake up in the middle of the night wondering why we don’t just get real jobs.

Life with God is simply better. I got a taste of it with that school, and now I can’t stop.

Every once in a while, I look over my shoulder at my could-have-been American dream. I imagine myself in a cap and gown or in a cubicle wearing business casual. I scroll through home design boards on Pinterest. But I know now that it wouldn’t have satisfied my heart.

Following God looks different for everyone, but for me, it meant abandoning that life and trust-falling into His arms. In the process, I discovered how how warm and inviting His embrace could be. I saw His generosity, His attention to every little detail, and how He fulfilled dreams I didn’t even know I had.

I watched as He made this impossible life possible for me.

It may not be the American dream, and it may be scary some days, but this life is also good. Now that I’m here, I wouldn’t give up this baby-rocking, blog-writing, missional life for all the white picket fences in the world.


Photo: Luftphilia, Creative Commons

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