Love, War and a Comfy Green Couch

My first major purchase in Central Asia was a custom-made, green, suede-like sectional couch. It was beautiful, comfy…and expensive. I wrestled for months trying to decide if it was really worth the cost. I wanted my home to be inviting – a safe place. But was it really worth it? Shouldn’t I just make do with something less expensive?

“Wartime lifestyle” – a term coined by Ralph Winters, former Director of the US Center for World Missions – is a revolutionary perspective that has given me a grid for re-thinking how I spend money. It’s about more than not spending money. It’s about evaluating every purchase and decision through the matrix of “what will it take to win the war?” It is a perspective that asks us to evaluate what are the things that I can sacrifice that will help move the war effort forward and, perhaps more importantly, what are the things I need to “splurge” on to accomplish the same goal.

Consider a lesson from World War II. The US government implemented ration stamps for basic items such as gas, meat and sugar. However, by 1945, 89% of all federal spending was directed toward defense spending. While the American people sacrificed everyday necessities, the federal government spent generously. Both were choices committed to the same goal – whatever it took to win the war!

I ended up buying my comfy couch, which eventually took on a personality of its own. That beautiful, comfy and expensive couch was the site of many significant conversations about the Kingdom of God. It moved with me four times and came to represent “Tammy’s house” – a place of safety and refuge where students and co-laborers could relax and feel at home. Eventually, “Green Couch” (the name it acquired along the way) moved into the home of one of my friends, where it continues to be used to advance the Kingdom. It had become so much a part of our friends and family that when these friends moved to a new house, their teenage son made one request – Green Couch had to move with them!

The financial cost of that couch was nothing compared with its eternal value. When we think about our standard of living, the question to ask is not what’s cheapest vs. what’s most expensive, nor is it about what other people do or don’t have. The key is to ask the Lord, “Will this advance the ‘war of love’ effort?” (Note: this article was adopted from Squeezed and Shaken: Thought-Provoking Meditations on Living Cross-Culturally

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