Off The Grid

My wife and I are friends with a couple who has wanted for several years to live as “off the grid” as possible. What I mean by that is that they want to reduce their dependence on modern conveniences such as electricity and public utilities, as well trying to free themselves from government dependence as much as possible. They want to use natural remedies for illnesses, adopt a more frontier-type lifestyle, and teach their six (soon to be seven) children the value of working to sustain one’s self. Most of all, though, they want to remove any distractions that would keep their family from a closer relationship with God.

After years of envisioning this type of lifestyle, they’ve come across an opportunity to make it a reality. Needless to say, their course of action has drawn a wide array of responses, ranging from curiously interested to slightly confused to out-and-out negative. Ironically, their attempt to walk off of the beaten path has actually attracted more attention to themselves. This is not their first trip down a different road, however, and it probably won’t be their last.

Something the father in this family said to me recently caused me to reflect on some of my own decisions as the head of my household. I told him that while I admire immensely his family’s decision to forge this kind of lifestyle, I wouldn’t want to try it myself. He responded by saying that sometimes he wonders if maybe they’ve taken too many chances over the years. Maybe it would have been better to stick with some plans longer than they had. Maybe they could have walked a more familiar road. He concluded by saying that in spite of such thoughts he was still excited about their new direction and looking forward to seeing how everything was going to work.

As he was telling me this, I thought of how often I’ve pulled back on the reins when opportunities to veer off in a unique direction presented themselves. On the surface, my life looks pretty comfortable. My family and I live in a house that’s fully paid for. Our basic needs are met every month. I have a job that most people look on with a fair amount of respect. Everyone looks at my family and thinks we lead a pretty normal life.

I’m not so sure that’s such a good thing anymore.

There is something to be said for prudence and conservatism in the Christian life. To jump wholeheartedly at every passing scenario would amount to throwing off judgment entirely. Then again, to avoid any circumstance which could cause discomfort or force a change of perspective can also lead to dull, colorless lives. My children are comfortable, and that is the goal of most every parent out there. But do they know the value of hard work? Do they have a spirit of adventure or fear? Would they be willing to forgo the familiar in exchange for the potentially spectacular?

I’ve said no to a lot of things because they either didn’t seem possible or I didn’t feel equipped to handle them. That may have led to my not losing a lot, but it could be shown I haven’t gained a whole lot either. The real question, though, is when to stay on the “normal” path or when to go “off the grid” when the outcome isn’t exactly clear. I wish I had a neat, tidy answer to conclude all this with, but I don’t. I do think it’s a question worth pondering, though.

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