Living Upstream – A Story

The name we have chosen for our missional community is a very intentional one.

It reflects what we believe is our calling – to be a community of people who live ‘upstream’, who live in the flow of society but who also challenge the dominant (often self centred) values by swimming against them and trying to live differently. Its what following Jesus is all about.

Its a huge challenge because we are as immersed in this world as anyone and its hard to live ‘Jesus’ kind of lives when we are as naturally selfish as anyone else. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, even apparently foolish ones to do that.

Today was the culmination of one of those ‘foolish’ decisions. I have permission to tell their story and I’d love you to read it because its a good one!

Since coming to Brighton 2 1/2 years ago, one family from our team – Mike & Heidi – have been living in a very nice 4 bed 2 bath home with a pool and all the fruit. As a result they have had a huge mortgage to service. They would also say they were obsessed with getting more and more, and going bigger and better. Their lifestyle had become a noose around their neck and they were drowning in it. (Sorry to mix the metaphor!)

At our Forge intensive back in March they were particularly confronted with their lifestyle and the issues of consumerism and indulgence. At the end of the conference Heidi announced to everyone that they were selling their house and downsizing as a first step towards living differently.

I have to say I was very impressed but also a bit concerned because changing house is an expensive process in itself and there aren’t many cheap houses where we live. Was this a wise decision?

We all encouraged them in their decision, but wondered how they would pull it off – and maybe even if they could pull it off. As we discussed it, we figured their house was worth $410K at a minimum and on a good day maybe $430K, but… to find another place was the issue. To find anywhere livable under $370K was a challenge. Then, deduct agents fees and stamp duty and you might spend $20K to save $30K. Would it be worth it? I was a little worried they would spend a lot of money and not actually erase the debt that was hanging over them.

Then along came Dave, the agent who tells them he can get $480K for their house.

As the pigs were flying over head I told Mike in true ‘Castle’ form to ‘tell him he was dreamin’. While theirs is a nice house it isn’t a big one and $480K would almost seem like theft! It was an absurd scenario as no house in Brighton had ever sold for that amount and theirs was not the best house in the suburb.

They gave the agent a one week listing – a week to see if he could come up with the goods. In the mean time they put an unconditional offer on another place at $365K. They had 2 months to get their place sold or pay two mortgages…

So Dave opens their home on the first Sunday for people to look thru and the very first buyer of the day places a cash offer of $475K.

What the?…

While it wasn’t $480K, it was the highest price ever in the suburb and way above what anyone expected.

Today was house move day and we have just come home from helping Mike & Heidi shift into their new 3 bed 2 bath home on a cottage block. Its quite a bit tighter for living and doesn’t have much of the fruit of their old place. But in the move they have knocked $100K of their mortgage and have begun a journey of living a sustainable and less consumer focused lifestyle. The house was only one part of that, but it was a landmark decision to live differently and stand against the lifestyle they had fallen for.

How did they get $475k for a $430K house?

Some might say bloody good luck, but I have a feeling that it was another case of people taking a risk, trusting the leading of the Spirit, seeing something miraculous happen that otherwise wouldn’t have. Yes, the challenge is now to live differently and to keep moving towards a simpler lifestyle, but that’s why we do this thing together.

Its why we are called Upstream Communities – rather than upstream individuals.

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