My life is messed up.
Not in the, I’m starving to death in a war-torn country way. For that I am grateful.
But in the sense that I just can’t get a handle on what to do.
I tried to do right.
I got married to a wonderful man. We had four wonderful kids. He has two bachelors degrees, and has had the same job for nine years. We own a modest home, and a modest dog. We are faithful to each other. We teach Sunday School.
But underneath that stability there is a gnawing. We live in constant fear. Like many Americans, we live paycheck to paycheck. The money starts to run out about a week after we get paid.
That first day, payday, I could hardly be in a more wonderful mood! But as the money runs through our fingers, my good mood subsides. I get depressed and scared.
The day the food stamps refill, that’s a good day too. Not quite as good as payday, but still great. Yes, we went on food stamps a few months ago, and we have been on WIC for years. We figured it was a temporary solution to a temporary problem.
Except that the problem has been less than temporary. It’s been a year since my husband got his second bachelor’s degree, and he has not even had an interview. The economy has shifted since he started the accounting program. Jobs are far more difficult to get.
I am blessed that we have no credit card debt. But we also have no savings. If something bad were to happen, and I can only say it is by the grace of God that it has not, we’d be ruined.
I look at our thirty year old kitchen floor in our 100 year old house…at the mold in the bathtub and all the other little things that add up to an uncomfortable place to live…and what can I do? Tax time comes but once a year. This year we pay off the van, and then we can start on student loans. Student loans that were supposed to carry us to a better place by now.
My husband’s salary would be fabulous for a single guy starting out…maybe a married man with one child. But for a man with a family of six who has been working hard for 9 years…it’s hard to swallow.
Yes, the children were our choice. But never did we dream he’d be making what he makes. I got married believing I’d be middle class. That we’d not live luxuriously, but comfortably. That I’d never have to feel worried about spending $20 at a yard sale. I know how to live frugally. I don’t spend my money on expensive purses or haircuts. My luxuries are the 75% of rack at Target and Goodwill, the occasional 80% rack at Kohls. But often even these amenities require sacrifice.
Bitterness has set in, over time. Many have heard me complain. I have cried out. Like the persistent widow, I keep asking God for justice. And in the meantime, my weight has spiraled out of control. I have grown to dislike my children. I am constantly stressed and irritable. My husband comes home from work and is emotionally exhausted. And his castle is not a castle. It’s a place of strife.
The hopelessness keeps washing over me as it seems there is no end in sight to this life…like trudging through the mud. I try to keep up good spirits, and so does he, but it just seems like daily we feel like a tube of toothpaste someone squeezed out and washed down the drain.
“What are we doing wrong?” I wondered. I didn’t finish school, but it was because I really wanted to be a homemaker. But even that has brought me down. I wanted to homeschool my kids, and I couldn’t keep house and have them at home, so we sent them to school. And the house still isn’t clean and I am still stressed. I thought I was doing the right thing by being a stay at home mom, but lately I had been doubting every choice I had ever made in my life.
I began to deconstruct a house of cards. Namely, in our financial situation. Yes, we were somehow making it, to the shock of many who discovered the truth of our money matters. But as I said before, we were one or two emergencies away from being destitute. How many resumes could we send out with no response? How many times could we drag ourselves to church and feel ignored by God?
I will go into the whole story later, but something happened that really rocked me to the core and God showed me that he is there. He is listening. So I started listening too. Pressing into his comfort. Really trying to daily live without fear.
And that’s when I realized the missing link.
We have always known we “should” tithe just like we knew we shouldn’t eat trans-fat or drink soda, but there we were with our McDonald’s French Fries and gigantic cups of soda anyway. Tithing and saving were just one more obligation. Besides, we give to World Vision every month! Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t we decide who we give our money too? Why does it have to be our local church?
We said that even though we knew darn well our church was struggling, that we had given up some meetings in winter just so we wouldn’t have to heat the building.
Sometimes I felt like Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List….wracked with guilt over the fact that his gold ring might have saved another fifty jews. The guilt would wash over me and I’d look at some silly thing I had bought (never expensive, but also rarely necessary) and think “I could have done more.” Was I the reason things were not moving forward? But then I’d go right back to feeling sour about our finances. Angry that I was abandoned.
But was I? Or had I abandoned God?
The other night I felt, as clear as day, that my husband WILL NOT find a new job until we fill in the missing link. And I realized, maybe for the first time, that tithe is NOT just another bill. It’s not “one more obligation.”
Then what is it?
It is…the manifestation of TRUST.
I have trusted God with my marriage. My children. But I can’t trust him with my money?
How ridiculous is that?
Malachi 3:10 states
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
Test me in this. I have heard it said that this is the only place in the Bible where God asks you to test him.
This blog is me stepping out in faith. On September 30, my husband will get the second of his twice-monthly paychecks. And before we pay a single bill, we are writing a check to our home church. 10%. All that is required.
Not because I feel obligated. Not because of a strong-armed sales tactic. Not to be braggy.
But because I am learning to trust. To trust that my family will have their needs met. That by giving, we will not be in peril.
I will test him in this.
I invite you all to watch.