Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of Money

This is the thing that no one ever wants to talk about. Me included. The "M" word.

Over the past two years, our household income was reduced by about 70%. If you had told me that would happen three years ago, I wouldn't have believed you. I would never have imagined that we could survive it. I remember, years ago, checking the highest income bracket on a retail store survey and feeling like we had arrived. I didn't feel particularly smug or braggy about it and I would have never talked about it to anyone, but in that quiet moment, sitting alone, I felt like we had reached the edges of success.

And then I started to want more.

Because even when you reach that golden ideal in your mind, not much time passes before you remember that you live in America, and success in America is short-lived if it doesn't keep growing. The beast must be fed.

So what I know to be true is this: You might be a person who lives well under her means. You might be generous (at least compared to other people you know) with what you have. You might not buy designer jeans or roll around town in a Lincoln Navigator. But you still might have a secret love affair with your bank account balance. I know this, because I lived this.

I remember thinking that it would be perfect if we would keep making more and more money, because then we could give more of it away. Surely God could use some people like that! Why not us?

It sounds nice and all, but the root of it was that I just wanted more money (and duh, I would also give a little more of it away.) I wanted a reasonable justification for staying rich. I didn't want to suffer at all for charity. I didn't want to know what it felt like to sacrifice, though in my mind, I would be sacrificing. I would be sacrificing the things I would never have. Something like this, "I could be driving around in a brand new Toyota, but instead I'm still in my beat-up Ford Explorer. I could be wearing designer jeans, but instead I'm in Target jeans that smell funky when you buy them. See how I sacrifice for the poor?"

I killed two birds with one stone. I sacrificed nothing at all, but I still went to bed at night convinced that I had.

When we started to hear - really hear - that around 19,000 children die every day around the world from hunger or treatable illness, it became increasingly impossible to deny the fact that we were doing nothing to put a stop to it.

It's difficult to picture nineteen thousand of anything, but try. Right now. Fill your mind up with the faces of as many children as you can, and then quadruple that. Cram them in.

Poof! They're gone. Every. Single. Day.

Tonight they are alive. Tomorrow they will not be. Every day, every day, every day.

Right when our hearts started breaking I lost my job, then Cory lost his. In short order we had lost a good deal of our capacity to give.

So we sold our house.

What we did was not a noble thing. It wasn't extra-brave. It wasn't radical. It was our only option to execute the command of One who cares as much about that crusty-nosed three-year old in Somalia as he does about big, bad me.

So while some cheer me on and say that they admire what we are doing, I lie in bed at night in knots over what we are not doing. I plead for answers, for avenues.

In stripping us of some of our wealth, God exposed our greed. He slammed our priorities back into line, at least a little.

And still, we are some of the wealthiest people in the World. Here I sit, in my comfortable, spacious, safe home with uneaten food in the trash. It's hard to stomach that. It's hard to justify one more dumb sweater or an immersion blender. But not hard enough that I don't do it all the time.

I wonder, what would happen if I truly and completely believed that God isn't pleased with my excess? What if he's really just waiting for me to understand that it was never even mine to begin with? Does he get tired of me tossing it to the pigs? What will it take for him to really get my attention? What will I do when He does?

I've got no answer tonight.

But if you're feeling anything like I am, then maybe it's time to act.

If you are burdened for the women and children trapped by human trafficking, go here.

If you are burdened for children living in poverty around the world, go here.

If you are burdened for women trying to care for their families amid crippling poverty, go here.

Those are just a few options off the top of my head. There are countless more. Find what breaks your heart the most, and decide right now to step up. Let go of some of the money that wasn't even yours to begin with.

*For the rest of the Letting Go series, click here.