This could well turn into one of those blogs that is far too confuddled to post. And no, confuddled is not a real world but yes, I am using it anyways. (In case you were wondering)
I’ve been thinking about faith and how if we don’t go through hard times we fail to see how God can really show up and do a work in our lives~ tangibly and spiritually. It’s come up in light of some recent situations that I’ve witnessed and some involving family and friends. I may jump around here~ forgive me.
8 years ago my husband was in a serious accident while playing hockey. In the first few hours I was more annoyed that he was hurt than actually worried for him. That may sound cruel and heartless but I will give you the backdrop to the story.
We have always been a middle income family, but in the city of Calgary, middle doesn’t cut it. At least, not if you want to get ahead or even just keep from sinking. And that’s exactly where we were~ sinking….and fast. We lived in a starter home~ the kind that gets you into home ownership but with no frills, no extras and a big enough mortgage to scare you from ever wanting to default on a payment. One thing we’ve always done well is keep up with the mortgage payments. But after that it was “bill-bingo” every month to see who would get paid and what groceries we would buy. I had a strict food budget and we simply did not have room to veer from that path. We “went out to eat” once every couple weeks~ a $25 meal at McDonald’s was about all we could afford. I don’t really call that eating out but that’s what we had.
My husband had a really good job, a good position. But if he missed even one day of work on a 2 week paycheque it was hard times for us. I had our budget planned out long before payday and very often we were 3-4 days till payday with no money. We made it work but it was tough and there were no holidays, no nice vehicles in the driveway, no sports for the kids, no trips to the mall, no stops at Timmies. We paid the bills, we bought our frugal, no-name groceries and we just lived. Thankfully, the kids were still pretty young then. They don’t remember how hard it was. They don’t remember eating Ichiban noodles for lunch everyday or Kraft Dinner(when it was on sale).
So, Jan.26 , 2003 arrives and my first question to the trauma surgeon was “how long till he can go back to work?”. Terrible. My husband was knocking on death’s door and all I cared about was the paycheque. Reality took hold and the gravity of the situation took me to a new level. Once I grasped the current state of his health, it didn’t really matter anymore. Faith took over and we were going to be okay….I prayed.
About 2 weeks in to his 7 weeks of no work, the bills began to pile. His last full paycheque was spent(it was always pre-spent). Disability pay is a joke…worked out to be about 1/3 of his usual pay. That was about enough to cover the mortgage. We had a couple of people drop off $25 or $50 in food gift cards, a couple of meals and some cash for gas in the van. By week 4 I was worrying. I had not paid power, gas or phone. And I couldn’t . By week 6 we were fast approaching a point of not being able to pay the next mortgage payment. I didn’t want to worry my husband but we prayed together and vocally admitted that only God could get us out of this mess.
We have never been ones to borrow money because the thought of paying it back on a fixed income is almost worse than going without. Our parents aren’t rich people and we just felt so uncomfortable asking anyone for help. We had to trust that God would provide. And he did. From recognizing our woefully dire situation on a Monday morning and not telling anyone, this is how our week played out:
Monday~ a friend came by with $100 for groceries(absolutely desperately needed). In the mail was a cheque from my sister for $150.
Tuesday- a lady from church called and asked if she could bring some groceries. As I was on the phone with her, another lady brought some food. What’s cool about this is that Lady #2 brought only fresh fruit, veggies and meat and felt bad but felt that that is what God told her to do. When Lady #1 showed up she apologized for not having fruits, veggies and fresh meat but felt that God was telling her just to bring canned, boxed and dairy only. YES GOD! In total I’m sure all of that amounted to way more than $500 which was over and above what I even spent in a month!
Thursday- still no money for bills and the worry was heavy. I rec’d a call from our church board later that night. One of the ladies who brought groceries had told her husband that we needed help(she asked me but I didn’t say much). He was on the board. They asked us if they could help and I knew by now that God had a plan. They said they had prayed about an amount but they wanted me to tell them how much our bills added up to.
I told them that we were behind $1140 including that week’s mortgage payment. He said, “good, we have a cheque for $1200” and with that he hung up and 2 hours later there was a cheque in my hands.
Now, I tell you this story(and there’s much more) because I think there’s a point here for all of us(and I still need to get it too). We were not wealthy people. We were 2 days away from being bankrupt. We had no assets other than our house (which we sold later that year for $200,000). God showed us his provision and His Love. He poured out blessing after blessing. But He didn’t do it the first day of the accident or the first week. When the need was great, God was greater. He showed up in a big way….just in time. And it meant more than than it would have 4 weeks earlier.
So, here we are in 2011. It’s 8 years later. These years have tested us but we’ve been blessed. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to give to others in need but we’ve had to ask for help as well. It is the hardest thing in the world to ask your friends for $500 to make it through the week. But we’ve had to. And we’ve been able to give $500 or more to people that we know in need. People who have worked their whole lives harder than anyone we know, who live in humble conditions and barely are able to make ends meet but always find a way to help someone else out.
My dilemma now is when I see someone who is wealthier(by appearances) than we are. I see people who live grand lifestyles with Hummers in the driveway, several tropical vacations per year, eating out several times a week and so on. I have no problem with people living lavish lifestyles or making tons of money. I love that we live in a country where you can make as much money as you want. The problem lies when the wealthy go through hard times. Recently, the stock markets were not so kind to some of our friends. Couple that with a lay off from work and you have the makings of some pretty tough situations. But in all likelihood, made worse by the fact that these people live well beyond their means most of the time. So, do you give to them? Do I go buy them groceries on day 2 of the layoff or do I wait? Does the church step in and make their mortgage payment or wait to see if she can get another corporate job? After all, wouldn’t they have money in the bank? Couldn’t they sell an SUV if it was really that bad longterm?
I’m just not sure.
You see, I’m not against helping people in need. I’m really not. And I believe that the rich have needs just as much as the poor. But I also think that “need” is subjective. Sometimes we have to go through those hard times to know what a need really is. In our case, we needed to feed our kids. Something, anything. We didn’t NEED to go out to eat. We needed to pay our mortgage but I can tell you right now, we were fully prepared to downsize if we NEEDED to. Even though we were in a small house, we knew that we could live on less.
Somewhere along the way Christians have told themselves that if they help someone out it will come back to them. They’ve said that if they give money to a “less fortunate” soul when they themselves are in need that poor person will give to them or others will pick up the slack. I think that’s bad theology. Yes, I believe in sowing and reaping. But God never promised us that our bank accounts would always be in the positive territory or that our house would be brick , not wood. He never said we could have 3 cars in the driveway all the time. He said he would provide our daily bread and the clothes on our back. To me, that’s saying that we have to trust Him for today and not worry about a week from now, a month from now or a year from now. If we truly trust Him as we preach and quote verses on the subject, then we have to literally be willing to put our bank account where our mouth is.
I’m behind on bills. Do I go ask my friends to help me out? No.
I have a friend who’s been laid off…just this past week, do I go offer to pay their mortgage or vehicle payment? I don’t think so. However, if you feel called to do that, be my guest.
Meanwhile, this person is fully capable of going and getting a job. So is his wife. 3 months down the road circumstances may have changed but as it is now there is no fatal diagnosis of cancer, there is not catastrophic accident leaving him lame and limp. We all go through the ups and downs and we all have to learn to find the balance between what we need and what we want. We all need to weed out the things in our lives that are unnecessary expenses.
And then there’s the ones who need our help….they really do. I have some in my family, unable to work, unable to pay bills, barely able to put food on the table……this is need. And that’s where I am called to be….it is where we all are called to be.