choosing between god & money…or the proverbial rock & a hard place

So I’ve been thinking how not many people know where we are financially, and I’m relieved about that. It’s too complicated to explain. Besides it makes us look crazy. Had I lived someone else’s life, I would probably shake my head and say what we’re doing is irresponsible. But I lived this life instead.

Early on in our journey with God he began offending our mindsets. We had what I would call a “traditional American congregational church” value system, TACC for short. Years ago I attended a woman’s bible study in a TACC. I can’t recall much, but I remember the most-quoted statement: “God gave me a brain, and I’m supposed to use it.”

Yes, that indeed is true. I love brains. I am not a reasonable person, although I appreciate reasonable thought. But I was not rescued by reason. I was rescued by Love. Which is why I love Tolstoy’s thoughts expressed through possibly the best novel ever, Anna Karennina,

“Reason could not discover love for the other, because it’s unreasonable.”

We desperately need both. We need reason. We need love. But we also need a savior. And while God has chosen to limit himself in ways, namely his desperate love for us, he has not committed to operate within the confines of reason. He dwells outside the realm of time. It’s likely the laws of gravity do not exist in other dimensions. He is completely Other-Than. And so I can appreciate reason, but I bow my knee to only One and He is quite Unreasonable. At least through the lens of an earth-dwelling human. I’m sure if I had his perspective, he would make more sense.

So early on I began asking him to set me free, to give me his love, etc. although I had no idea what that meant. Honestly, I was just asking him to love me and let me do whatever I wanted. I had no concept of what it meant to live in a relationships with a God who has the authority to tell me how to live. I believe the term is “blissfully clueless.” I thought he was pretty remarkable, and I thought I was pretty remarkable, so naturally I expected us to get along well.

One of the first times he expressed a desire to be Lord in my life was in the realm of finance. During college he asked me to return an outfit I bought on a close-to-maxed-out credit card, and that conversation ended with me in the fetal position sobbing on my bed…for hours, or possibly days.

On another occasion, while visiting a wealthy friend, I joyfully noticed a box of donuts on the counter. In my world, a box of donuts was a treat. But in her house, the donut box was sitting nonchalantly on the counter, as if this were normal. The next time I returned to her house, anticipating donuts, there were no donuts. I thought in judgement: “If I ever have money like this, I will have donuts all the time.” And the Lord chimed in: “And that is why you do not have money like this.”

Many, many years later, Rodney & I jumped off a cliff into a ravine called “debt” which was about the worst place Jesus ever asked me to go. “I’ll go anywhere you want, but don’t ask me to go into debt!” It was my version of an experience like Peter had in Acts 10. “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” I could say the same about debt. Since my debt-loving youth, I’d gotten my act together financially, lived faithfully on a budget, followed a very structured and disciplined plan to get out of debt quickly, (including school loans from college, which is a process I still recommend by the way), and had proudly stayed out of debt, paying with cash in labeled envelopes. I’d even helped other people create budgets and systems for themselves to experience financial discipline and meet financial goals.

I know everyone’s journey is unique, and I’m not suggesting my journey is superior. I hope that tone isn’t seeping through the black and whiteness of the written word. I hope to portray a deep, deep desire to please myself, and how intertwined my belief that money was essential for pleasing myself which was essential for happiness. I was a 100% believer in that system. And ironically, when God said “you can’t serve God and money,” he meant it. So if I was going to become a believer in him, I couldn’t continue to serve myself or money. I would stay with God for a time, and then I’d run back to my old values, my old lovers…Self, Money, Comfort are my party friends…always ready to accept me just as I am, no requirements, no judgements, just fun.

Anyway, who has time for the whole story? I am currently a testimony of grace. By giving me countless opportunities to take up my cross and follow him in the area of finances, I have less money than ever, but am closer to financial freedom than ever. I am free to give away my last $20, $200 and $2,000 with joy. I am free to quit my job on a dime if he asks. I am free to stare the spirit of poverty in the face and not move. Some day the dark stronghold of poverty in this region will fall. The church that refused to bow a knee to money will hold the sword that takes off the head of Poverty, the beast that has ruined the lives of countless people. I hope I get to be there.

People that want to accuse us today would have accused Abraham, Moses and Daniel. “God told you to kill your son…let’s see what the DSM-5 has to say about hearing voices…” The God who does have the authority to tell us how to live and who is committed to molding us into His image is faithful. If he didn’t love us, he would leave us alone. He knows those who are his, and they follow him.

“Abraham went without knowing where he was going…” Hebrews 11

“Even when there was no reason to hope, Abraham kept on hoping…” Romans 4

“So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2

“Abraham’s faith grew stronger and in this he brought glory to god. He was fully convinced that god is able to do whatever he promises.” Romans 4

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

“Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: you will lie down in torment.” Isaiah 50

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd.” Isaiah 40

“I will boast only in the Lord, let all who are helpless take heart. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in you. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for to those who fear him there shall be no want.” Psalm 34

“I went because God revealed to me that I should go.” Galatians 2

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