Monday, October 3, 2011
Putting our lack of money where my mouth was...
I guess this is another trip down memory lane, brought on by the devotional cards I browsed through yesterday.
Everyone has something (or some things) that are like emotional tripwires for them. Money is one of mine. The first fight.. ah hem... tense discussion Phil and I ever had as newlyweds was over the green stuff.
At the same time, I've never had a problem telling people how I believe in God, how my Heavenly Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills ( Psalms 50:10), and how I trust Him to provide for our needs.
I'm pretty sure that by now, you can see where this is going...
Bottom line: about 8 years ago God allowed us to go into a time of testing, where we had the opportunity to put our lack of money where my mouth was.
Simply put, Phil's boss, who had a stellar record as a business man, ended up in a terrible financial bind because of another businessman's extreme dishonesty. We knew things were tight in the business at that time but we didn't know how tight until Phil deposited his weekly check one Friday and then noticed later on that our balance showed a minus 70.00. He thought the minus sign was an error because he knew we had plenty of money in the bank. I, being the worrier, wasn't so sure. Nothing about it added up. For one thing, we should have had a lot more than 70 bucks in the bank.
I went to sleep thinking about it and when I woke up Sat. morning, I knew what had happened. I knew deep in my gut that Phil's pay check from the previous week must have bounced; it was the only possible explanation. I went to the bank where a clerk confirmed my fears but could give me little help since it was not a regular banking day. While he was talking, tears started rolling down my cheeks.
My biggest worry was not that a previous pay check had bounced but whether the check deposited the night before would also bounce. And right behind that was a deep concern about how many of our personal checks had bounced and what the penalties would add up to. Without hesitation, I knew what we should do: Phil would quit his job and find a new one.
I went home where I continued to cry and fret, making myself and Phil miserable. On Sunday night, I sat down with Phil and used every verbal volley in my arsenal to get him to agree to give notice at work. He understood my concern and shared it just as deeply as I did. But he also steadfastly told me that his boss had been like a father to him over the years and had helped him through rough times: the death of his older brother, the death of his mom, and the problems of dealing with an alcoholic father. Bottom line: he'd talk to his boss about the check and see what happened from there but he would not, under any circumstances, desert his mentor while he was down on his luck. Try as I might, I couldn't budge him from that position.
I went to work the next day still somewhat spastic and began the process of talking to the bank, talking to my husband, talking to the bank, etc.; wringing my hands in the meantime and crying on every available shoulder. By midweek, I went so far as to call the business myself, where my comments stirred up a hornet's nest with Phil's co-worker, leaving me once again in tears - this time because I knew I had just made things tough for Phil at work on top of everything else.
By the end of the week, Phil's boss had taken care of the bounced check and the penalties. After two or three months, as the pay checks proved to be good, I quit worrying about it.
After 8 months or so had rocked along, I found myself at a Christian retreat one afternoon. While I was sitting on a prayer deck enjoying the scenery, God gently brought up the past, showing me the incongruity between my "walk" and my "talk". Everyone who worked with Phil knew I was a Christian. And when the check thing came up, everyone also knew how unglued I had been over that one check. Actually how nasty I had been over that one check... Um... what a witness...:(
I was ashamed. By God's grace, I bowed my head there at the Oasis and asked God for a "do-over", promising I'd try to do better if we had money troubles again. A few days later I had to work late and on the way home, I dreaded going into the house because I had left it in a horrible mess. To my surprise, when I walked in, everything in the living room and the dining room was sparkling clean. When I walked into the kitchen and saw Phil and David just finishing up the last dirty dish, I knew something was up! When David skedaddled out of the room and Phil turned to me to say, "Cathy, I know what you are going to say to me...:" my heart rate spiked and I thought, "Uh oh, here it comes...."
The news was this: his boss had told him, apologetically, that another weekly pay check had bounced. I was relieved and to Phil's surprise responded with: "I'm not going to say what you think... God has been "talking" to my heart about this very subject and all I'm going to ask of you is that whatever we do, we honor Him by our words and our actions."
And then I picked Phil up off the floor... Ha!
Seriously, even though it was worrisome, at least we were starting off on the right foot, trying to walk by faith instead of by fear. We prayed about it, discussed it (as opposed to me trying to tell him how it would be), and then basically told the Lord that as long as we could meet our financial obligations, Phil would continue to work for his mentor. If we reached the place where it was getting hard to pay our bills, we would take that as a sign that Phil was to move on to another job.
Over the next 5 months, Phil's boss gave him a paycheck every Friday but with about three-fifths of them, he had to ask Phil to hold onto them for a little while. Phil just put them in his tool box and went on with his job.
I wish I could say that I didn't fret and worry over those months but I can't. I worried periodically about how long our money would hold out, where things would all end up, and even how others perceived us for what we were doing - would our friends think we were crazy? And more to the point, would they be right??? Sometime I simply didn't know myself.
But the times of worry didn't dominate my thoughts or dictate how I acted around Phil or around his boss. For the most part, I believed God would honor our experiment and He did. Although we had no savings when we went into this pact of faith, we received money from unexpected places and had no trouble paying our bills until the sixth month. At that time, as we had agreed, Phil took that as a sign to move on. Someone recommended a place to him, he interviewed the same day and was immediately hired. Over the next few months, he made enough extra money to cover quite a bit of what he had given up in earned income the previous months. When the "experiment" was over, we could look back and see that we had never missed paying our bills.
I never asked Phil what he did with the checks that he was "holding onto". We both knew his boss hoped to honor them in time because he was (and is) an honorable man so it was possible the checks would be redeemable at a later date. A few days after Phil had switched jobs, he told me that he had prayed about the checks, felt like it was the right thing to do to give them back to his boss and so that's what he did. I was really proud of him (and still am!)
Does this mean that I don't stress over money? No. Like the disciples who sat in a boat with baskets of left-overs at their feet and still freaked out at the next "test", I can do the same. But each time He has to take me back to Money Stress 101 (which, honestly, I hope we don't go there any time soon), I like to think, hope at any rate, that I learn a little faster, stress a little less. Basically still on a learning curve but grateful for what He has brought us through in the past.