Saturday, September 20, 2008

Finances and faith

Warning: This probably sounds like a bunch of whining. And in part, I guess it is. If you can handle that, read on.

This is a topic that's been on my mind for quite a while. It's something Brian and I have discussed throughout our marriage, as we both feel strongly that tithing - giving back to God - is something we need to be committed to doing.

Last Sunday night, the pastor talked about, among other things, making time to be alone with God, and asking God to help you identify the areas in your life where He really wanted you to let go and let Him work. He talked about one of his own experiences, when he was the new pastor at our church a number of years ago, things were not going well, and he was concerned that the church would close its doors, or split, or somehow things would fall out that he'd be without a job with a wife and three kids to take care of. He realized that what he needed to let go of was his fear about provision and needs being met, and as he talked, I realized that that was something I really needed to let go of as well. I was the sole or primary breadwinner for my entire marriage to K, and I'm still the primary breadwinner now (although I am very, very thankful Brian is working!), so the responsibility of making sure family is taken care of has weighed heavily on my shoulders my entire working life. If bills aren't getting paid on time, I take it personally, I feel like *I've* failed somehow, like *I* haven't tried hard enough or pinched pennies enough or done enough to bring home the bacon. I wasn't raised to not pay my obligations in full and on time, and it upsets me when ends don't meet like I think they ought to. This is one really big area where I feel like God wants me to get out of the way and let Him work, and even now, I struggle with it.

I find myself trying to put a time limit on God, expecting Him to conform to my timetable and my agenda. Malachi 3:10 says, "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." God doesn't tell us to test Him very often, but here, He does. So Brian and I will freely admit that yes, we're testing God. We've made our commitment to give, and we're doing it. And logically, I know what the pastor meant when he said that God promises to meet our needs, not to make us rich. But when things aren't getting paid on time, I begin to wonder. (I know, again logically and not emotionally, that the lack is with me and not with God - it's not that He doesn't keep His promises, it's that I don't keep the faith.) And hence, the struggle. I'm not feeling very blessed right now, not in the least, and I'm wrestling with what exactly it means to have faith that God will meet our needs. Does that mean constantly living on the financial edge, scraping from paycheck to paycheck, and just trusting that the money will be there to cover necessities and not much else? Do I have to have faith strong enough to trust that we can be balanced on the edge and not fall over, and is that what getting our needs met will mean for the rest of our lives? Somehow I can't imagine that that's what God meant. But right now, this is what I'm turning over and over in my head.

And on a slightly related but not-quite-identical note, there's Bright Blessings. I love making candles and scrubs and goodies. I enjoy it and I'm pretty decent at it, I think. I'm getting the word out in all the ways I know how and all the ways I can afford, and yet I'm not seeing a whole lot of growth. I'm on a couple of message boards where the chat about bath and body products is pretty prevalent, and I see people talking up what they've gotten and tried. It just seems like people seem to forget to mention when they've ordered from me. I've seen good reviews of my products, so I know people like them. I just don't seem to get the word of mouth that other companies do, and I can't figure out why. So, this leaves me wondering, should I just cut my losses and pack it in? Should I put up all my supplies for sale and take my website down and close my Etsy shop and be done with it? I know that right now, I could not handle a huge influx of orders - I know there are e-tailers who get a ton of business, and I'm not equipped to handle THAT much business right now. But a steady stream of orders would be nice, and just having people mention that they got the stuff they did order would be nice, too. I've been doing this for over a year now, and with the way things have been going, I'm honestly not sure it's worth my while to keep it up.

See, I said I was whining. I'm going to go wallow in the pity pit for a while with the lovely chocolate peanut butter cupcake from Sugar Dreams that my friend Kelly brought to me today.


danelle said...

Tithing does not have to be money, it can also be time..even kindness. Mark and I often secretly pay someones tab at Denny's, or put coins in parking meters, or give our restaurant leftovers to homeless people. There's a lot of good you can do in the name of the Lord that doesn't cost much.

And in the end, I firmly believe that when we tithe with our hearts (and a tiny bit of money sometimes) God rewards us in different ways. Maybe all the coupons in the paper are for what you need right now. Maybe everything you need at the store is on sale, etc.

I know this didnt really address everything you're saying, it just felt like you needed to hear it.

Lisa said...

Nell, I re-read this today, as I thought it might help. But what do you do when it feels like nothing is breaking your way, not the coupons in the paper, not a good sale at the store, nothing? We tithe with our money, and try to do good as the opportunity arises, and give of our time (I ring handbells, Brian sings in choir), and right now, it feels like it's all going for naught. Maybe this is just testing from Satan. I guess if we weren't trying, the devil would just leave us alone.