Friday, October 23, 2009

Let's talk about the money...

Money - it's one of the most private areas of our lives, isn't it? It's something that we just don't share with anyone else, and yet it should be one of those areas in which, as Christians, we look for some help with accountability from fellow believers. God's word references money more than 2300 times, and our relationship with Him can definitely be affected by how we use the material blessings that He gives us. So often, our tendency to think of those material blessings as "ours" causes all sorts of problems, because of course, they are not ours. They are His - lent to us to be used in His service. Our adoption journey has taught us so much about God and His money, and I feel compelled to share some of it. Yes, this story will include some personal details about us, but this story isn't really about us at all. It's about God and His amazing power and grace.

In the Spring of 2008, we joined a Crown Financial small group Bible study at church and became increasingly convicted over the next several months that our finances needed to be turned over to God. We were not in much debt, and we had always tithed, but we were certainly spending a lot of money on very unnecessary things, and in our pride we justified ourselves by saying things like, "Yeah, but look how small our house is. At least we're not spending tons of money trying to build a huge house when there are so many people with nothing," - a great example of why the Lord tells us not to compare ourselves to others. What exactly do we have to be proud about? The Word teaches that we are NOTHING of ourselves. As we moved deeper and deeper into the Bible study, we began to ask ourselves some tough questions. How could we continue to say that we were in the service of God when we were giving so little of our abundance to Him? How could we continue to spend so much on ourselves when there were so many starving, needy people in the world? We were convicted, but made very few changes to our lifestyle. Years of living as a double-income-no-kids couple and pretty much buying anything we wanted when we wanted it had definitely impacted the way that we thought about "our" money. At some point during the Bible study, we were directed to begin asking the Lord to put a poor person in our life that we could help, and so we began to pray that prayer, never guessing where God was going to lead us!

God is not limited for resources in any way, and if He has led you to do something in His name, He will provide a way for it to happen - sometimes in spite of the roadblocks that you put up. (As he often does, Satan even tried to use our source of pride - our "small" house against us as God began to lead us toward adoption: "Lord, our house is way too small to add another person to it - how could we possibly adopt?" Well, let me tell you, God dealt with THAT idea pretty effectively by showing us the living conditions of most of the rest of the world during our trip to Ethiopia!) Anyway, when He finally got through to us that we were to adopt, we had about $5000 saved for a trip to Hawaii, and we felt that He was asking us to put that money toward a completely different kind of journey. :-) I remember thinking before we really looked into it, "I know that adoption can be expensive - this could probably cost us over $10,000!" Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach as I began to research and learned that adoption generally costs anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. "Ummm, Lord, how are we going to get THAT kind of money?" At the beginning of last October, we re-budgeted to live off of only David's income, so that we could put my income toward adoption expenses. According to our thoughts, our adoption would probably take at least a year - maybe even 18 months, and if we carefully saved my income, the money would be there.

At one point, shortly afterward, I had a little internal wrestling match with God over what I still thought of as "my" money. “Why in the world would You want us to spend this much money to help just one person when that same amount would help hundreds if we gave it to be used for a food project? It just doesn’t make any sense, and we are probably so wrong about what we’ve thought You've been saying.” I was preparing for a Crown Bible study at the time and happened to look down at my workbook where I saw the words of Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” I was definitely pricked by that, but continued on with the lesson. The next question was about Deuteronomy 10:14, which says: “Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that is therein.” “Okay,” I thought to myself, “I guess that the orphaned children of this world belong to God, and if He wants me to have one, then that’s His choice, but it sure doesn’t make sense to me.” I think that God knew He needed to deal with my belligerent attitude once and for all, because even though the lesson only called for that one verse to be read, I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to continue the passage. “Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore your heart and be no more stiffnecked! For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He doth execute justice for the orphan and the widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.” By this point in the passage I was reduced to tears as I was confronted by my weak, doubting heart. I praise God that He knows exactly when I need His chastening - how dare I try to argue with Him about what I KNEW that He was telling me to do? I then finished the chapter: “Love ye therefore the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name. He is thy praise, and He is Thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.” God can make His will perfectly clear!

Well, to make a very long story a bit shorter, we signed our contract with AGCI on December 6th, and in January, my job went to part-time, effectively cutting my income in half. In February, David began to have some serious health issues, and over the next month and a half, ended up in the hospital for about 15 days, eventually having his colon removed, and causing us to have to pay out all of our medical deductibles. During that same time, we received our referral for Yikealo - MUCH earlier than we had originally planned! We ended up traveling in June to bring home our new son - only 7 months to the day from the day that our application was accepted by AGCI. Here's the amazing part - the money was there for everything! Our God can multiply a few loaves and fishes to feed 5000, and He took our $5000 and multiplied it in a very short time to somewhere around $30,000 (between medical and adoption expenses.) We did not have to take out any loans, and we are completely paid up on all of the adoption expenses AND the hospital bills. We were blessed by some very generous donations from family and friends without us ever even asking for them, and I really believe that the whole experience was God's way of showing us clearly that HE DOESN'T NEED US to accomplish His will. He knocked so much of our safety net completely out of the way, and showed us once again that His ways are not our ways.

Has God asked you to do something for Him? Something that you're looking at and saying, "Oh, I couldn't do THAT - I'm not big enough or strong enough or rich enough..."? Well, you're right - YOU can't do it, but GOD can! God doesn't need you anyway, but He WANTS you. He WILL provide when you step out in faith to do what He asks, and you will be abundantly, miraculously blessed. It's not always easy, and you may learn some unpleasant truths about yourself in the process, but it's so worth it. He is more than able to help you through whatever it is that He asks of you, and He will teach you more about His mercy and grace in the process. Just give it up to Him every single day - He's completely capable of handling the details. The best part is that He doesn't wait until we're perfect or until we get everything together before He chooses to use us - if He waited for that, He'd never find a use for us. We all make lots of mistakes along the way and most of us have to learn the same lessons over and over and over again - but He NEVER gives up on us, and He NEVER stops trying to conform us more closely to the image of His Son. May His name be praised!

Early on in our adoption journey, David was convicted by the words of a song that Christian singer Michael Card wrote to his young son. I like to think that it's also a song of God's love to us and the joy that He takes in watching us experience the blessing that He gives:

"Reject the worldly lie that says
that life lies always up ahead.
Let power go before control
becomes a crust around your soul.
Escape the hunger to possess
and soul-diminishing success.
This world is full of narrow lives -
I pray, by grace, your smile survives.

For I would wander weary miles,
Would welcome ridicule, my child,
To simply see the sunrise of your smile,
To see the light behind your eyes,
the happy thought that makes you fly.
Yes, I would wander weary miles
To simply see the sunrise of your smile.

He DID wander weary miles to be with us. He DID welcome ridicule in order to become our salvation. How could we ever think that the God who gave up everything to rescue us would not be able to handle a little thing like our personal finances?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing....hard to follow, but easy once we really see. We have asked God several times....are you sure....8 children really?? People think we are nuts all the time...they really question our thought process...but at the end of the day - it is NOT OUR THOUGHTS. We have had to scale down considerably...and still doing it! We have had to rethink all kinds of things in our home, but although I thought I would miss those things- nope not really. God has filled it with HIM. Thank you for sharing God's miracle in you and for your support.