The simplest thing in the world.
When you earn money: add.
When you spend money: subtract.
Don’t spend more money than you earn.
The most complicated thing in the world.
The worth of a man to provide.
The way affection is expressed.
The security we crave.
The craving to always want more.
The measure of success.
The shame of debt and failure.
The pride of self-sufficiency.
How do we find our way?
It took my husband and I ten years of marriage before we finally got on the same page about finances. We THOUGHT we were on the same page. Every month we’d review and as we looked at the less than ideal numbers, feel the shame of our lack of discipline. We’d set the budget for the next month – DETERMINING to do better! Only to come to the end of that month in much the same place. All too quickly, our once a month reviews turned into once every three month reviews, and finally we stopped reviewing all together – only troubling to look when there was an overdraft notification or emergency.
Shame around this topic was thick. It kept both of us from being open, being present, being honest, being humble and finally God brought us to the point of desperation (what a mercy when He does that!).
Finding freedom in this area has been a slow journey (and I am still walking daily in it) but these gospel truths are what helped me to push through the darkness and come into the light.
My inability to manage my finances does not define me
I can’t tell you how many times I would tell myself, my husband, and anyone really: “I am just NOT good with money. I hate it, I hate thinking about it, I hate dealing with it, I’m just not good with money.” I said it so often that I started to believe it was true. I believed that I was who I was.
The gospel reminds me that I am a NEW CREATION. I have been given dominion over sin and darkness. It reminds me that what stays in the dark remains hidden and what is brought to light can be forgiven.
I was comfortable with defining myself as someone “not good with money” because it was easier to believe that, than to realize it was a sin issue that can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Once I stopped defining myself as someone “bad with money.” and instead as a daughter of God, I found the boldness to bring our mess out, share it with others and get a plan in place.
Submission brings freedom
Now that we had our plan, I only had to follow it. This however, proved to be more difficult that I anticipated. I was confronted with rebellion in my heart. I did not want to submit to the boundary lines God had placed around me.
If I wanted to bless my kiddos with ice cream, I would bless them with ice cream! If I wanted to redecorate our bedroom, I would do it! Submitting to a budget and restraints and never feeling like I had quite enough to do what I really wanted, made me feel stifled and constrained and I didn’t like it. I am ashamed as I recall the many little tantrums I would throw. My poor sister (who is so faithful and disciplined with her money and my role model in this area) heard quite the earful every time I would huff and puff about how hard this is.
As I began saying no to the things I wanted to buy, I had to cry out to Christ to make me content when there was no ice cream, or I was staring at that old coffee table with marker stains on it. I had to lean on Him to fill the void when I wasn’t able to maintain my life to the standard I felt I deserved or was “acceptable”. I had to remind myself where my joy and purpose and value lie. There was no retail therapy and it was so painfully good.
Funny thing happened, as I sacrificed and submitted to Him, I felt greater freedom. I felt freedom from the gut wrenching feeling of getting the overdraft alert email. I felt freedom to give money to a needy friend whose son was very sick, because we hadn’t overspent it on a West Elm coffee table. That is the contradictory freedom of the gospel!!
Life comes through death. Freedom comes when we submit and lay down our demands.
He alone can be my hope
The last gospel truth that brought freedom through this season of growing in our finances came a few months after the initial struggle. We were budgeting regularly, we were sticking to the plan. I had gotten over that silly lie that I “wasn’t a money person”. I was submitting and saying no to what wasn’t in the boundary lines for us and finding such freedom! We were putting money away towards debt and it was exciting.
Until, our homeowners insurance dropped us and we had to find a new company. As the inspector came through our house we discovered that the electrician who had redone our electrical panel over six years ago, did a terrible job and the entire thing needed to be redone.
Nothing like a $1200 home repair to shake all the confidence and money saving momentum. All of a sudden I was looking at our A/C unit, wondering when it would fail us. I was imagining strange noises coming out of our van. Everything seemed like it could go at any time and I felt anxiety creeping up in my heart.
I realized that I had begun to subtly shift my confidence from the Lord, to my ability to be a good little girl and save her money and stick to a budget. Once again, I ran to the gospel and found freedom. He feeds the birds of the air, he clothes the grass of the field, do not let your heart be anxious.
If He did not spare His own son, how much MORE will He not also give us all things.
The last lesson I have been learning about finances is that they are simply a tool in God’s hands to make us more like Christ. The numbers almost don’t matter – it’s my heart He’s after.
Our inheritance is CHRIST – not a 401K or a dream retirement home. This world is ending – for a while I actually used this as an excuse NOT to manage my money or put it away – thinking that it doesn’t matter, because this is not our final home, but when I realized that the way I treat money is a revealer of where my heart is toward God, how I’m trusting Him, submitting to Him, believing His truth about me instead of my lies, I found such FREEDOM to use this tool for HIS glory and put it in it’s proper place.
Publishing this blog in THIS month is a huge deal for us, because this is the month we officially are completely debt free (minus our home) and this is also the month when we prayed and decided to invest our money in our family before doing the “right thing” and build up a 3-6 month savings first. It’s not the plan, it’s not the debt, it’s not any of that – it’s our hearts. Are we willing to submit to God in EVERY area, including our finances? Are we willing to seek Him and let His gospel freedom impact even the dollars and cents in our bank accounts and wallets?
I am still learning EVERY DAY, I still struggle with shame and self-control, but I am not my failures, I am redeemed and my inheritance was purchased for me – NEVER to be taken away.