This Lent, I intentionally tackled one of my strongholds (meaning one of the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t let go of to make myself more useful for God) – anxiety over my children. I realized that this was a form of insisting on control, and it was motivated by all the fears and horror I experienced as a victim of domestic violence. Now that I’ve been free from the violence for ten years, wasn’t it time to also let go of the fear that had remained, as an excuse, a crutch and a bad habit?
I am not suggesting that I am 100% of anxiety, but forcing myself to let go of the constant worry surprised me with how easy it was once I was firm with myself. I am convinced that God asked me to do this specifically, because this Easter my daughter refused to go on her access visit and we had to fight to keep her here. Once I was finished being irritated that my former husband had brought his lawyer to a handover, I realized the entire incident had passed with no fear on my part. Amazing and wonderful!
So the other area where I have been working consistently with God is money.
Growing up in a very comfortably affluent family ensured that I had no concept of money, and I never had that intuition of how much money I had, or didn’t have. My first husband had total control over our finances as part of his campaign of terror, so I didn’t learn then either. Second husband grew up poor but earns a large salary now – so he has a very conservative attitude towards money that I have learned to respect and imitate.
But three years ago, my husband lost his job and so he went through a time of extreme money anxiety despite having very healthy savings and a large severance. I didn’t understand his fear but felt anxious myself when he got a great new job, and then since I was also working, decided what he would pay for and left the rest to me. I struggled mightily and just did not have enough money for everything I was supposed to cover.
I am still working on the resulting credit card debts, but they are shrinking more and more every month. I am grateful and thankful that I got myself into limited trouble, but the dollar amount doesn’t matter, it is the attitude behind it.
I used to love to shop, ALL the time. Now that I’m no longer a size 8, I don’t like shopping for me as much but I love to dress my children. I realized part of the issue wasn’t the unfair allocation of expenses, it was also shopping for my children and my inability to keep up with the small change (like work lunches and subway tickets).
I have been blessed with more funds as I’ve learned to take better care of them. I have also learned that God communicates very clearly with me on this one.
There will never be a parking space near the store if I’m on a frivolous errand.
There will be no sales if I am looking for something I don’t really need or am about to overspend purchasing.
There will be no cute clothing for my kids in the same situation.
If my proposed purchase is okay, there will be a great parking spot, lots of sales and plenty of cute things.
Once, my card didn’t work in the machine when I was on a frivolous errand.
My challenge now is to learn when it is “okay” to get something that maybe isn’t 100% need, but would be helpful to have (I just bought some new work shoes, my one pair of flatties was dying a death and I only have one pair of heels). They were half price. So by waiting I got two shoes for my initial budget I’d allocated for one pair. Thank you God for letting me have some pretty new shoes!
And it isn’t hard to see when He’s giving me the okay to proceed – my Easter dress this year was $4, for example. Once I put back a $12 sale dress that I just didn’t think He was keen on and later the same day I went to a thrift store and bought a much cuter designer dress second-hand for $3. Thank you God, for bargains and for not losing patience with my cluelessness.
It has taken nearly the full three years for me to begin grasping the central teaching and attitude God is working on with me – it isn’t the price of the clothing, or even how much money I have. It is my desire and my motivation for shopping, and my willingness to let Him run my bank accounts, not me. GIVE he will tell me and I’ll think, but that will take a huge chunk from my account. GIVE he will ask me again, and I will do it and then find I have more than enough to complete the time to my next paycheck in security. He doesn’t want me to suffer, he just wants me to treat it like His money and use it wisely.
I was talking to one of my closest friends last night and telling her about the system, and she laughed. She buys very high end things for her kids (eight of them, five still at home who need dressing) – so she can spend $100 on a dress for one daughter. Clearly, stewardship and relying on God’s provision isn’t a struggle for her in the same way. One day I might get where she is, but right now, I’m happy with the parking and sale system.
I grew this Lent, and I’m sure that will mean there are new things to address in the upcoming months.