Monday, July 09, 2012

The Heart & The Bank Balance

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21)

Do you find issues related to money poking or yanking at your core sense of fear, pride, and identity? No wonder the Bible talks about money - or about wealth and poverty - so much. How we respond to them can be such a gauge of how we were doing. 

Consider the recent "promotion" from managing small things to being trusted with big ones, a change that came with my marriage. Among other things I'm charge of the finances. I don't know a better way to keep costs down than to write down every expense and track them against my budget like a calorie counter trying to lose weight. But it takes so much time now, and when I do, my old-maid heart (unaccustomed to caring for a family) recoils in shame and fear at how much it seems to cost! I tell myself we're going to be OK. And when I take my number crunching far enough I see that we're still on track. But before I get to that point, I'm prone to panic.

Last week Hubs and I went to see an eye doctor and ordered new contacts for me and new glasses for both of us. A pricy but "necessary" move - especially for C., who has been having great trouble with blurry vision and headaches. I have to stop and thank the Lord that we can see and that the technologies exist and are within our reach to keep us reading and driving and all the other things we'd have so much trouble doing if we hadn't been born in this day and age. I also have to repent of my pride at thinking I'm so responsible and so generous, that I know how to manage resources - to allow myself to admit I feel overwhelmed by the sudden increase of my options and my responsibilities. Oh, Father, loosen my grip and give me open hands with these things you tell me are only temporary and may only be stolen, destroyed, or lost.   

Similarly, I find myself worrying about my salary. Last week I got my financial statement from work and it revealed that after a couple of "low" giving months, the cushion in my ministry account is no longer in the thousands, but in the hundreds. C. was quite startled when I told him. In many areas he shows great faith, but his experiences with raising support were not so good, and so this time he was the one who panicked. And maybe I did, too...

It's not unusual to scape the bottom of the barrel this time of year, right? And after all, I did just lose a $500/month supporter. So of course my account is low. But have I done my part, have I been responsible, have I made my needs known and given people gracious and attractive opportunities to be part of my work? I felt, guiltily, that I had not. So I wrote and sent an email letter to 400+ people that was pretty clear about soliciting support. I knew it was only one step, but I figured it was a start - would lay a foundation for taking the scarier steps that must follow.

Later, I had trouble sleeping, fretting over whether I'd crossed - or appeared to cross - the line. Conventional support-raising wisdom is clear; letters are a good way to stay in touch but no way to raise funds, not for situations like mine. Impersonal direct solicitation for ongoing personal support is likely to come across as offensive and manipulative - and, moreover, it doesn't work. I couldn't sleep until I prayed, again, over those letters, told God I knew they might have been a mistake and asking him in his mercy to use them to build a bridge and not a barrier for those who received them. I reminded myself that God is the one who provides and that he can use whatever sources he wants; it's not my job to decide or know where they money's coming from. It's my job to ask, and to trust, and to say thank you.

Do you find the state of your bank balance does weird things to your heart? What have you found that helps?

>> Read the rest of Matthew 6.


Paul Merrill said...
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Paul Merrill said...

Marti and Chris, bless you as you navigate these waters together.

I lost my biggest contract this week. Or so I thought. I sent out an email to my inner circle, asking for prayer.

The next day, I heard back from a contact at the client company saying that they wanted me to stay on contract until the beginning of September, and, "Additionally, Brian mentioned that we would want to keep you on, on an as-needed basis for special projects. We all realize how talented you are."

So God answers prayer. As you know. And also as you know, He normally answers in ways we do not expect.

Marti said...

Thanks, Paul! I didn't write and say so but did pray for you when I got your email. And glad to hear the good news as well. Thanks, God!