November 5, 2015
God works differently in all our lives: Sex, Money, Suffering, and Grace
Recently I have had several conversations with people about tithing. Several women shared that they are convicted to tithe a full 10% of their money, first thing, and they have seen time and time again that God has been generous back to them. Another friend confided that every time she does not give from the top of her paycheck something ridiculous always happens so that she has even less money.
Now, after I wrote the Financial Hardships and Surprise Pregnancies series, where I revealed that we do not tithe 10% monetarily several things happened:
- We received notice that our mortgage was going up each month because of escrow.
- I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, throwing a wrench into our meal plan and grocery budget.
- My husband had to cancel a dental appointment because we couldn't afford the work.
- Someone sent us $200, which we are putting towards the dental work and Christmas presents. (Thank you!)
- Someone else sent me a whole box of chai tea concentrate (which I have to drink in major moderation now but once the baby comes and the diabetes clears up I will be freely enjoying). (And thank you!)
- Someone else sent us a $100 gift card that we can put towards groceries. (And thank you, too!)
Maybe we were given new difficulties because we don't tithe 10% of our paychecks but I don't think that's how God works - at least not in our lives. I mean, at the exact same time, look at the ways He was inspiring the Body of Christ to be generous! Look at the ways He came through for us!
BUT, I do trust those women in what they said. I do believe that that's how God works in their lives.
This was probably already made pretty darn clear in the FH&SP series, but being this poor can be incredibly humiliating at times. But like I also said in the series I really do think that these are the sufferings and sacrifices God has given to us. They're not going to look exactly like yours nor will yours look like mine.
I wholeheartedly believe that God works differently in each of our lives according to what we need for sanctification. Maybe that friend of mine needs to be stripped of her love of money and needs to learn to submit to and trust in God. Or maybe that's not it at all - I'm just guessing to illustrate here.
But for me, I think I need to be stripped of my pride. I need to learn to put others first. I need to love God above my husband. At least that's what I've figured out so far, I'm sure there's lots more to unearth. Right now my heaviest crosses are the financial worry, the physical toll all the pregnancies have taken on my body, and the fact that natural family planning in my marriage will be nothing more than complete abstinence for several (many?) years. So I guess I need to work on chastity, too, probably.
Are these things fun? Uh, no. Are they easy? Nope, usually not and especially not at first. But these crosses are mine and it's time to stop pretending like I should have what other people have (like savings accounts and normal fertility) because that's not what I need right now to grow in holiness.
A recent article posted at Aleteia says with a great deal of charity and compassion for people just like me, "It can’t be acceptable, from the Catholic point of view, that the marital act is so strictly bound by economic status that husbands and wives can enjoy the divine gift of sexual union only if they can afford the result. The Catholic teaching is not for the middle and upper classes alone."
Do you know what I thought when I read that? "I appreciate what you're saying, but don't take this away from me." If this is my cross, if this is the means that God has chosen to sanctify me then please don't take it way. Don't find an easy out option for me. I don't need a loophole; I need grace.
I need the grace to turn to God in prayer. I need grace to not believe the lie that my husband doesn't love me just because we can't be intimate. I need grace to do what I need to do to heal and strengthen my body. I need the grace to stop worrying about how dingy and shabby the carpet, bathrooms, living room furniture, and kitchen cabinets look and start being grateful. As my Ugandan priest told me, materialism is one of the greatest weaknesses of Catholics in America. My bathrooms may be dated, small, and ugly but I have two of them, with hot running water, and they're air conditioned.
As an aside, if you want to feel like an ungrateful jerk, try confessing your jealousy of everyone else's shiny swagger wagons to a man who as a boy had to hide in the fields of a banana plantation, ended up being bitten everywhere by fire ants but couldn't move because otherwise he'd be killed or kidnapped by the soldiers who had arrived at his home during a civil war.
So materialism, jealousy, ungratefulness - yes I need to work on those things, too. And because of the lot in life that God has given me I can work on them. This vocation - my husband, my kids, my home - this is the path before me and the Good Shepherd is leading me so I fear no evil. The trick is to only remember that His rod and staff are there to guide and save me, not to punish me. Your path may look a bit different than mine - your verdant pastures may have different consolations and there may be different rocks and brambles along your way - but I trust that's how it should be.
The Kind of Love my shepherd is
whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am His
and He is mine forever...
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness fails me never.
Good Shepherd may I sing Thy praise
within Thy house forever.