Today was Stewardship of Treasure Commitment Sunday at my parish. That's a long and fancy way of saying that they pass out the envelopes and ask everyone to write down a weekly or yearly pledge. Fr. Andrew gave an excellent homily addressed to the "5 groups of people in this congregation." The first group was those who have never given and have no intention of giving to the parish. And I had to sit there and listen to the message, knowing that I was part of that group. I wanted to stand up and yell, "I'd give, but my husband won't let me!"
It's so frustrating. I know God is aware of our family situation right now and I know that He wants me NOT to give. Truly, it's not that I care that the office clerk is going to tally up my envelopes for the year and shake her head and think, "Another family who gave nothing." What makes me so annoyed is that the church NEEDS my gift and I'm unable to do anything about it. Our parish is redoing the sanctuary starting tomorrow (there's a special Mass tonight and procession to move the Eucharist into its new spot in the school gym) and I can't be a part of it. They still need 7 million dollars to finish the reconstruction, but I can't give. Our community has hungry and needy that the parish cares for, but I can't participate. (Yes, I can donate spare goods -- which I have -- but the primary need is monetary. I worked for a nonprofit and frankly, unless you're Goodwill those material donations are more of a hindrance than a help. People like new things, many children's toys and equipment get recalled or are no longer usable, and the donations don't always exactly match the needs of the community. Money is really the best way to help.)
I don't want to be in the first group! I want to be in the last group, the group that tithes 10% every year and has only to readjust their pledge to accurately reflect any new income.
I had a strange conversation with my husband the other day. I'd found this site from one of the adoption blogs I'm following and had mentioned it with some excitement. "We wouldn't have to wait as long to find the money; we could start the adoption process next year!" My husband looked pained. "Isn't it need based? Because there's no way we'd qualify. We have too many assets."
"What do you mean, wouldn't qualify? Aren't we like, thousands of dollars in debt?"
"In my head we are." I must have looked poleaxed because he explained, "I sold stock to cover the debt. You know that."
This is the sort of thing that always made me nuts about economics and business when I had to take them in high school. I don't care what state the money exists in. I don't care if it's in a savings account, or it's stock, or it's cash under the mattress. There's only two kinds of money: assets and credit. We use our assets to make payments and our credit to purchase things that would take too long to save up for (a car, a house, etc.) Good financial stewardship means maintaining sufficient assets to make all required monthly credit payments and cover the expenses of living, while setting money aside for emergency savings, retirement, and significant future expenses (college, down payments on a house, etc.) Everything else is window dressing as far as I'm concerned.
If our assets were sufficient to cover our debt, it means we have no debt. We DO, of course, have house payments, car payments, insurance payments, school fees and a host of other expenses, but that's not the problem. My husband isn't saying that we can't give to charity or adopt a child until we own our own home. I misunderstood from his email that timing was an issue in this matter. Based on what I know now, I don't think it is. The stock has been sold already. We're not racking up interest payments on the debt anymore. So why can't we do a 1/2 and 1/2 sort of thing? How about we live frugally, pinching money wherever possible, then whatever we save, 1/2 goes into an account to offset the amount of the recent debt, and the rest gets put toward charity or adoption?
I don't know whether to bring this up to him. I'm really doing a VERY POOR job of humbling myself and waiting for God's time on this issue, but I'm just having such trouble justifying the delay. People need our help NOW and we can't even set a firm timetable for when we would be in a position to give. It's all this arbitrary, subjective point where we've put "enough" into a savings account. "They recommend you have an emergency fund equal to three months worth of expenses," says my husband. "How much would that be?" I asked.
The answer? Twice the current amount of our "debt."
I almost fell through the floor. How does the situation keep changing and our debt keep getting bigger and the wait keep getting longer?
"Well what about adoption?" I said. "Is that something we'd sell stock to cover, or would we save up for that?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I guess we could sell stock."
I didn't ask the follow up question to that, which was, So, if we sell stock for an adoption, does our "debt" then increase by $30K? Is that ANOTHER threshold we have to meet before we can give money to charity?
Pray for me, please. It's all I can do right now to not shake the man. I'm succeeding in having these conversations with him rationally and calmly. I'm truly seeking to understand his point of view and accept his decisions.
But I'm really having a hard time.