Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wonder of wonders...

...miracle of miracles!

I wanted to take a brief moment and post here about an outstanding, completely unexpected breakthrough that occurred in my marriage recently.

My husband came up with a plan that allows us to give to charity every month.

For the last five years (ever since I gave up working outside the home) my husband has insisted that we have no money to give to charity. Though I felt comfortable tithing 10% of my own paycheck, once that disappeared I had nothing I could count as my own. So I gave away whatever cash came into my hands from family members, as gifts for my birthday or Christmas, change from buying lunch or coffee, etc.

About the time I began this blog, I decided to commit myself entirely to my husband's vision for our finances. I ceased asking him about charity and instead devoted my energies to spending as little of our money as I could. I turned over to my husband every penny I received as a gift, even though it offended my family members who intended it as "play money." My intention was to remove myself from the argument and really, wholeheartedly work for unity in my marriage. I wasn't going to change his mind, so it seemed the best idea was to embrace his plans and make them my own. I had some idea that he would be pleased to see me making an active investment in our financial future, and proud of my ability to spend wisely. I even thought God might reward my efforts with some sort of major change of heart, perhaps even a windfall of money that would allow us to start adoption proceedings.

As of November, this was looking to be a dismal failure. I was frustrated by my inability to keep to our monthly budget and exhausted by the mental effort it required to plan each grocery trip down to the last penny and deny myself practically everything I wanted to buy (goat cheese, home decor, clothes, replacement sneakers, snacks at the mall, visits to the chiropractor, etc.) Each time I put the pine nuts back on the shelf at the store, or adjusted the books in my daughter's broken cubby, I mentally fumed that these sacrifices were totally for naught. We weren't saving any money at all. To make matters worse, my husband hadn't even noticed. He was growing more and more concerned about our finances, to the point where he was having trouble sleeping from the stress. I felt I had no incentive to keep up my careful regimen even though I knew it was right and good to do so. I felt like our situation would never change, and I wondered why God didn't seem to be doing anything to change it.

By the grace of God and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I refrained from sharing any of my feelings with my husband. I just kept on as I had been, and instead of giving me cash, my family started buying us groceries and home improvements. In December however, directly on the heels of going over-budget in November and with Christmas looming ever closer, I gave in to despair and made an offhand comment along the lines of: "it's never going to be enough for you." He was offended, rightly so, and countered, "you have made it perfectly clear you don't care about our finances."

Somehow, I managed to refrain from defending myself, pointing out all the sacrifices I was making and all the effort I had put into "his" vision, the pain it caused me to turn away from homeless people on the street and the tears I cried every time the collection basket went past me at Church. But I was preparing to scrap the whole experiment and start hiding money from him and giving it away behind his back. The only reason I didn't is that I had none to give, it being December and all.

Yet within two weeks, he wrote me an email to say he'd been spending a lot of time pondering the situation, and suggested that any remaining money at the end of the month could be split, 50/50, into savings and charity. I can't express to you my surprise and delight, or how unexpected his gesture truly was. There was no lead up to his sudden acceptance of my desires and subsequent factoring in of them to the family plan.

Nor was it anything I did, or anything I said, to change his mind. In the past, we had argued about this endlessly without coming to any satisfactory conclusion: I confidently asserted that we would be blessed if we gave from our hearts, he said we had no money to waste. I explained my beliefs about stewardship and responsibility to those less fortunate, he said we could help them when we weren't struggling to pay our own bills. Yet even though nothing in our money situation changed, even though we aren't yet at the point where we have 6 months income in a savings account for emergencies and even with the house in need of immediate repairs, he just decided that we could do this and then came up with a plan to make it work. I can only deduce it was the hand of God working in him. And therein lies the miracle.

It's not the plan I would have chosen, of course. It's actually better because it fulfills BOTH our interests. And because my husband came up with it himself, I feel like it's a gift he's given me, rather than a battle I've won at the expense of his pride.

So we have a charity account now! And I have direct incentive to refrain from spending frivolously; if I am under budget each month, some of that money will go to help the poor. It just makes it so much easier to brave the crowds at Costco knowing that there's a larger purpose to my sacrifices. And for the first time, I feel my husband and are are truly united in our marriage and our finances. We are working together towards each of our goals. This is so much better than a windfall of money (though if God has one planned I won't turn it down!)

I am thrilled and filled with new hope. I truly consider this a miracle, and I am wholly thankful for it.

Picture credit.


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow, that is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

qualcosa di bello said...

this is a truly beautiful story...a perfect read for a Sunday. God loves to surprise us with answers to our prayers in ways we could never imagine!