Sunday, July 19, 2009

Looking Beyond "Can't"

I'm working on figuring out a private budget based on a 10% tithe. I've been so frustrated and bewildered by how on earth I can possibly save enough money for a tithe when, based on the arrangement we have for giving to charity, only a quarter of what I save will actually go to the Church (the rest is for savings and my husbands charities.) When I figured it out, (and it's very possible my math is wrong here) I'd have to save more than I spend. I honestly can't do it; it's not a matter of better budgeting. It's just impossible.

But I think perhaps I've been going about it backwards. I don't need to actually put that amount of money into the Parish envelope each month. I don't even have to actually save that amount. What I need to do is develop a lifestyle with the tithe at the base so that we live at a Godly means.

Instead of thinking, "I just can't do it," I must think, "What can I do?" If lowering my food budget by $100 a month gets me closer to that tithe, then that's something I can do. If buying a duvet cover instead of a new comforter for the guest room gets me closer to a thithe, then that's something I can do, too. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by my limitations, I need to concentrate instead on the small things I can do on my journey to full stewardship.

That mantra has hit home in a big way in regards to a family situation I'm encountering. Right now I am boiling over with indignation and my gut instinct is to cut off all communication with this one family member. Permanently. When I think about the Christian commandment to show love and compassion, I think, "I just CAN'T do it!" I absolutely cannot love this person now. Can. Not. Do. It.

So, what can I do?

1. I can pray for them.
I don't want to. This person has caused extreme suffering to those I love, entirely through their own weakness, selfishness, and poor choices. I'd rather pray for the soul of Natalia Estemirova and the situation in Chechnya. There are people dying from hunger who better deserve my prayers. My friend with four children and one on the way is moving this week and needs my prayers, as does another friend who's been trying to conceive for years, and another friend whose husband may quit his job. I'd like to pray for my online friends, whose situations are no less dear to me despite our never having met in person.

Unfortunately, I'm not a Carmelite. So I can't pray for everything I want to and also be present with my family. Wouldn't my prayers be better spent on someone who deserves it?

Short answer: no. Though that's how I feel, I know it's not the way God works. And it's a darn good thing He's rather more merciful than I, or we'd all be in a boat-load of trouble.

2. I can be kind to them.
There's no need to write angry emails. There's no need to trash them verbally in front of my kids or the rest of the family. I don't think I'll be able to have a conversation over the phone or anything, but if the situation comes up I can simply say, "Now is not a good time. I'll have to get back to you."

That's enough to start on, I think. Anything else seems beyond me right now. I can pray for guidance, wisdom and the intervention of the Holy Spirit for myself, as I've been doing. And in the meantime I can concentrate on eating down my pantry, because with this new budget it looks like my grocery shopping is pretty much done for the month except for milk, bananas and grapes. It's not at all a problem, though. Thanks to Costco I could probably feed six people on corn chips alone!

God Bless.

Photo credit.


Anna said...

I would think that your husband's charities should also count towards the 10% tithe, even if they are ... less deserving, in your eyes.

Tienne said...

Anna, you're right. Technically of course they do count. And it's not so much that I think his charities are less deserving as that I want to give 10% of our income to the Church. That's my personal goal, outside whatever my husband chooses to do with his allotment of our savings.

Anna said...

Why is that your goal, to give 10% to the Church, aside from your other charitable givings? Is that a realistic goal? Have you asked yourself whether that is a goal that God is leading you to, or whether it is a goal that you have because it sounds noble and self-sacrificial in your mind? (I ask because, when *I* have made goals like that for myself, it's because I'm ultimately motivated by a desire for my own glory. I'm not trying to speak for you.)

Aelinn said...

Thank you. This is a timely post for me!

Tienne said...


Part of it is a discipline thing. I'm not trying to give 10% to the Church in addition to everything else. All my charitable giving will be for the Church. My parish is what's known as a "Stewardship Parish" which means that we don't have any second collections, ever. We only have the one envelope. No one is allowed to solicit after Mass or outside the Church or within ministries. All money associated with the Parish (except for the school) comes from the collection.

Our Pastor gives generously to various charities that ask for our Parish's help. So, for instance, the Damien House that I posted about in a previous entry received a few grand from our Church. Although I didn't personally help them, they were helped through my giving to my Parish.

So part of the discipline I am looking to develop it to take the power of choice out of my hands. There are far too many charities I want to help, and rather than receive solicitation cards and thank you notes from individual charities, I will give only to the one. That way, I am a voiceless, nameless part of the whole: my Parish.

If, by "other charitable givings" you mean my husband's charities, I should mention that there's no indication he has given away any of that money to the poor. He could send that money to Barack Obama's campaign, or any of the schools he attended, as they are all 501(c)3s. He could let it sit in our account and not spend it at all. He could also give it to organizations that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Church. Given that he has allowed me free reign with my funds, even though I'm sure he is not pleased to be subsidizing a religious institution, I, too, have decided to simply discount that money entirely.

I don't really know if it's realistic. It's a goal I'm working towards. And honestly, it's never going to be realistic if we maintain a high level of spending and don't make hard choices about what we want and what we truly need. It's all a journey. I'm certainly willing to prayerfully revisit it as I work through the logistics.

Anna said...

"So part of the discipline I am looking to develop it to take the power of choice out of my hands."

That makes a lot of sense. I think I was picturing you trying to give 10% to the parish on top of trying to give money to other charities that help the poor; which might be unreasonable (or might not be, depending on your circumstances). But giving 10% to the parish and letting them give to other worthy charities makes sense. It still might not be feasible - that depends on God - but I can see why you'd have that for your goal.