Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Taking a Leap

It's pretty clear to me what I am being called to do. This post, and this one, and this one, and the first comment on this one all point to the same conclusion: Stop trying to do it all yourself and just give it to God.

And these are all posts within the last week or so.

When I began this blog, I wanted to highlight the ways we, as blessed inhabitants of a wealthy and prosperous nation, can live our lives in solidarity with the poor. My path was waylaid immediately by what I thought at the time was an obstacle: my husband's opposition to giving to charity. So I changed my focus and dedicated myself to budgeting and saving, non-monetary giving, and prayer.

It's not at all that I think I made the wrong choice or anything, but I think I had the wrong attitude about it. I thought at the time, "I'll just do all these things in obedience to what God is calling me to do, and He will change my husband's heart so we'll be able to give to charity." I also thought, "God will help me save money so we will be in a good financial position and have extra to give to the poor."

Um. So. That totally hasn't happened. At all. The irony is, we are in excellent financial position. We have paid off all our debt and saved three to four months worth of salary for emergency spending. My husband has gotten a raise. We've made improvements on our house that actually saved us money in the long run (winterizing, etc.)

But we don't seem to have any money for the poor. My husband had suggested that any money left over in the monthly budget could be split 50/50 between savings and charity. Not only have we not had any money left over for the last year, but we have been overspending our monthly budget by hundreds and hundreds of dollars. In fact, just from overspending, we've gone back into debt.

My husband is dumbfounded. "How is this happening?" he asked me the other night. "We used to be able to get by with less! We have more money than we ever have and we're spending more!"

I didn't have an answer for him, but in praying about it (and reading blogs that coincidentally all say the same things) it seems pretty obvious to me what the problem is. We're not giving God His money. The whole idea of budgeting and scrimping so we can save some "extra" for the poor has the entire thing backwards. We should be giving freely to the poor, and trusting in God to provide for us, as He did when we gave $100 to the IRC instead of buying groceries.

I am petrified. And completely at a loss. This whole trusting God thing is exceedingly difficult for me, and I am very, very worried about how it might affect my marriage. Can I be completely honest? It's not even that I worry about our financial situation, or making my husband mad. My real fear, the deepest, most central fear that's stopping me from taking a leap of faith, is that it won't work, and it will be just one more reason for my husband not to believe in God.

What if we do this, if we give to God and then He doesn't provide? I've seen friends who attempted great things for God fail utterly and completely (in the eyes of the world.) It didn't rock their faith, they were never in a situation where they had no food or no home, and I think it led them to a better place, but as far as my husband is concerned, they listened to a voice that wasn't there and completely ruined their finances. I don't want to fall into a prosperity gospel trap here and move forward recklessly, expecting that strangers are going to drop checks on our porch to pay my kids' tuition. But if my husband and I are not on the same page when it comes to tithing, we might not hear the same message, and what to me is a sacrifice for the greater good might to my husband be a failure or an untenable compromise.

And of course, I care more about what God wants me to do than what my husband may or may not think, but it doesn't seem right to me that I am forced to choose. It doesn't seem to me that God would ask something of me that would harm my marriage.

Which leads me to think that He is in control of this, and that good will come of it.

But I'm still petrified. And I don't know how to start.

Picture credit: Movie still from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, brain child of the illustrious Mr. George Lucas (George Lucas & Jeffrey Boam, Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm, May 24, 1989.)

9 comments:

Katherine said...

I remember seeing in a pamphlet in the Archdiocese of Denver a breakdown of tithing. Of the 10%, give half or 5% to your parish, give 2% to your annual diocesan campaign, give 1% to your local seminary or vocations office and give the remaining 2% to other charities you encounter throughout the year. I love this breakdown because it gives 10% to God but through several ways, although, I confess we give to our diocesan campaign based on the bishop.

God does provide. We are in debt with school loans but we always give God at least 10% and He has never let us down. He may not always provide in the way you think He will, but provide He will.

One thing I'm not understanding: is your husband okay with giving 10% to God? If not, tell God you will do His will and ask Him to change your husband's heart. Whenever I have felt called to something but my husband wasn't on board, I simply told God that I was willing, but if He wanted it, then HE was going to have to work his magic on my husband. And He has always won. Men are no match for God. But you will have to ask God to turn your husband's heart and then LET God do it. If though your husband does not want to give, personally, I recommend submitting and praying fervently that God change his heart.

I can't imagine what it is like being married to a husband who doesn't believe in God. My husband is a theologian. But your vocation is marriage. Your husband needs you. Did you ever consider that, as an atheist, you are MARRIED to the spiritual POOR?!? It seems to me God's greater request of you is the salvation of your husband much more than any money you would donate. Spiritually, your husband might be among the "poorest of the poor" and, if he doesn't get help from you, he might not get it. Certainly helping the less fortunate is a noble endeavor, but is there any less fortunate than the one who does not have the hope, love and salvation of God? I recommend being a witness of God's patience and compassion and submit to his leadership with fervent prayers and novenas for his conversion. JMHO God Bless †

Rae said...

I just said a prayer for you. I don't think that giving first and saving after is guaranteed to work in the way that your husband would like (though goodness knows it often happens that way!). But it would work in making you happier. Could that count for him?

Rae said...

Ha! I somehow didn't leave at all the comment that I had intended to. Please know that I have prayed for you, and while I have no idea how you should handle this situation I am blessed by the fact that you care about it so much. Please keep blogging. I so needed this after some other posts that I have read on the subject.

Libby said...

I don't think I've ever commented here before but had to jump in...

Our life situations are pretty different, but I can relate to being terrified to make a financial leap! A few years ago I felt God calling me to leave my job and become a full time volunteer, meaning that I had zero income. A place to sleep and simple meals were provided, but I had to trust God for all the rest. It was super scary for me, especially since I have some health problems that need ongoing care...but sure enough, God always provided.

One big thing I took away from that experience was the realization that God is always the one providing for us even when we think we are providing for ourselves. We think it's our own work and our own efforts, but even then it's Him. He is providing everything you have now, so is there any reason to think he will provide LESS when you are tithing? For me personally it was always just very hard to REALIZE that it was God all along, but once I did it made letting go so much easier.

But I totally get how terrifying and really difficult it is! I hope you will be blessed as you work your way through this difficult place.

Malachi 3:10

Tienne said...

Katherine:

No, my husband is definitely not okay with a tithe. And to be fair, if we gave 10% of our income to the Church, we ought to give another 10% to the charities he wants to support. So it's a pipe dream at the moment to do a full tithe, and not really something I'm considering.

I was thinking more like 10% of our monthly budget, which would be about 2.5% of our income.

Tienne said...

Rae - Thanks for the prayers, Hon! They're always appreciated.

Tienne said...

Libby -- Thank you for commenting! Your blog makes me homesick for the North Shore. :) I love your point about God providing everything already. I'll have to ponder that in my heart a bit and see if it gives me strength.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

You're in my prayers!

Also, there is probably a way to frame the idea that's not specifically Christian. For example, I just Googled secular tithe and found a bunch of posts like this one that make the case, from a non-religious perspective, that people who are generous with their money tend to have more of it.

I think you might be able to make the case that this is just just some mysterious law of the universe. He doesn't necessarily have to believe that it's the God of the Bible at work -- people of all different belief systems have understood this concept for ages. Framing it that way might take the pressure off of how it might impact his belief in God. :)

Kathryn Alvey said...

Hi Tienne,

I can't believe I have found someone who is going through the same struggle as myself. I feel so very comforted to know that I'm not the only Catholic girl who loves an atheist man. I'm actually engaged to R (who is an atheist-leaning agnostic). In discussing our financial future, R has made it very clear that we will not tithe, but is ok with giving to a charity once he feels we are financially ready for that. I have been struggling very much lately with the thought that maybe marriage to an atheist is not my calling, but then I stumble upon someone like you who is making it work, and it gives me hope! I will pray for you; please pray for me!

Kathryn

If you are ever open to starting a conversation with me, I could really use some support.