The fear of lack has always been with me. I was born in the days before Canada made healthcare available to everyone. My parents’ health insurance disappeared with my father’s former job just before I was born. My mother had many complications from my birth that left many bills. Both my parents worked hard to pay those bills, as well as bills from a failed business venture, but at ten years old I overheard a conversation I wasn’t meant to hear. It was about how much my birth had cost and how debt payments were still setting the family back compared to other people. Like kids tend to do, I thought the tension on bill paying day was my fault for being born in a way that caused my mom and dad way more suffering than it should have.
I developed a fear of lack as well as anxiety around asking for what I needed. That kind of fear can lead to an obsession with earning money and displaying what it can buy. It can also lead to not wanting to spend money and bragging about money-saving DIY skills and finding things at lower price than anyone else in the room. And sometimes both expressions manifest simultaneously in ways that thoroughly annoy others. Most of my life, I have tended to take the penny-pinching, make-do means of coping with fear of poverty.
Don’t get me wrong. We always had enough for necessities when I was a kid. Compared to most of the people in the world, we had a lot. Compared to neighbours in our community, “Things,” as the expressions goes, “were tight.”
The sense of being poor or rich often comes only in comparison to others.
Compared to my grandparents when they were living through the Great Depression, we were rich. We had indoor plumbing, more than two changes of clothes, nutritious food, a vehicle, and heat for the house that didn’t require scooping dirty coal or hours of chopping wood when you could find it. Come to think of it, we had a house, which was more than my grandparents, who spent some tough years living in two uninsulated granaries pulled together, could boast of. It seems tiny house living is most attractive to people who have options.
Families in our circle had ski hill memberships in Banff, two cars, lots of toys and sports equipment, college funds for all the kids (girls included), a mom who didn’t have to go to work, and cash in hand at the end of the month. Since I didn’t actually know anyone who still lived in a granary, this was my concept of the average family. Compared to other kids at school or at church in my affluent city in Canada, I was from a poor family.
My husband is a naturally generous person. I’ve had to work at it. I’ve had to learn to trust God with my needs by giving things away as an act of faith and obedience. I’ve often spoken Psalm 37:25 out loud as a reminder of God’s keeping power: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
Discussions of run-away inflation and shortages in the news lately make me want to buy more things than we need before the price goes up or they are not available. I fight the urge to hit the bargain shops and buy things to stuff into bins in the closet in case we will need them someday.
(A note to clarify: I’m not talking about either unwise spending or lack of planning. Ask the Lord for wisdom and for his leading in your own life, then obey and go for it -as long as you do it in faith. For me, at the moment, the temptation to hoard is a left-over manifestation of fear that there will not be enough, that God will not be there to provide for our needs. I understand he’s giving me an exercise in trust.)
Realizing that sometimes fear is often the root of negative self-fulfilling prophecy, I asked God for wisdom. Then I had a dream. In this dream a heroic warrior looking person gave me a marvelous pair of skates just before I went into a grocery store. People in the store were fighting over items on partially empty shelves. They blocked the aisles as they argued. Somehow (I don’t know how because I haven’t been skating since I was a teen and my skills never progressed beyond moving across the rink without falling down, not to mention that skates only work on ice), I put them on and skated around all these people with issues. With these special skates on my feet I was like an Olympic figure skater accomplishing amazing leaps over freezers and spins in the produce section. I picked up the few things I needed without upsetting anyone, paid, and left. When I saw the hero outside, he gave me a hero’s welcome.
I believe the dream is telling me I can trust that my Hero will provide what I need when I need it. (Hosea records in chapter two that on the day the unfaithful woman responds to God instead of going after material symbols of insincere forms of attention, she will call him Ishi –Hero/husband and no longer Baali –Master.)
Today I read Hebrews 13:5 in the Passion Translation: “Don’t be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, ‘I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life.’”
That’s a promise that’s safe without a safety deposit box in the bank.