NOTE: This is an extremely difficult blog to write, as I am still struggling with issues of shame connected to living in poverty.
Until a few days ago I blamed us for this season of poverty.
We don't have terminal degrees. Che is still in school for his BA. We moved away from our immediate family. We have at times spent beyond our means. We don't have a savings. Then it hit me that when we were preparing to move to MD in 2015 and God told Che "I'm preparing a place for you" He wasn't just talking about a place to rest our heads after a full day's work and study. That place was not just a place to worship corporately on a weekly basis. That place was also poverty. We didn't blow an inheritance. We don't take our paychecks and purchase the latest trendy gadgets and/or shoes. We're not forgoing tithes in order to pay for a weekend get-a-way. We're just poor right now.
Man, I have a hard time saying that because God is ABUNDANCE. Everything God has been, is, and will forever be over the top, overflowing, perfect, all powerful, everything we ever need or want, wealthy, and not lacking any resource. But God gives and God takes away. Consider these three positions as it relates to poverty.
Deep down on the inside of me, I was poor spiritually and in order for God to show me how deeply I needed Him spiritually - I believe He decided to show us (me) physically.
God is sovereign. His sovereignty is not always understood or celebrated. But He is who He is and I trust that He knows what He is doing!
The people He has called us to love, befriend, and serve in ministry are people who are struggling to make an end meet, who can't afford vacations, and have a hard time hoping because of the never-ending crisis. Considering our current experience the lenses to which we do ministry has been changed forever. Our lense to do God's work has now been informed by this experience that The Lord developed just for us.
POVERTY IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF GOD'S BLESSING!
In this season I have had the painful and uncomfortable blessing of looking at my whole self in the mirror. The good, the bad, and the sinful. What God helped me uncover is that my soul's balance was negative but The Spirit of God had been trying to make deposits. I couldn't see the deposits because of the way I was spending (sinning). It (sin) created this illusion of wealth because it was buffered by living in close proximity to my immediate family and living in spaces that were priced below the market value (Praise God). But living so far away from our immediate family has been the exposure I needed in order to see coveting, lust, ungratefulness, fear, worry, idolatry, and my excluding portions of the fruit of the spirit like it was a buffet. Coveting alone was writing more checks than I had money in the bank! Every time I sinned (knowingly or unknowingly) it stirred up anxiety, shame, ultimately creating walls to discourage and deter me from surrendering to God.
Poverty has been a terrible blessing. I have hated it, been embarrassed by it, and even allowed it to shape my faith. There have been times that I was afraid that we would not have enough to eat. I have been afraid of our car being repossessed and our family being evicted. I've been ashamed of wearing the same dress or the only jeans I own to church (on a non-dress down Sabbath) because my other dresses don't fit and we can't afford to buy new ones. This fear produces irritability in my interactions with my husband and children and i'm over it. I'm over this emotional roller coaster as a result of living in poverty. I'm done with being a victim to the demonic influence that originate from sin. The main influence has been a spirit of poverty which is different from the issue of poverty (i'll write about that some time soon) that quickly stirs up doubt, fear, hopelessness, resentment and complacency.
Today, I stand bold because of God's authority. I can be transparent about living in poverty not because I want people to pity us. But because
I don't have to wait to reach the mountaintop to talk about how GREAT GOD is in the valley!
I can give GOD glory right now. I can look at you with a sober mind and praise The Lord for this poverty. HALLELUJAH! I can give ALL praise and honor and gratitude to The Lord when we can't buy new sneakers right away. I can thank God for this raggedy apartment building we live in when I'd rather live in a house with a yard! I can praise God now for not having enough money to make repairs to our van. I don't have to wait until we are making six or seven figures to talk about the goodness of God! God is good right now! I can praise God right now for the ridiculous amount of times that He has sent a friend, family/church family to bless us with a gift card, our van, groceries, or money for tuition without us asking or begging for it! I can get in line minus the shame and receive free groceries. Because God is guiding this experience. I am safe in this season because it is God's plan.
I can finally say with all confidence that I know God as JEHOVAH JIREH - because that is all God has done from the beginning. He has provided experiences, gifts, talents, opportunities, skill sets, training to be a better leader, friend, wife, and woman. At times it has been difficult to see beyond our need. The reality of our poverty was perverting my supernatural sight (faith). I was focused on the wrong things. I was living recklessly sinful. I was living like I was already dead because I didn't have what others had. I couldn't see the fullness of the bounty that God had been giving me through the hardship. Today, I can sing with confidence that God provides [<<< one of my favorite songs]!