Monday, November 26, 2012

yellow light

so I grew up in church.  and when I say I grew up in church, I don't mean that we went to church every sunday.  no, the church raised me.  saturday night.  sunday morning.  wednesday night bible study.  friday night youth group.  pre-service prayer.  post-service coffee.  oh, and school.  monday-friday.  yep.  many of my misconceptions about church and God come out of this "full exposure" as a child.  and many of the spiritual practices that define the church were so pounded into me that I just disconnected.  too much forced prayer and too much forced bible reading and memorizing gives those practices a bad taste in my mouth.  literally.

and then there is tithing.  I have heard about 50 too many sermons on tithing.  my favourite was the impetus for leaving a church in my early 20s {the pastor preached that ananias and sepphira in the book of acts were killed because they didn't tithe.  pack your bags kids, we're going on an epic guilt trip.}.  and that is the sum of my tithing "preaching at you" experience.  guilt.

as a result, I hate tithing.  I give when I have a few extra dollars.  I had one year that I think I tithed 8 months out of 12.  I give to a couple of international organizations.  but really, I don't tithe.  or didn't.

over the last little while I've come to see my lack of tithing in a different light.  see, I've always justified my money decisions.  "I give of my time" or "I give when I can" has become the mantra of my adulthood.  it's true.  I am generous with my time.  I am generous with my stuff.  I am generous with my gifts.  but I'm not generous with my money.  and for a long time my excuse has been that I don't have enough money to make ends meet, let alone give.  when faced with the choice to feed my children or tithe the magic 10%, I choose feeding the kids.  and starbucks for myself.  and a cell phone bill that supports my data addiction.  oh, and that new pair of shoes.

so this my revelation on all of this:  there is a God and it's not me*.  that's right.  I believe that I know best for my life.  I don't trust God or myself.  and I'm not just talking about faith, I'm saying that it's taken me many, many years to figure out that God, the creator of this universe, has my back.  I grew up believing in God the judge; not in God the lover of my soul.  and the result of living this way has been a life of chaos at best.  my soul is in hiding.  I am in a huge financial mess.  my relationships are strained.  I don't trust myself or anyone else.  in the depth of my being, I believe I know best for my life.  I am God.  but I'm not.  there is a God and it's not me.  I suck at being in control.

here's the connection.  if I am not God, then He must be who He says He is.  and apparently, I'm suppose to trust him.  I'm learning this.  it also means that everything I have belongs to Him.  and in the same way that I want my boys to have every opportunity and all of their needs met, He wants that for me.  he's just asking me to obey.  it started with me beginning to replace my worries with a grateful heart.  philippians 4 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God." and it goes on to say that peace will guard your heart and mind.  try it.  it's really hard to worry and be grateful at the same time.  and in those moments, God was faithful.  and He continues to be faithful.  and very slowly trust is being restored.

what I discovered through this process is that the biggest cause of worry in my life is money.  the lack of it.  the shame of living as result of poor choices.  the shame of being 40 and not knowing what the heck we're doing.  the shame of feeding my kids lots of pasta because that's all we could afford in september.  but something happened.  when I started to trust God with my worries, money issues became less and less.  I wish I could say that we miraculously won the 50/50 at an eskimo game or some anonymous donor handed me a cheque for $10 000 and all my problems went away, but it didn't happen like that.  it was the small stuff.  it was only having to spend $35 on school supplies because I found a bunch of used and new stuff when I was packing up my classroom last spring.  it was a good friend of ours donating hand-me-down hockey equipment.  it was cheques not going through our bank account until payday when they should have gone through when there was not enough money in the account.  it was being invited for dinner when we had almost no food in the house.  all little things that added up to big things.

then I had an unexpected conversation with some new friends.  about tithing.  and obedience.  and the challenge was left that I needed to be obedient.  the amount of money that comes into our house has not changed, but God has proven Himself to be faithful.  so I decided to get over the whole "it has to be 10% or nothing" extremist attitude and to start with some fiscal obedience and responsibility.  I decided to start with 1%.  every pay day, I give 1%.  that was last month.  this month it's 2%.  it's going to take us 10 months to get us to the 10% mark.  and then, when we get to 10%, I feel so strongly, in every fibre of my being, that we need to go +1% every year.  it's obedience when I choose gratefulness over worry.  it's obedience when I tithe.  it's obedience when I give with a grateful heart.  God will bless each and every percentage I give because of the obedience and ultimately because of my faith.

what I've learned is that it's not mine.  when I horde, it slides through my hands like sand.  I cannot serve two masters.  I'm choosing to serve God not money.  I've learned that God has my back.  tithing is a spiritual practice that I cannot ignore.  it's not about guilt trips.  it's not about shame.  it's not even really about money.  it's about trust.  obedience.  faith.  stepping out on nothing and landing on something.  and for me, 1% more.

*not my original words...totally stolen from THIS guy.


Frances said...

Wow. This hit me right where i live, so to speak. If i was capable of writing like you can i could have written this....and now you've challenged me. we'll be a month behind, but it's starting now. Thanks my friend.

cori fraser said...

Thanks for your comment, Frances. It means a lot to me, as always!

Amy Nabors said...

I completely understand where you're coming from. I grew up in a denomination that harped on giving and I never tithed. Now we do tithe at the church where we go. Mostly because of heart change, but also because I know the money we give is being stewarded well. Our church has no debt whatsoever. It also helps that our pastor never asks people to give except on one Sunday a year for a special offering, but it isn't asked in a manipulative way. The offering buckets are still passed every Sunday and the giving is phenomenal. We can't give a lot above our tithe, but that's where we are more generous with our time and abilities.