by Mariam Williams
“My faith is the only real thing I have now, but faith doesn’t put bread on the table.”
The pastor of an Episcopalian parish said that Thursday on Oprah. He and his wife lost their life savings in the stock market, and at 65 years old, they’re not sure if their resources will outlast their lives.
The more righteous among us might ask, “What kind of faith is that?” I think it’s a realistic one, and it’s a perspective I share. I thought about my level of faith, or maybe the reality of God’s provision, just hours before seeing the show, as I prayed for forgiveness for taking God’s provision for granted, realizing that I go through many days without even a quick blessing over my food, much less a genuine prayer of thanks for shelter, safety, health, transportation, or even the portion of the stimulus money I guiltily spent on new workout clothes at Target last week. (While I haven’t quite felt guilty enough to return them-they do fit better than the pants that have gotten so loose no amount of drawstring tightening will keep my underwear from exposure-I’ve been too ashamed to leak my purchase to the blogosphere until now.)
As I made my petition Thursday morning, I felt an entitlement farmer plant a seed in my brain. “What am I asking forgiveness for?” I thought. “He’s God, and I’m his child. He has to provide …” But before the thought was complete, I recognized its fallacy, and that moment of clarity wasn’t just the Holy Spirit convicting me for the attitude of entitlement that had momentarily replaced my appreciation of grace.
I have a bookmark-a physical one that you use to mark your place in physical books-that directs me to certain scriptures for certain situations. I guess it’s a biblical GPS for life and emotional breakdowns. When worried, the bookmark says I should read Matthew 6:19-34. Loosely summarized, verses 19 through 24 warn that focusing on temporary, material things leads to spiritual blindness, as it’s impossible to devote yourself to both God and money. In verses 20 through 34, Jesus says not to worry about your life and body when it comes to food and clothes; there’s more to your life and your body than that. Besides, he continues, God feeds the birds, and flowers are clothed more royally than King Solomon, the wisest, richest king of his time. Come on, now. Don’t you think God cares more about you than some flowers?
That scripture would have watered my entitlement seed if Matthew 25:31-46 hadn’t dug it back up. In this scripture, Jesus talks about the day of final judgment. He’ll separate the sheep from the goats, congratulating the sheep for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and doing other charitable acts, and condemning the goats for not doing any of it.
What does all this have to do with living life laid off? Simply this: one scripture says don’t worry about food and clothes while the other rewards the people who feed the hungry and clothe the naked. This means that there will be people-during this recession and forever-who will not be fed like the birds or clothed like the lilies, and I’m absolutely sure that some of those people believe in God just as much as I do. They may even be the shepherds of a church or parish.
I’m somewhat concerned about the people who will run to houses of worship in the midst of this economic crisis with sincere belief in a genie-god who will make a high-paying job or an unusually sympathetic banker appear. I’ve been a Christian for nearly 17 years, and although I do believe that God is able to do “immeasurably more than [I] can ask or imagine” and that everything eventually works out for the best, I don’t believe he will always spare me from the worst. This realistic faith is why I quickly reverted back to my original request: forgiveness for taking God’s provision for granted. It’s also why I added a request for help to focus on what’s necessary and for a new perspective on wealth and on what’s important in life.
Suze Orman and I were on the same train of thought today. Later in the show, the pastor on Oprah explained that his “faith in his creator and provider hasn’t wavered a bit,” but the system, the government working for him and people like him? His faith in that is crushed. Suze Orman followed his comment by begging the audience-I mean literally getting down on her knees on the Oprah show-to focus on what they have and forget about whatever jobs, riches, homes, or savings they lost. She said that we’re not judged by how much money we make, a point I will likely debate in a later post, but “by who we are in the face of adversity.”
But just to warn you, we may not be spared from the worst. At the end of the show, Suze Orman, who was right when she said years ago that we would soon be in this mess, predicted that it will be 2015 before everyone affected by the recession retrieves what was lost and each person’s hope is completely restored. That means there’s an end in sight and plenty of time to reevaluate our priorities as 12.5 million of us continue living life laid off.
See a summary of Suze Orman’s financial advice for the unemployed and everyone else here.
© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.