So, you may think this sounds crazy--and perhaps it is--but about three weeks ago, I thought I heard the Lord say, "I'm giving you the gift of poverty."
My first response was, "But I didn't ask for that!" My second reaction was to pretend I didn't hear Him.
Like that would work!
The day after His announcement, our Honda CRV refused to shift into reverse. The transmission had been making a cranky noise for several months, but we just kept turning up the volume on the radio and ignoring it. But it was obviously time to take it to the car doctor . . .
One week--and $3,200 later--our Honda was up and running again. But, ouch, what a blow to the bank account! To top that off, the day we brought the car home, our electric garage door stopped working. That repair added up to over $300! Yikes, if this had to do with my "gift," I really wanted to return it!
Every time we turned around, it seemed we were hit with unexpected bills and unbudgeted expenses. I felt like there was some invisible vortex somewhere on our property, sucking down our financial resources faster than we could replenish them. I knew we were a long way from true poverty, say, living under the Burnside bridge, but our financial situation felt increasingly out of control.
I briefly wondered if we were being punished. But after praying about it, I felt that wasn't the case. We were fairly good stewards--tithing regularly, practicing hospitality and serving the needy. But I certainly didn't feel like I'd been given a present, either!
To help bring in some extra holiday cash, I'd signed up for several Christmas bazaars. I was supposed to sell my journals at a craft fair on Saturday, but ended up staying home with a touch of the flu. Bummed by the fact that I'd just lost my $20 booth fee, plus whatever I would have made in journal sales, I groused around in bed all morning. Feeling too yucky to either sleep or get up and be productive, I finally grabbed my Bible and looked up a few verses on poverty.
I didn't have to look far. From my reading, I gathered that God is not a fan of oppression, but He has a special place in His heart for the poor. And yeah, the Bible actually does indicate that poverty can be a gift: Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? James 2:5
As I meditated on that verse, I recalled what was possibly the most powerful sermon I've ever heard. Preached by Jackie Pullinger back in the early '90s, it was a message about how much God loves the poor--and the incredible gift of faith they possessed because they had nothing else but Him. Her stories of His grace and provision in the midst of abject poverty rocked my soul then and have stayed fresh in my heart until now.
Then I read in Matthew 5, where Jesus says that blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poverty of spirit is the state of realizing our utter bankruptcy without God. It's not a false humility--or the kind of poverty that comes from poor choices--it's the simple undertanding that Christ is our all in all. He is our portion, our provision and our inheritance!
This was the gift of poverty the Lord was giving me--the understanding that whatever resources I have--be they many or few--they are His. I am a true pauper in the sense that I actually own not a thing--it all belongs to God. Peace flooded my soul as I realized it was His savings account that was being depleted. His house was showing major signs of decrepitude. We had just borrowed money to get His car fixed. I felt amazingly freed from anxiety as I released my hold on stuff that was never mine to begin with, embracing both my poverty and all my riches in Him.
He gave me another gift that day, but I will blog about that later . . .