Sunday, May 11, 2008

No fear?

Generosity comes from a lack of fear.

These were the words in yesterday's sermon that cut me to my heart. They weren't even a major point, or the crux, but you never know what will be heard, do you? You never know what words of yours God will use to speak to someone listening.

I've been thinking more and more about how I felt that we needed to get back into giving. We had been holding back because of the upcoming dry period in income. Kind of thinking that we were tithing to ourselves, since I might go into the ministry and the money is supporting my training. Surely God wouldn't mind if we saved carefully to make sure that this would be covered. Or something - I don't know, we had some kind of justification that made some sense.

Mostly it just started when we weren't going to a particular church anymore, and then we got out of the habit. But then this story about the cyclone really hit me, and I decided to give a little to Episcopal Relief and Development (which I encourage you to do also - they have churches on the ground actually getting aid to those who need it). Still, I gave out of our abundance - J just got an online class to teach, so I figured we could afford to give a bit. I didn't give the last we had or even close. But I felt like I could give something because this little windfall had come our way.

But that's not how it is supposed to work, is it? Generosity comes from a lack of fear.

I realized I've been living in near-paralyzing fear for several months now. I feel like I'm drowning in worries and schemes, trying so hard to make everything work out with the insurance and the unemployment and the family leave income. Today I called around to all the agencies again, and crunched the numbers one more time, and it looks like we'll qualify for the family leave, which then would qualify us for the cheap baby insurance. But we actually won't know until we apply, which won't be until August (J's contract extension went through until July 15, which gives us benefits until July 31. Yay on that). Whee - there's just no way to know for sure until we jump in!

So I have to wait to know what's going to happen, which you may have guessed I really hate. But I have no choice and worrying about it won't help anything, right? Just gotta let it go until it's time to think about it in a couple months again. Really, I should enjoy this time off from the issue.

And if it doesn't work out, then we'll start working on other options like buying individual coverage or using the school's (which is overpriced but at least it's something). Worst case, baby goes without for a little while and we take her to free clinics or something. I will have to get something while in school, and J will go without also, which will work fine as long as he's got his prescription meds written out for a year's worth (which you can usually convince a doc to do for you when you explain that you're losing your insurance). I don't like him being without insurance, but there's no way we can afford it for all three of us, and since I'm required to have it, and it's most important for baby to have it, he gets left out. That's just part of our fabulous healthcare system - forcing families to choose who is worth covering. Sorry, daddy. Hope you don't break anything.

I'm tired of obsessing about this stuff. I want to be free. I want to be free of fear and live generously.

It's not like terror fear, but just anxiety and frustration. I have this nasty heartburn from it, too. I mean, it's partly from the pregnancy, but it's also very much exacerbated by the stress. And I know the stress hormones are bad for the baby, and I have extra guilt over that, which in turn stresses me out further.

How can I even begin thinking about being generous? I'm so crippled by fear. I'm so freaking weak and I hate that. I want to be the kind of person who can just trust God that everything is OK, that God takes care of me even if I can't get the ideal situation going. I don't know why I require such control all the time.

I don't like being this way. But I also hate our stupid system, I hate how confusing it is and the way I'm in this bind trying vainly to figure this all out myself. It shouldn't be this hard! And you know what sucks? If you're not as smart as me, or not as honest, then it's so much easier for you. You just guess at answers or outright lie, and you get the help you need. But because I'm trying to do this exactly right, it's far more complicated.

So should I stop trying to do it right? Is that part of living without fear - not being afraid to break the rules (which I'd do only in ignorance, not on purpose)?

No, I don't think that's the solution. I wouldn't want it even if it were.

What I know is that when you live generously, your money situation may not improve, but your attitude about money changes, and that in turn changes how you view your money situation. So you may not have any more than before, but you don't care as much about what you have (or don't have). It's so much more about perspective than about bank balances.

It's not mine to begin with. And really, I'm happy with that. I don't worry about getting rich or even solvent! I really just want to know that my family will have health insurance. That's all. It's such a huge thing to ask for in our society. Dumb-o.

But I want to be generous, and much more, I want to be rid of the fear. It's painful and messes me up. It makes life a slog instead of a joy, instead of allowing me to just enjoy the good things. I focus on the stress, the things I can't change, the things I won't know about until later, the things I can't control. Why do we do this to ourselves? And it's all in the name of being a good citizen, a responsible parent, a good planner and provider.

Are we supposed to give up on those noble goals? Is that part of living without fear?

I don't know how to work through that phrase. I just know that it hit me in the gut. Generosity comes from a lack of fear.

Until I get the second part, I'll never get back to the first. I've had both before. They got lost along the way. Lost in all the unknown.

And I could get them back but I just have to let go. And that is so incredibly hard. I can't believe how hard that is!!

But I feel better today. I feel like there's hope - it could all work out. The numbers look good, and I know my plan of action. And even if it doesn't work out, that's not going to be known until August. So let's enjoy this last month of pregnancy! Let's enjoy our last couple months of income and insurance! How nice to have a job, and the extra little adjunct jobs, and for me to be working a bit too. How good of God to provide in this way.

So perhaps rather than trying to conquer the fear first, I should just start with the generosity instead. Just start giving again, not paying attention to what that might mean 6 months down the road when the savings is gone. It's always been God's money - I've never had a problem with tithing off the top immediately until this last year. I mean, in all my life - even babysitting money. It was always 10% just wasn't mine.

So we'll just add up what the tithe will be on whatever we make this month and give that. And we'll do the same next month and next, and then income will stop, but at least we'll have given a good amount by then. It will help, too, because our church is having a bit of a shortfall at the moment. I'm not going to pledge though - pledging, for some reason, inspires me more to guilt than to action. I'd rather just give it and not feel like I'm meeting some kind of bill or demand. I want to give freely, generously. From a lack of fear.

Yeah, this will be good. Thanks, Carol for those words: Generosity comes from a lack of fear. Perhaps it can work the other way around, too: A lack of fear comes from generosity.

Wouldn't that be great?

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