My memorial day was spent running two errands I've been wanting to run for a long time. One was to take my poor, crippled computer into the Apple Store to figure out why it was dead and how much it would cost to make it undead. The other was to visit a bicycle store and continue my search to find a bike I will love enough to ride on a regular basis. This has been a crazy season of trusting God for money. I made the decision a couple months ago that, no matter how much I was living paycheck to paycheck, I was going to tithe anyway. I've lectured people before about how tithing isn't a legalistic thing, but a declaration of trust. It's one thing to be able to tell that sermon. It's a completely different thing to look at a $500 paycheck, $375 of which will be used for rent...to say nothing of other bills...and decide to place a tenth of it back in God's hands. Questions come up like, "If God is merciful, why would he expect this of me? He does want me to be able to eat, right?"
Then things happen like broken computers, moves away from the person who was providing a mattress for me...
It's been a strange season of life financially. I walk into stores knowing what I have to buy, and those things are on sale. Much less supernaturally feeling, but no less God's blessing, friends and family members have been so generous with me. My parents visited and bought Becc and I a cartload of groceries--which was the reason we had food that month when we had to pay all kinds of up-front rent. My parents were also the reason I was able to buy a bicycle yesterday. Friends have fed me dinner so that we could afford to spend time eating together. Theresa (my old housemate) gave me and Becc so much I will be in her debt forever. Maybe the cool thing about this season is gaining the ability to be thankful and to receive with open hands. I think being able to receive freely and with joy is one of the heart abilities that makes it possible to give cheerfully in return. It's realizing that everything on earth is God's, and that He has been generous with me to such an extent that there isn't fear in poverty. And there is a kind of crazy, cheerful generosity that is possible when there is little. I now feel this little surge of victory every time I'm able to give away my tithe. That knowledge that, if God didn't exist and care for me, it would be insanity to put money in the offering plate.
When I was getting ready to go home to the States, one of the things that made me (in a very Pamela way) excited was the thought that I would have the ability to trust God in the midst of an economic crisis. But my imagination of this was still very American...I imagined that I would have plenty, and that I would be able to give, and open my home, etc. I did not imagine that my vision for a house would become a safe place for my sister as she needed a new start. Or a safe place for my boyfriend as he is in the ranks of unemployed people, and probably in a stage in life where God is teaching him how to receive and trust too. Funny how we always imagined that the poor will be strangers. I certainly never imagined that I would hardly be making enough money to know exactly how things would be taken care of. There was a point when I was making a list in my head of ways poverty was far less romantic than I had somehow previously pictured. I think much of this list was composed in January. Because poverty means you can't skip work if you're sick but well enough to make it there, even if it is 0 degrees outside and you have to walk for half an hour.
On the other hand, living with little gives opportunities for God to show off in his generosity. And yesterday was one of those days. I brought my computer into the Apple Store because I knew that they would tell me what was wrong with it for free. I assumed this would mean I would have to hide away any extra money I could earn for potentially months and then hopefully get it fixed. Because something else I've learned these past few months is that I'd rather have a working computer than a mattress. I need to be connected with my "community across an ocean". I also need to be able to rest by researching silly things (I had no idea how often I do this until my computer was gone...). So, I scheduled an appointment, gave it to them, explained all my problem solving attempts.
The apple store "genius" told me that apple will fix anything hardware for $280 if we shipped it in. This is a flat rate...so, even if the display, the board, and the hard drive were fried, they would replace all three for $280. This was already sounding much better than I'd feared. Then he said they could possibly fix it in house, and booted it from an external hard drive. The diagnostic showed that it was indeed my hard drive that was fried. He asked a few more questions, and then told me, "Actually, we're authorized to replace a hard drive on this model for free, and it will have more space than the one you have now." I have no idea how this all worked out...I didn't ask questions aside from, "Are you for real?!?!" I have no warranty on my computer. They just...gave me a hard drive. I have a working computer.
I don't believe in a prosperity gospel. I'm bothered greatly by the idea that believing in Jesus means we're entitled to anything material. But sometimes love is spoken in material ways, and God speaks that language too. He is not a Santa Claus, granting our every wish and meeting our American materialistic desires. But he does provide, and he can be trusted, and we can give victoriously and generously because of it.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. :-)