Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The things we learn in poverty

One of the greatest lessons God has taught me up to this point in my life is the importance of not getting in His way. Each time I think about certain events in my life, painful though they were at the time, I have to laugh at how I would start to feel like I couldn’t breathe (as if I were drowning). I would panic and flail my arms about, trying to swim, only to find myself in deeper waters. It’s what we do. We’re human, and we freak out, sometimes at the most inconsequential things.

One of these instances will forever be imprinted in my memory. We were living out in the D.C. area while my husband was continuing his education. Our family, consisting of me, my husband and three small children lived in a shabby apartment that was also the residence of a community of cockroaches. Thin walls and thin floors constantly betrayed our movements and voices to our neighbors which were often answered by banging on the floor by the childless couple down below.

On top of the stress of big city living, we were broke, borrowing to support our family through student loans which frequently ran dry and were eagerly anticipated at the beginning of each semester. We budgeted as best we could, but it was often down to the wire.

I’ll never forget that fall semester when my husband called and told me that there had been a mix-up with the student loans and that we would have to wait an additional month to get any money. I was crying (more like wailing), wondering how we were going to get basic things...milk, eggs, bread.

I also wondered why God would allow us to be in this situation when we were really striving to do what was best for our children. We had made the decision that it would be better for me to stay at home with them while they were young. We were living in obedience to the Church’s teaching about married love being both unitive and procreative. My husband was working so hard to provide for us, attending school during the day and working as many extra hours as the university would allow.

It was at this moment of angry prayer that God’s grace must have directed me to Proverbs. I was looking for a small piece of wisdom that would give me advice for a situation that seemed so unfair and frustrating. I also wanted something to offer my husband in apology for my lack of docility. What I found was Proverbs 17:1 “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” God doesn’t promise to provide for us monetarily, but He always gives us what we truly need.

What I experienced was the fear of Peter on the water. When his eyes were on Christ, having faith in His power, resting in the hope of His promise, and being convinced of His love for Peter, Peter walked on water. When he started to panic, not trusting in Jesus, but in considering only what he knew to be true about the principles of water, he started to sink.

Don’t underestimate the gift of poverty. Don’t overestimate the promise of wealth. In demanding more money people often forget what beauty God reveals in the space we are often too ready to fill up with our own wants and desires. I thank God for this lesson in early married life.

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