cash monies!

that’s what Ethan calls them….

I spoke with a friend recently about being broken financially. We were talking about what it means to have our needs met on a daily basis, or monthly as we pay rent each month and not every single day. We discussed the temptations and dangers of credit cards. We bemoaned the incessant need our generation has to “hang out” but never do anything at home. Why can’t people come over to my apartment for coffee and food? Why must we meet at the Old Mill and spend money even if the drinks are only $1 after 8pm? Or, in our vanity, why do we have to have that new dress for the wedding when the one we wore to the last college roommate’s wedding was just as good?But mostly we talked about the fear and the humility in this sort of circumstance. I’ve been regretting my recent hair cut (and by recent I mean July). I left about four to six inches on the floor of that salon. I think I whimpered each of the three times she swept it up so she could keep cutting. Every time I look in the mirror lately, I regret that decision. I love the haircut. But it’s grown to that awkward stage again, and I can’t afford another trim. I don’t think I realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in my appearance until lately when I’m in an institution surrounded by men–many of who you can just feel are on the lookout for a wife. It’s humiliating.

And we talked about the fear. What if I can’t pay my rent next month? What if the loans are insufficient? What if the loans are too much and after school I don’t find the right job to pay them off? What if I’m stuck in this financial hole forever? What if I’ve made the wrong decision? Will God refuse to work good from this blunder? And, lets be honest, sometimes I struggle to find full confidence in God. What if he doesn’t come through with rent money? Of course he always has in the past, but there are fires and earthquakes, debt ceiling crises and entire countries are going bankrupt. My measely rent payment could get overlooked by the omniscient God of the universe! He’s got an entire universe on his hands!

My friend told me that she was caught at a light just off the highway recently. It’s a common spot for the homeless to hold their signs and hope for a few dollars from the well air conditioned and comfortable drivers. She had cash, a very rare occurrence, and there was a man, holding his sign with chaffed hands. His hair, once red, was now bleached an awkward orange by the Coloradan sun and his beard was mangy to put it kindly. He looked tired and worn, thinner than the dirty white tshirt stained with time and sweat.

My friend said she reached into her wallet and pulled out a five, the only cash she’d had in days. She said she handed it to him out the window as the light turned green and the traffic eeked forward in the midafternoon heat. He wished many blessings on her and she drove away crying.

I asked her why she cried and she shrugged her shoulders dismally. It was so hard to give him that money. Even though I’ve got a car and an apartment. It was hard to give it up and it shouldn’t be. But it was scary too, because it was my lunch money. What will I eat now? I would’ve brought lunch but I had the money and I was going to just buy something—-

she said a bit more. And then with a little light in her eyes she seemed to have a new thought. “Do you think this is how the woman with her two pennies felt? Do you think she was scared to give all she had?”

Ethan, who is generally full of good wise things to say, nodded his head before I could even give the question proper thought, “yeah,” he said, “of course she was. But that’s the thing, she was afraid, and she gave it anyway.”

I think, being poor is so good for me, for us. It’s humiliating. My hair won’t cooperate lately and I’m wearing mostly hand-me-down clothes. But it’s so good to be honest about this stuff and to walk along the river from one job to the next while telling God, I don’t know how you’ll do this. I’m trying my very best. And I just hope you come through even though I dont’ always believe you will.

And then, it’s so great to see him pay my credit card, pay my rent, pay my health insurance. It’s stressful, and it’s scary and I hate being the object of charity now when I used to be able to give my money away. But I think that right now this is good and true and right. I’m not at the point where that woman was. Between my four jobs I dont’ think I soon will be. But I do know that even if I do end up throwing my last few dollars into the plate at church he’s probably going to take care of it.

After all, he holds the universe together. I think he can manage my rent.

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