Saturday, May 10, 2014

Give Like Gus

Exactly one year ago this month, our lives fell apart.

For those who know Daniel and I well, you'll know this wasn't our first bout with financial struggle.  The first five years of our marriage we were crazy artists making it work, barely.  Then in the sixth
This artwork by:
year, things got better.  We'd gotten ourselves out of our mountain of debt.  We actually had decent looking furniture.  We had two insured cars and we bought a home.  We started laughing that we were "finally becoming respectable".  And then, in a matter of months, the furniture was gone, the cars were gone, and after we could no longer pay our mortgage, so was the house and all our dreams we'd been working towards. 

I used to have a lot of preconceived ideas about people in my situation.  You know, like, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" or this all time beaut, birthed out of time spent in church:  "If you are really walking with God in all you do, He will bless you, so if you're not walking in blessing it's a clue that something is wrong...with you".

Now, there's nothing wrong with working hard to try to make your dreams happen.  And God certainly does bless those who follow Him.  The problem is when we think that WE have brought about our successes, rather than knowing it's God who opens and shuts doors.  And it's God who has the final say on the direction our lives take.

I'll be honest.  A few years back, if I heard of someone who had as much trouble with "lack" or financial struggle, or even just getting a job, as we have had, I would have thought things like this:  "They must really be failing spiritually somewhere, since God is taking them round the 'financial lack' mountain again.  I sure hope they figure out what they're doing wrong."

I'm not the only one to ever espouse such belief systems.  I actually had someone tell me that the fact that I was "judging God's Anointed" (ie, Church leadership, for those not familiar with Christianese) had a direct correlation with our impoverished situation.

Our sponsored "son", Christian
That's an interesting word; "Impoverished".  It means different things in different countries.  Here in America, it means Daniel and I with our foreclosed house, our new debts and current lack of a stable job.  But over in Ghana, there's a little boy who lives in a one room cement house with his parents, his grandma and his two older brothers.  His family doesn't have running water and I don't think they have electricity.  But he is considered pretty well off in his small village since he's now attending school and has access to medicinal care, thanks to Compassion International.  Yeah, that's right.  We are still supporting Christian, even though we let our mortgage go.  There are some things that matter more than a house.  I'm sure some would call us irresponsible for continuing to prioritize that 40 bucks a month.  If that's the case, than I hope we're irresponsible for the rest of our lives.

In January, when we moved back to Colorado, we had to stay in a hotel for about 3 weeks.  I was mortified about our situation.  I was terrified I'd have to give birth in that hotel.  I could see no foreseeable way for us to be able to afford a deposit somewhere else before the baby came.   While praying desperately for something to open up, I kept thanking God for our hotel:  I was so grateful, even while hating it.  For one thing, we had friends who checked up on us and many who were praying for us.  There were checks that arrived in the mail from people who love us.  There were many who helped, many who gave.  Were it not for them, we may have been huddling in our car on those cold January and February nights when the weather dropped to below zero.  Somewhere in freezing Denver, there were people who didn't have it as well as we did.  Somewhere, someone was huddled under a bridge.  Someone was trying to keep their child warm in their car.  Someone was struggling to stay warm, clean and fed.  What about those people, who didn't have a hotel room?  

C.S. Lewis by:
In the movie Shadowlands, C. S. Lewis says, “I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”  Daniel and I wouldn't sign up for this year again, but we are different because of it.  For one thing, the "dreams" don't seem as important as they used to.  Not as important as loving God and loving your neighbor, anyway.  Don't get me wrong:  we're still doing our best to follow what we believe is our calling: Taking on that media mountain and writing great stories together.  But what about the others who are trying to do the same thing?  Who's helping them?

Everybody dreams of suddenly being "discovered" by that magical fairy god-investor who mentors, guides and waves wands that remove all obstacles.  Nobody thinks that maybe, they themselves could actually be that for someone else.  What do we have to offer?  Well, Daniel and I took inventory:  we have some skills, some talent, a bit of time, and sometimes we have extra money.  We've got those.  What does it take to help make someone else's dream happen?  Or give a sack of clothing to the family in the apartment beside us?  Or feed that homeless man? 

There was this funeral that we shot, back in the day.  A little Filipino bartender, name of Gus, had died and his niece paid us to film his funeral.  The man had never married, had no kids, no money left behind for anyone to fight over.  He lived in a little rented apartment all his life and I'm sure no one important has ever heard of him.  But Daniel and I will never forget his packed, over-flowing funeral, all six hours of it, as person after person came up to share about how "Uncle Gus" had changed their life by giving.  He gave of his time, he gave of his money, he just...gave. And honestly, I couldn't count the number of people who came to show him honor and thank him for the way he had given. 

Yeah, we're working on our dreams, Daniel and I.  And we're raising our three beautiful children, as best we can. We live in America, where no one is truly "impoverished" and everyone has something to give.  And rather than waiting until our fairy god-investor shows up or our children leave the home, we want to find a way to give like we have been given to.  Because if there is ever a time to give like Uncle Gus, it's not later.  It's now.