We had our first discussion group in our Biblical Financial Studies last night. I was the only female in the group Irl and I were assigned to, and it was eye-opening listening to 4 married men talk about their struggle with surrendering control of finances to Jesus.
I remember a conversation I had with my dear friend Shirley and then International Teams Philippines Director Pastor Gani Sison. He said that when man sinned in Genesis 3, God cursed three things: the serpent, the woman, and the ground. The curse on the woman was that she would try (but never succeed) to take over the man’s role. It is a temptation I face every time I look at a calendar and see how much month is left at the end of Irl’s salary. I am ever so grateful for another dear friend, Janet Saison, who would confront us wives in the group she was leading: “Ladies, leave it alone, IT’S NOT YOUR JOB!!”
Pastor Gani then shared an observation: although the man was not directly cursed, his job was. “The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.” (Genesis 3:17b NLT). And to think Adam lived 930 years!! So you think you’ve been in that frustrating job too long? Hah!
But this made Pastor Gani ask himself: what, then, is the temptation for man? And through self-observation, and conversations with other men, specially the married ones, he came to realize that man’s temptation is to take over God’s role.
I saw it in Irl.
I guess you can call me privileged. I was well-provided for by my parents. I had dropped out of college and had not gone into the workplace. Most jobs I took were as a volunteer for Christian organizations or local churches. Whatever pay I get – well, let’s just say “pay” is just a technical term. I enjoyed it, but throughout most of those years, my parents were still supporting me. Of course, I worked at home too. I was housekeeper, cook, sometimes baker, and laundrywoman. The only messy place in my old home was my room. I was also personal assistant, accompanying my mom on business trips as her personal documenter, or running out of town trips for errands (I hadn’t learned how to drive yet). Point is, I earned my keep.
And then there were the ministry adventures: leaving the house with just enough money to get back home, then coming home with more money than I left with, with fine dining dinner thrown in, and sometimes “chauffeured” by friends who lived near where I did.
I knew what it was like to have God provide for me, needs and desires. So when we got married, I had the confidence to tell Irl, “You are not my provider, God is.”
But it was different for Irl. Before we got married, we received this sermon from a well-meaning person: “Irl, you are going to be the 3 P’s for your family: Priest, Protector, and Provider.” Talk about pressure! I was actually burning to disagree – but I was brought up to respect my elders (seen, not heard), so I shut up. I regret that. Irl struggled to share my confidence in God’s ability to provide, but it was a vertical climb. Like he shared last night, “Sure, God is the provider, but I’M the one going to work!!”
We finally started attending the Biblical Financial Studies with our friend Mark Aranal. There are memory verses, homework to be done daily, a book to read, and now, discussion groups. Having been Christians for more than half our lives now, we’ve always known that God is owner, controller and provider. But knowing it and living it are two different things. To live it, we need to believe it. Working on the assignments, we are bombarded with verse after verse after verse of that truth: God IS Owner, Controller and Provider!
And we are called to do only one thing: be faithful.
For Irl, to realize that God IS making himself responsible for providing for our family was a big load off. “It’s like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. And when I heard him say that, I felt the weight come off, too. I know the panic is gone. When I did the quit-claim deed, I surrendered my fear over losing what I know God has set aside for me.
Wow, that’s hilarious, now that I’ve put it in writing. Fear over losing what God has set aside? How’s that gonna happen? *toink*
I am far from being fully at ease with what I see my father doing with his money. I still fight the fear of inheriting his debts (sometimes I wish he’d just bet on lotto or buy sweepstakes tickets instead of all these “investments”). But I’m learning to take it easy. One day at a time, one breath at a time even. One look out the window at a time. God owns this, not my father, not me. If it comes out in the end that this is not the property that God has set aside for me, I’m getting ok with that.
In fact, we are beginning to pray about finding our own place. The house we live in was a wedding gift, but when my parents’ house burned down and my mother died, my father moved in with us and promptly took over. And took back the house. At first we believed in this being ours, but now, we’ve accepted that it no longer is. And in obedience to God’s family principles (“A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and they are united into one.” Genesis 2:24 NLT), Irl is praying to be able to get us a place of our own, with no ownership conflict.
But the big difference is he isn’t exhibiting signs of being under pressure to provide for us. He has now surrendered that part of meeting the need to the Lord. And having a place to share the struggles and get answers from God’s written word is a big plus. Like I said, I was the only female in the discussion group last night, so Irl got to hear from and be encouraged by other men who knew exactly how the struggle to surrender control felt.
For me, it is both thrilling and scary. I’m the one who goes out to buy the food and the supplies we need. My math is getting a fresh honing every time I go to the supermarket (“this weighs 20grams more but costs P20 less…and it’s just as good” kind of thing). But there is great freedom knowing that my job is not to come up with the means to provide. Neither is it Irl’s.
Our job is to simply be faithful with what has been provided.
It isn’t easy, but it’s a lot less pressure than thinking you have to be God. I’m glad I don’t.
And I think Irl is, too.