Mr. M here again. The following thoughts have been percolating in my prayer over the last month or so. So I share with you my struggle and God-given inspirations:
I have never cared that much for money and I have generally been pretty detached from money in my life. Proof: I never chose a career or college major based upon the potential future money it could bring me. I never have been really stressed about money or finances although I lived below the poverty line ($11,670) for three to four years while I was a graduate student. I qualified for medicaid and government assistance at that time but I never took it. Instead, I lived in a house with six other guys and shared my room with another guy. I just wasn't that interested in money and I found ways to live within my meager means. Further, after I married, I am proud to say that I have never had a fight with my wife about money other than little, inevitable bickerings about small purchases. "Do you really need that?" She is really good with her financial decisions, by the way. I really appreciate that.
But this all changed when adoption came on the radar. I now find myself obsessing about money and worry about it more than ever before in my life because I have to some how come up with $25,000 to $35,000 without going into debt and without sacrificing our built up emergency fund that gives us financial stability and keeps finances off "the fight radar." Realistically, given my doctoral studies, I can't do much about our financial situation either because I can't take a job until May 2015. This kills me as a man who wants to provide. So this situation of being a student stresses me more out toward money than anything else.
As a result, I feel depressed about our financial situation even though we have been able to pay off all of our debt. I have always saw paying off my debts as soon as possible as a moral responsibility. And I thought being debt free would always feel good! False. Being debt free can be pretty damn miserable. It is an illusion to think that having a good financial situation (debt free, owning a home, good retirement savings, money to give away to others, or whatever else etc.) will bring you peace. It is a moral imperative to do some of these things, like debt reduction, and to be prudent with money, but in fact, tons of people who are millionaires and have great financial situations are MISERABLE because they are obsessed with managing their money. Peace ultimately doesn't come from doing budgets, paying off debt, etc.
And this is where I am. I am that obsessed millionaire except without the millions. I have allowed the concern for money for an adoption to cause me to be obsessive towards money. Is this more a male problem than female vis-a-vis infertility and adoption? I don't know. But I, unwittingly, have allowed money to become the thing I think about most albeit for a good end. Ugh. What a wretched and pathetic thing - I have allowed the little money I have to control me and to dictate my happiness. I am that greedy, capitalist we see portrayed so often in the movies and what I need isn't more money or more ways to save money. Those money saving strategies aren't enough and have contributed to the hollowness in my life. They have caused me to be hollow because I thought I primarily needed a practical, money strategy for my money problems concerning adoption. But, I don't. I primarily need a spiritual solution to get me through this financial problem because this problem of managing money is a spiritual reality much more than a practical one.
The primary antidote I am seeking that I realize more and more is not actually more money through fund-raising or figuring out ways to spend less in order to save for the adoption. I need a Savior. Fast. I need the proper spiritual attitude to correct this problem of obsessiveness. What could this be? Do you have any thoughts on this? Here are mine.
First, for me, it is putting down the Dave Ramsey books and fundraising books (however helpful those are) and picking up my relationship to God in prayer. I need to build up my relationship with God through prayer and relearn trust in God and not in mammon. I need to learn to trust that regardless of my financial situation and whether or not I ever get enough money for an adoption that God will take care of me and this situation.
Second, I need to hope. Not primarily hope that external things in my life, i.e. this bad financial situation vis-a-vis adoption, will change, but hope that God will make this terrible situation good even if I remain stuck in this terrible situation. Hope that God will use this situation for my salvation and for the salvation of others. Our hope is in Him not in mammon and its many gifts. How can I practice this hope though when it is so hard? Prayer, especially when things are tough and when you just want to throw your hands up in the air (or smash the wall). I need prayer to be my go-to stress reliever and "financial consultant."
Third, I need the faith to realize that I am beloved by God. We are called to believe the following above everything else: with his love, I have everything. How many martyrs have taught us this? So it doesn't matter the amount of money I have and it doesn't matter what financial situation I am in. These are secondary things, which perhaps God will give me and perhaps he won't. The point is that I always have His love, but oh how little I believe that this is enough on most days. Oh how often I think how "unfair" this situation is - that I have to come up with all of this extra money just to have a child. So I need a greater faith. I need to stop focusing on my self and my woes, and more on Him or I will always just be that little kid in the candy shop without candy. But how do I encounter and re-encounter this great faith in His love? More prayer and friends who will help me to see and to live this reality. I need my friends, the saints too. Honestly, where would we be without the lives of the saints to challenge our narrow world-views toward our bad situations? They have the widest world-views because they were the ones that saw the other world, heaven, in this world and in all of its bad situations.
Fourth, I need to live the love God has given me. We can always love despite whatever bad, external situation we are in. This is the "interior freedom" God gives us as Fr. Phillipe puts it in his masterful book Interior Freedom. My freedom is in loving as God loves, not money. When do I feel the most alive? When I am loving as Christ loved and not when I am managing my money. Sure, these two have to be related. There has to be a way to love as Christ loves while managing money as Christ has come to redeem all things. But it is so difficult because money often usurps, in subtle ways, what should take precedence in your life. Look at the Gospel. Judas was the one in the Gospel who managed the money Christ and His disciples had and look at where he ended up! Yikes! If that is not a warning for me, then I don't know what is. What I know is this: I need to spend more time doing love and less time focusing on money. If I put love as my first priority, then the secondary thing of how to manage money will follow. So I need to practice more love and get the attention off mammon.
These are non-negotiables. If I don't trust God, hope in God, have faith that God is my everything, and love more than I think about and manage money, then I will be hollow as I have become. My focus needs to be on these spiritual things primarily. I have to put these first things first. Only after working on these, will I be able to approach money rightly and think about money with these questions in mind - Lord, we give you all of our money, what is it that you will have us do with it? Do you want us to focus on money or do you want me to spend more time in prayer with you and trusting you? Do you want me to focus on money or do you want me to spend more time hoping? Do you want me to spend more time loving others around me?
For me, at this point in my life, the Lord has made it clear: I need to do a lot more trusting, hoping, believing, and loving. It is these things that I am going to focus on right now in the coming months and only through doing this will I believe I will have peace. I will re-approach money down the road as it is an inevitable part of life and the adoption process. Right now, I am setting the budget and financial matters aside for a long while and spending more time with the Lord everyday. This is my act of trust. Matter of fact, as soon as I finish this post, I am going to go pray a little more and let all thinking about finances go. Lord, help me to trust. Help this poor sinner who values mammon over you. I surrender to you all of our finances and all financial goals until I am in a better place to address them with you. Jesus I trust in thee and I trust that you will provide.
As for all the readers out there, please pray for me and my dear wife. I hope in sharing these "financial" (really: spiritual) struggles with you that it may be something of a witness so that you don't fall into the same trap I have fallen into as I feel that adoption magnifies one's concern for money. God bless you all.