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The Painful Revolution



Lately I have been speaking to friends and others in my community about something that has been on my mind for the last three years.
Wealth.
To be honest it has been on my mind in some form or another for much longer than that.


I was raised in a family that lived below the poverty line for most of my childhood. Not only did I live in that family but I was oft reminded that I was one of the main causes of financial woe. I’m sure it was never my parents intention but I was a frightfully smart little girl and when I heard my parents discussing Dr’s Bills I put two and two together.

I was 7 when it dawned on me that we were really truly in deep poverty, I needed glasses and my parents couldn't afford them. I already knew we were poor because earlier in the year I had had my first surgery [appendicitis] and had avoided telling my parents I hurt for weeks because I knew we couldn’t afford the doctor visits. They said I almost died because of it but that wasn’t what worried me. What worried me was seeing my parents faces when the mail came. This was only one of a laundry list of serious injuries I faced as a child. The words “lucky” and “miraculous” became my calling card as I scraped by death again and again from Infections, accidents and ,once puberty began. a serious lack of care whether I lived or died.

My father’s long hours were written on his face in his sunken eyes as he struggled to keep us afloat. Hew was determined my mother not work, because of his own experiences growing up, so he flailed wildly against the economy and suffered for it.

I didn’t have an allowance so I would pick cans out of the trash at a local baseball field to turn them in for the deposit. It was how I got to splurge on McDonalds and buy myself toys that didn’t come from a thrift shop. My father tried for years to work full time and pastor a church but eventually gave up his calling to not worry about keeping the family afloat.

That was my childhood.
My parents tried hard.
I respect that in them, I respect those who see the writing on the wall and decide the wall needs a good cleaning.
Even for all their other failings, they always went without so that we did not.
For that I am both thankful, and humbled.
For that, I am also crippled.


Because of my childhood and my culture I crave wealth.
Self sufficiency has been my goal. And like a castaway lost at sea I have swam toward it like it was my one hope of survival.
Every penny I earn is pinched, squeezed, filed down at the edges and let go only with a pry bar.
Being well off was the only thing that mattered to me.
Or at least that is how it seemed at times.
I have never had enough.
Never had all my bills paid and anything left over.
Never managed to make the ends meet without a little borrowing and bruising.
And I have always, always, felt the grip of poverty as it seeks to pull me back.
And that is why the next era of growth in my life seems not only counterintuitive, but nigh on blasphemous.

And Yet.


Yet.


I hear this small voice calling.


This small voice in the distance calls out to me and says.
“Who do you belong to?”


And, my hands clenched tight around my last fragile tenuous dollar, I cry back.
“Of course it is to you”


And the voice comes again.
“Let go”


And I.


I remember picking cans out of the trash.


I remember sitting in the back seat as the argument begins over whether the follow up visit is really needed.


I remember.


I turn away.


But I can’t do that anymore.


So here I am. Turning back and letting go. And that little voice is growing louder but what it’s saying seems, not harder, but almost impossible.


Use your money like I would.


The question is: “Wha???”


In this culture of big business and bigger business and multi-corporate conglomerate humongo business how do I even begin?


How do I know who to give my money too?


I could just give to mom and pop stores sure.
But how do I know they aren’t buying from the same factory employing child labor as the next guy?


I could buy only from businesses on ethics lists.


But how do I know that the list isn’t corrupt?


I mean, honestly, I am as lost as everyone else.


So I am beginning a new chapter in my life and also in my financial life.


And as painful as this is, because I got a whole new wardrobe to build people, I will be buying as much as possible secondhand. (And there are a heck of a lot of cute clothes out there so this ain’t gonna be easy.) Not because secondhand stores are perfect, but because at least I will be reusing something and reducing the amount of third world suffering that I contribute too.


But this isn’t the revolution that needs to happen. It is sadly all I can do at the moment, but it’s not the real change we need to be looking for. The real change is a call to all Christians to begin serving their God before their wallet. The call to begin building a system that values human lives above profit and includes accountability for those who will exploit the system. This means paying more. This means being okay with paying more. This means, pushing to pay more. This means taking capitalism and turning it on its head. It means saying the dollar value is not worth more than the human cost. And maybe it also means relying on each other as a community? Going without our own and deciding to share among our brothers and sisters as needs arise.
And are we ready for that?
Are we really?
Can we stomach this painful calling?
I certainly hope so.


In the mean time I will be struggling to place my money where my keyboard is.
I will be looking for ethically sourced.... well.... everything!
I will be struggling to serve God with my wallet, not just pay him off on sunday with tithes.
And above all I will be trying to remember that my comfort and physical “abundance” should never come at the cost of other human suffering.
As a white first world Christian woman I have only one thing to say:
God help me.
I know I desperately need it

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