When Wilderness Gives Way

The last two years of my life have had me at a constant whirlwind. As soon as I found a new sense of normalcy, my life would change. We would get pregnant or my husband would get a new job, our family would moved (three times within one year) or another life-changing, ground-shaking thing would occur. My head was always spinning and I couldn’t keep up. In the midst of all our changes was our growing need. Since my husband was already stretched so thin, I took it upon myself to even the workload. At several points I found myself leaving my children in the care of others who saw them as an interruption to their own child-free existence. All I wanted was to support my husbands dreams without sacrificing my children’s well-being.

As days became weeks and those turned to months, I would wait for my family to fall asleep so I could wail in peace. The reproach of lack was palpable. In a culture that penalizes you for not having enough, I internalized every unmet need as my personal failure. It was my fault and it always will be.

As God continued to provide for us in circumstances that seemed unlikely, my heart started opening up to the belief that it was possible that the Lord would indeed take care of us. Years of hardship had warped my ability to belief God for anything beyond providing for today’s bread. How could I believe God for a house when paying the rent on time each month was a miracle? How do I have faith for generational wealth when just filling my tank from week to week took creativity, ingenuity and cashing in all types of favor?

Poverty and the fear of it changes your humanity and your faith. At a point, I grew so accustomed to not having that “poverty” was my highest scoring spiritual gift. What’s the point of having money when it didn’t last? It was better to give it all away and live below my means than having it taken away or stolen by one hardship or another.

I didn’t see an end in sight to my circumstances, and mourn them as I did, I had decided this was my life. I had been trying to re-educate myself and find new solutions but there were too many odds stacked against me (or so I thought). So I gave up on trying to change things. For whatever reason, it pleased the Lord to have me barely surviving each month. Or maybe it was because I didn’t tithe enough. Or because I didn’t work my way through school instead of getting loans. Or I didnt make the right connections eleven years ago to get the most lucrative opportunities.

Whether it was God’s will or my fault, I didn’t know but I was tired of trying to make a way out of no way. I resigned myself to dying in my wilderness. It was easier than living through the pain of thirst and hunger and holding on to a fading hope that a feast awaited me on the other side of starvation.

When things began to turn around for me, I decided it must be a fluke. I’ve had seasons of reprieve in the past. They never lasted. I waited for the shoe the drop, for the next crisis to happen. Someone was gonna show up any day now and tell us to give everything back because they did not belong to us. It was easier to numb myself against feeling any joy in my improving circumstances because it shielded me from disappointment and pain should things fall apart. I did not realize how much lack has impacted the way I view the world until I recently got paid for a project I was hired to complete.

It was my first time being hired by a company. I enjoyed the 9-5 life and working with other corporate professionals. It was a challenge to adjust myself to someone else’s schedule, having a manager and being accountable to the higher ups for the quality of my work. It’s been at least 14 years since I’ve had that.

When the project concluded and I was properly compensated for my time, I didn’t meet my paycheck with joy. It was the right amount and enough to take care of my household for a month or more. What was the issue, you ask?

It was ‘too much money.’ I didn’t like having that much money at once. I worried about the tax liability of such a jump in income. I worried that we would squander it on something meaningless or that an unforeseen crisis would eat it up and all my hard work and time away from my children would turn out to be meaningless. It was jarring to realize how negatively I view money.

After an untold amount of years in a wilderness of one need after another, I really didn’t know how to handle abundance. I still don’t, but I’m learning. I can liken it to being in a loving relationship after years of dysfunction.  The new things are scary even though you know they are better for you. Old familiar patterns of dysfunction are easier to fall into. Letting your guard down to believe that good things are indeed God’s portion for your life can be harder than simply going back into survival mode. So much so that one can be tempted to sabotage what is God-ordained simply because it’s unfamiliar. That’s what I’m trying NOT to do. It took serious prayers over the course of three days to keep myself from shutting a door that God has opened. We always think that life will be perfect if we can just get out of our current wilderness but if we approach a place of abundance with a wilderness mentality, we will gorge ourselves on all the wrong things and destroy the very circumstances that were meant to feed us for years. May God help us all.