Growing up, my family was plagued with money problems. My dad worked hard, my mom was a genius at creating a home and meals and beauty out of seemingly thin-air, and my childhood was by no means tragic. But from a very young age, I worried. I hated Christmas, and the month-long stress it induced in me as I monitored what my younger brothers were petitioning Santa for. I lost sleep dreaming up schemes to make money and 'save' my parents. I was simultaneously frustrated and extremely defensive of my family's efforts to survive from day to day.
As teenagers, my brothers and I got jobs and contributed to the family finances. I grew to believe that our hardships were blessings- bringing me closer to my family, teaching me to rely on the Lord, and forging me into someone akin to Job. Even so, there were times when I would look at clothing in a store window and want it so badly, it physically hurt.
I grew up and got married. In our poorest newlywed days, we were never as poor as I'd been as a child. We paid off our debts, had a savings account, traveled through Europe, and vowed to furnish our home only with objects we absolutely loved.
I became pregnant with Little Miss C and made plans to quit my job. J was self-employed, which I'd been supportive of, but as my due date loomed closer, I became increasingly anxious and badgered him to get a 'real' job. He tried to comfort me, saying that he had faith that we'd be taken care of, that God would make sure we were fine. I always replied that, "Being 'taken care of' doesn't necessarily mean we'll have money" and, "God's version of 'fine' and my version of 'fine' are not the same."
I was scared.
I had no idea how frightened and traumatized I truly was until a few years later when we went to see Cinderella Man. It takes place during the Great Depression. During one scene, the mother waters down the milk to make it last another meal, and in another, the son steals meat from the butcher because he's afraid that if they don't have enough to eat, he'll be sent away to live with relatives. I walked out of the theater shaking, crying, and trying hard not to throw up.
I couldn't explain my reaction to J except to say that it was as if all the fear I'd felt as a child had come rushing back at the sight of the on-screen plight of the characters. I spent the next two weeks discussing it with our therapist, and came to discover that I had a twisted view of my Heavenly Father. I expected Him to make life hard. I felt guilty for the life I now led and kept expecting the other shoe to drop. I was suspicious and terrified of Him. I didn't really have faith.
Around this time, J began working for a TV show. He still had commitments to his own business, so he was working two jobs and commuting three hours a day. I had E, a baby in constant pain with reflux, and slipped into a deep, dark depression as I cared for him night and day. It was one of the hardest periods of my life, and yet I grew to know the Lord in a way I never had before. I began to pray to Him in earnest, see His hand in my life, and trust that He truly did love me.
Two years ago, when J lost his job, I felt that I'd finally overcome my fear of money insecurity. I trusted that Heavenly Father had sufficiently prepared me for this new period of self-employment, and I honestly didn't feel overly worried.
Until last week.
For 3 days last week, our debt was doubled and I was a complete and utter wreck. When I understood just how bad the loan was that we had signed, my body was filled with such pure, intense fear that I couldn't feel my hands. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and couldn't stop crying. I tried to find solace in faith, but my fear pushed it away. My mind was stuck in a never-ending spiral of worst-case scenarios until both J and my parents declared my reaction to be out-of-proportion to the problem. There was something deeper going on there.
For a few years now, I've been saying that, "Heavenly Father never gives us more than we can handle, and he knows me well enough to know I can't handle severe money problems." Perhaps that's true-- after all, we were able to cancel the loan and emerge from last week's fiasco unscathed-- but I don't think so. I think He needed me to see just how deep-seated my fear still is. Faith can't be contingent on life going the way I want or expect it to go. I have to accept the fact that I don't have control. My faith and trust need to be more absolute.
I'm not certain how I'm going to accomplish that, but if I ask Him to help me, He will. I don't expect it to be easy, but one thing seems sure-- it can't be nearly as bad as that all-encompassing fear was.