28 Mar The Cloud of Financial Shame
To be 99% known is still unknown. That one percent still holds you in enslavement, and that is where I was stuck. What was the one percent that was holding me back from being known, from having it all out on the table?
The darkness of my finances was a different kind of darkness. It was one that plagued me from a variety of angles: the outward shame I felt when I had to give all the groceries back because my debit card was declined, the inward shame of knowing I have debt to pay but not knowing how to begin and just pushing it to the side, or the binding shame of owing money to a friend or family member.
These are all moments of financial shame I experienced, along with many others. I wondered: could people see it? Was it visible, like the little cloud puff that follows Pigpen around? Nobody really ever talked about it or brought it up, so I went on living like my cloud was invisible, and I was doing a good job faking it.
“The darkness of my finances was a different kind of darkness.”
Or so I thought. There was a time not that long ago when I found myself having trouble breathing, especially at night, and not sleeping very well. It was not all the time—just sometimes. I went to see my friend who is a physician’s assistant, and she figured it was stress or anxiety, but my response to her resembled something like, “I am so even-keeled, I don’t even get stressed!” So I walked out with some medication for heartburn. I had read it could be, so that is what I convinced her and myself.
I began to notice that every time I had these problems, it was a few days out from payday. My financial stresses were starting to take physical tolls on my body.
“I also knew that if this was part of the one percent holding me back, in order to experience the freedom of being known, I had to bring it out.”
I had handed over so much baggage and sin to the Lord, but this one I held on to. This one was too hard. One of the problems was that I did not truly see where my sin was in all of this. I was not able to truly confess to the Lord. I was so oblivious to how I had even gotten in these patterns to begin with, and I was not clear on what all this had to do with my relationship with the Him. I chose to hide, not only from others, but was not even honest with myself.
I was not as afraid to share with trusted people as I was to reveal it to myself because I knew the Lord was going to call me to do something about it. Although I was afraid I was going to fail, I also knew that if this was part of the one percent holding me back, in order to experience the freedom of being known, I had to bring it out. I asked the Lord for guidance and after some time, conversations, and prayers, the sins that were revealed to me were: tithing, idolatry, and bondage.
The Lord was very clear from the beginning of this process that He asks for my first fruits (Proverbs 3:9-10). Not long after realizing that, someone whom I respect and love asked me in conversation, are you tithing regularly? Well, no. But I will arrange that as soon as we are done with this walk. I love when the Lord calls me to obedience and gives me no choice but to follow. Her accountability in that carried me through my first full year of tithing my first fruits, and I love that during that year I would die to self each month knowing I could use that money, but trusted that He would use it better, and He was changing my perspective on what rightfully belonged to Him.
The more in depth this process went, the more I realized what an idol money had become in my life. This is ironic because I was always so unaware of my finances, never talked about them, and honestly didn’t even like the idea of money so I ignored it most of the time. But my worries were surrounded by it. My choices were dictated by a surprise surplus or a lack thereof. My life was being controlled by what was coming in and going out, and I didn’t even realize it. Regular confession around this topic had to become a part of daily life. I needed a reorientation of my heart where I had placed money in priority (Isaiah 44:6, Matthew 6:24).
My life is a series of YOLO (You Only Live Once) and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), both of which always added up to lots of money. And because of this I was never afraid to borrow money with a credit card, from a friend, or from family—talk about some bondage chains. I unfortunately learned the hard way how hard it is to love someone well when you owe them money (Romans 13:8). It is hard to be loved by someone that you owe money to. I had so much internal shame with every purchase I made in their presence or that they might see, because how could I possibly buy anything on this earth when I owe them even a penny. It felt like I was physically hurting them. The phrase “no strings attached” can’t apply when it comes to money.There are most definitely strings, or rather chains , that keep you from living in any kind of freedom.
Bringing all of this to the light not only brought awareness for me, but also an accountability system that created change. I almost feel like I went through the stages of grief: there was definitely shock in realizing how I ended up here, denial by just flat out ignoring, anger mostly at myself and feeling guilty for the choices I made, despair in how will I ever get out of this, and acceptance by getting on my knees and asking for help. It was a long process filled with trials and joys!
I was humbled by the empathy and understanding my community was able to show me as I opened up about these struggles. I became empowered to create new habits and was determined to not have to hide behind my bank app of mystery numbers or behind the shameful phrases of “I need,” or “I’ll pay you back,” or “Can you help?” They helped encourage and challenge where necessary. They shared in my successes and challenged me in my failures, continuing to reveal the benefits of seeking a relationship with the Lord and allowing my finances to be a reflection of an outpouring of my love for Him instead of just choices I make for myself each day. No cloud following me now—just an open book.