Financial Distress and Joy?

I know. I am supposed to count it all joy. That’s what “they” all say. That’s what I see posted all over the internet in various forms – pinned and tweeted and shared.

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Don’t get me wrong. They are great reminders. I need to remember that even when I don’t feel joyful, somehow I can find a way to acknowledge that joy still exists. But, if I say that I am counting it all joy through clenched teeth and with a balled-up fist, is it still joy? I’m not so sure.

In the book, I discuss the financial ramifications that came along in addition to all of the other challenges we faced. I also discuss how this piece of our puzzle broke me in a way that I still haven’t quite recovered from. Sometimes I still get angry that we had to add this burden to our other already overwhelming list of burdens. Sometimes I get angry that this burden is still here. When will this part of the struggle be over? I don’t know. I do have the desire to count the financial side of our challenges as joy, but I can’t.  Not yet. It’s been too big of a burden for too long.

Then something really great happens and I remember that even when a burden like this hurts a badly as this, there is still room for joy. Not happiness. Not even solution, but joy.

I used to regularly attend a small group (for those of you who don’t know what that is, think support group for people who are trying to figure out how to live out their faith). I haven’t been able to attend for a while because… well… because I have been busy publishing a book and actually working (I freelance as a graphic designer). Since I am talking about financial distress, I don’t think it is necessary to explain why I drop everything else in my life in order to work when design jobs come my way. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

But, this week I got to drop-in on my former group and crash the party. It was so worth it. I got to bring along my book and show it off to a group of people who had prayed for me during the “I’m going to write a book” process. It was fun to actually have a finished product to display. It was fun to see them hold it in their hands.

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There was a small number in attendance that day and in a spur-of-the-moment decision, I decided to “give” a copy of my book to each of them instead of asking them to buy it. It was the right thing to do. It made me happy to be able to be generous. Especially since these days that’s a rare thing.

The next day, one of my fellow group members came by my house. She wanted to say thank you for my gift, but really she came by to pay for the book. While I was coming up with ways to say thank you but that’s not necessary, she quickly reassured me that she understood my book was a gift. She also insisted that she wanted to pay for my book anyway.  I don’t think I implied that she needed to. I was totally content with the whole thing. But, she continued to insist that she wanted to pay. She wanted to let me know she supports me, spiritually and financially. Hmmm….

We went back and forth a few times, arguing about who was going to win the race to “most generous.” Both of us were being stubborn about it.  “You don’t have to pay. It was a gift!” I continued to plea. She answered, “Take the money idiot!” (my words not hers).

I didn’t want to take her money. Financially, she’s just like me. Distressed. Of all the people to offer me money, her name should have been at the bottom of the list. But, that’s exactly why she wanted to do it. She understood. She got it. And finally I did too. This lesson was for both of us.

It took great faith for her to give me money from her almost empty coffer. It took great faith for me to let her. We were in this thing together.

It had been one of those kinds of weeks. Our bank account and my heart had already taken a beating. Checks from design jobs were on their way… just not soon enough. We were in an uncomfortable cat and mouse game with the post office and the bank. Who was going to win? Us? Maybe next month. This time we had to ask for help again. We had to rely on the generosity of others to get us through. It’s never a good place to be.

Or maybe, it is.

I think part of me decided to give my book away that day as a way to push back against our circumstances. “Take that negative balance! I’m not afraid of you!” Well, at least not all of the time. Maybe if I hadn’t been in that place I never would have been motivated to give. If my friend hadn’t been in that place maybe she wouldn’t have been motivated either. But we both were and we both did.

I hope that someday I will learn to unclench my teeth. I might even figure out how to release my balled-up fist. Eventually, I hope to learn how to stop being so angry at the burden before us. I may even be able to say, “Yes, I can count it as joy.”

Maybe not all of it. At least not yet. But, sometimes… on certain occasions… when the sun is shining… at 2 pm… on a Friday… in March… I can count at least part of it as joy.

And not because suddenly the burden has been lifted, but maybe because I paused long enough to pay attention to the good stuff.

Maybe.

 

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

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