Rich Poverty - Terri's Story
There have been so many ramifications from the current coronavirus pandemic. One that has begun to hit home is the financial fallout. It seems like I hear daily about someone who has lost their job or significant wages. Often, these individuals have no idea where rent, or even staples for their daily needs will come from. Many of us find ourselves grasping for ideas to encourage, support, or provide for those in our lives. In some cases, it's our children. In others, it's an elderly parent. In still others, it's a close friend or neighbor, someone we've worked with, or someone we saw everyday at school. Or sometimes, out of nowhere, it's us.
It reminds me of the years I found myself feeling similar pressures when I was suddenly thrust into the role of solely providing for my three young sons. I literally didn't have enough time, energy or resources to meet their needs on my own.
But looking back now, I consider those years of my life as a paradoxical time of rich poverty.
2 Corinthians 8:9 says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."
The first time I discovered this verse in the Bible, I was in middle school. It fascinated me. I already knew that Jesus had left His throne in heaven so that someday I could live in heaven myself, but this was a powerful way to think about that sacrifice. I read the verse over and over throughout my teen years, soaking in the beautiful description of how God works in seemingly contradictory ways to love us.
As a toddler, I loved a song called, "Topsy-Turvy Town." Its lyrics declared, "When you open your eyes, that's when you can hear," among other things. I've found God's economy often works this way. "Many who are first will be last," (Matthew 19:30) "Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant," (Matthew 20:26) are among the examples of how topsy-turvy God's principles can seem to finite minds.
As I journeyed through my season as a single parent, I experienced on a whole new level how God pours out His lavish love. There are SO many stories of how God provided for physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. I'll describe three.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard of the passing of one of the people God used to bless my family during those lean years. One day, this thoughtful lady left an envelope in my box at work. It indicated that it was "from the Tooth Fairy." Inside was money and a note saying to get the boys' teeth cleaned.
There was the time when I smelled tri-tip cooking all afternoon for a men's dinner (I work at Ventura Missionary Church), and I sighed a prayer to my Heavenly Father, "God I don't even know what I'm feeding my kids tonight. I have no right to ask for it, but that tri-tip sure does smell good!" When I arrived at my home in Santa Paula that evening, there was a box that had been left on my porch from my sister's church in Fillmore. Amazingly, inside that box was a tri-tip meal for my whole hungry tribe!
I was beginning to see that God is not bound by our limitations. His sources are limitless, and He can orchestrate circumstances and prompt people to meet needs and wants when He deems fitting, even when those desires are only expressed to Him in the secrecy of my own heart.
My third example of God's loving provision highlights this truth beautifully. Our TV broke right after I became a single parent. One morning, I was listening to the radio. They were advertising that a TV show my kids used to like would be performing live in Thousand Oaks. I prayed that somehow God would make it possible for us to go, but knew it was too expensive. I told no one what I had heard and what I had prayed. A few days later, a friend called and asked if I had ever heard of the show. I slowly said, "Yeees, why?" He proceeded to tell me that he had won four tickets to see this show and wouldn't be able to take his own kids...would I like the tickets?
The rich poverty of this time in my life wasn't merely because God provided food and clothes and other meaningful things for my boys and I. The truly rich poverty was because it was when I learned in deep and profound ways who God is. His faithfulness and goodness, His compassion and grace were no longer just words to read, they were written on my heart. God is so incredibly huge. He can make a time of seeming want into a treasured memory of His powerful and very personal presence.