I have a lot on my heart. God give me the grace to be truly humble and silent while dangerous and even demonic thoughts come into my mind. They want me to commune with them. They present themselves as if they belong, as if they are essential to my person. Distraction isn't an answer, it just leaves them in a waiting room in line to become conscious at any moment. The silence creates a distance from where I can see them as separate from myself, and thereby discern them as the enemies of Love and reject them. In the authority of Jesus Christ, this is my right. Father, bless me, send me your Holy Spirit, I am only evil without You.
Twenty years ago, my human father, gave me a book called 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad'. I began revisiting the updated audio-edition yesterday at work. The book is now very famous and presents two opposing worldviews about finance. The poor dad who thinks money is the root of all evil, and the rich dad who thinks poverty is the root of all evil. The poor dad works for money, the rich dad makes money work for him. Both dads start at about the same place in terms of their initial incomes and work-ethics, but the poor dad dies in debt and the rich dad dies one of the richest men in Hawaii. Ok. I don't want to say too much more about it, at least until I have finished it again, but it seems to me that there are Christian errors to this Rich/Poor analogy on both sides. In my opinion, the rich dad still seems too disconnected from the lives of the people he hires. I understand that there is a personality temperament that is generally lacking in compassion for those who don't know how to take good care of themselves, but I don't know that any such persons should want to remain that way. I very strongly disagree with the present trend of off-loading our responsibility for the needy - of both soul and body - to the government through taxes, but I vehemently encourage us to give our own individual lives precisely to such charity. This is my essential conflict with the economic culture of the world.
I have been a late bloomer in life in many ways, but most of all in regards to financial literacy. After high school, I worked paycheck to paycheck like most people, and only as much as necessary to pay my bills, because I chose to preserve a great deal of energy for personal growth and devotion to prayer. When I realized that I had gifts unfed in a life of corporeal labor, I sincerely bought into the lie that a college education would put me at the doorstep of a career in a field more appropriate to my strengths and desires. I believe that I must be as good a steward of money as I can be, as an extension of the Christian duty to seek perfection in all endevours. But that doesn't mean I haven't any mistakes. My student loan debt was marketed to me as a necessary and normal step in modern professional life, the assumption being that the price of the education would be more than paid for by the work it was training in. I never ran the numbers for myself. I trusted the system. Now the work that I sought was for many years to be a priest in the Catholic Church, which requires several college degrees before the end. So as the debt piled on, I again assumed that this was the path that everyone had to take who didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare.
Today, I have a couple hundred thousand dollars of debt and have made no major inroads in my fields of study, Philosophy, Theology, and Education. I have two Master's degrees. I work a good paying day job with great benefits that I could have had without ever going to college. But that is merely the surface. Underneath the economic analysis is where I always existed, it is there that my engine of production hummed smoothly and efficiently refining me in many virtues and skills I could not have developed without those eight years detached from the rat-race. Not least of these blessings was the strong foundation of passion and potential for serving the Church as an apostle and a teacher. Praised be God, who writes straight with crooked lines. Two years out of graduate school, at the age of thirty-five, I now understand the in-and-outs of our economic situation fairly well and I am perfecting my stewardship of money even with the mess I have given myself to start with. My debt is slowly widdling away, I am saving money, I have some cashflow to work with, and at my present position my income will double in the next two years.
But the history still matters to the story God is telling in me, every event - especially the mistakes! - have a purpose and a lesson that not only teach but also shape the narrative of the hagiography. The theme of distaste for financial security remains in me. Again, a dislike of money does not necessarily mean irresponsibility with money, and this is my problem with the picture painted of the 'Poor Dad'. Christians must be responsible in every way. Poverty of spirit is not an excuse for impulsive spending anymore than its an excuse not to work hard. So why have a dislike of money at all??? Because in my experience, it very very easily becomes an obstacle to love. This is my problem with the picture painted of the 'Rich Dad'. He still clearly thinks of some people/employees as means to his ends. My own parents, whose sacrifices I never stop thanking God for, still spent too much time worrying about money to notice how starved of love I was in my middle school and high school years. Financial security was not enough, and I would have gladly traded it for some friendship. That darkness almost killed me. Thank you Jesus for saving my life! But if my emotional deprivation and extreme loneliness growing up taught me anything it is that I must never treat another person as a means to an end. I must never allow those I love to feel less important to me than my own security. Do you hear the radicalness of that love? Do you hear Christ in that proclamation? There really is a fundamental tension between the evangelical life and concern for earthly security. It was Christ who gave it up first, to the point of spiritual crucifixion, and it is Christ's doing that for me that saved my life. He still does it, in me, through me, with me, for me. I will not impede Him. When the time comes to choose between financial security and loving my neighbor, by the grace of God, I will to choose the other. I believe this confrontation is inevitable, even if one manages to do both for a time.
At this precipice, I now stand.