I recently did that thing again where I shared a meme on Facebook that I kicked myself for later. The basic idea of the meme was that all of my problems would be solved if some kind soul would just come and pat me on the back, give me some chocolate, and hand me a check for a few million dollars.
Yes, it’s funny. 🙂 But I was feeling sorry for myself that day because of real-life money troubles.
I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty many times of doing some thinly-veiled (or outright) complaining about money outside of intimate conversations with close friends and family. It has taken me cringing at words coming out of the mouths of others to help me see the need to corral my own tongue. Healthy venting, commiserating and figuring hard things out with dear friends is different from conversations with people you’re honestly not very close to.
We are a single-income family, and my husband has had several jobs over the years. Our financial story has been an adventure of twists and turns, with some ups and some extremely difficult downs. Life has schooled me deeply in humility where money is concerned. To provide for our family, my well-educated, capable husband has done everything from flight control at NASA to digging ditches. And let me tell you, when your husband comes home exhausted and sweaty from digging ditches for you all day, it’s a game changer in the talking-about-money department. We have friends whose jobs are very labor intensive, like Michael’s was, and I don’t mean at all to look down on that. I just want to share an important part of my story: that the clear visual evidence of Michael’s work for our family each day helped me to grow up as a wife. Now that Michael has a “desk job” again, I’ve tried hard to retain that deep respect I gained for his work–whatever work he does to provide for us. Whether your husband comes home sweaty and tired, or comes home in a suit, he’s put in a full day at work that deserves your respect.
Communicating that your family’s income is enough
When it comes to money, it’s important to remember that in most cases God is permitting a certain amount of income for your family in this season of your life.
A wise friend of mine sees it as her job to communicate that what her husband brings home is enough. She tries to do this through prudent home management and spending habits. In a one-income family (or even in a two-income family), usually one spouse spends most of the money each month paying bills and making necessary purchases. It took me a long time to understand that having somebody else spend most of the money you earn can be a hard pill to swallow. In that light, things like meal planning and sticking to a budget can communicate respect for your spouse and his or her work.
Sometimes what He’s giving you isn’t enough, though. I’ve been there, too. Those are the times when you discern as a couple what God might be calling you to change or move toward. One of the hardest decisions Michael and I ever made was to sell our landscaping business and start looking for an engineering job for him again. It felt like failure (and little did we know at the time what the fallout financially would be!). But at the same time, God writes straight on crooked lines, whether those lines are crooked because of our own mistakes, or because He designed the path of our life that way, and we have discerned rightly each road we’ve taken. Looking back, I want to shout from the rooftops about all of the blessings He has wrought through all of the twists and turns of our life even just these past three years.
There’s something else, though, that needs to communicate respect for the God-given income of our family: our mouths.
Refine your speech
How you talk about money can reassure your spouse that you’re on the same team–or put them on the defensive. When you’re talking about your budget with your spouse, make it clear that you believe God has provided your family with a certain income for a reason, and that you’re happy to do whatever you need to do to make good decisions together about where each dollar should go. Find little ways to speak more positively about money. For example, instead of saying, “We only have ____ for groceries,” say “We have _____ for groceries.” Look for ways to put a positive spin on any comment or conversation about money. Remember to speak words of thankfulness about your life together.
Another tip (one I learned about the hard way) is not to go on and on to your spouse about how wonderful someone else’s possessions or lifestyle are. Sure, it’s okay to admire someone’s newly-landscaped backyard, lovely (second) home, or nice clothes. But all too often, envy makes us fixate a little bit on those things we admire but can’t afford. We don’t even notice ourselves bringing the blessings of others up again and again. (If you’re not sure if you’ve fallen into this trap recently, just ask your spouse.) Our spouses hear our over-the-top admiration as criticism of their ability to provide, and whether or not we may have had the slightest taint of envy in our admiration of someone else, we have to be sensitive to how our words might be perceived. I have a go-to phrase that helps me work for a right heart and curb my speech in this area. I simply say, “I’m really happy for them!”, and then I change the subject.
The dignity of a queen
Avoiding complaining or even talking about money at all is a social grace that other people pick up on more than you know. I have a particular friend whose financial circumstances are less comfortable than my own. This woman has the dignity of a queen. I have never once heard her speak disparagingly about her husband’s income, or go on and on about anything she wishes she could have. She seems to have a truly pure-hearted gratitude for her home, family and possessions. I don’t mean to put this friend of mine on a pedestal–I’m sure she has her struggles with this issue and would balk at me making an example of her. But she has inspired me to be more thankful for what I have, and to strive for her same endearing grace when it comes to money.
On the flip side, I am blessed to know several more wealthy women in my acquaintance who awe me with their graciousness. They have a way of being generous without being pretentious. They are graceful and real. Queens, each of them.
Whether we live in a one-income household or a household that doesn’t need to worry much about money, it is our responsibility to be wise and generous stewards of our income. Spiritually, it is important to grow in thankfulness and in wise stewardship of the income God has seen it best to provide us with. I think it’s important to note that we’re all in such different, often complicated places when it comes to money. If you can’t seem to leave behind every last bit of envy or discontent where money is concerned, but your heart’s desire is to have a right heart…know that just your very desire for a right heart is pleasing to God.
You’ll get there. We’ll get there.
Money is such a tough topic. And it’s another one where I pray hard that sharing my own heart and struggles (with my husband’s blessing) may help you bypass learning some of these lessons the hard way.
May God bless each of you, sweet readers, and may He grow you by His grace in every virtue to bless your marriages and families!
Copyright 2015 Erin Franco