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Affluenza: How I lost much to gain even more

February 16, 2007

Yesterday my assistant pastor asked me to tell him about a time in my life that changed my thinking and choices about “affluenza” and materialism. Since I wrote this for him, I thought I would share it here too. Sorry its a little longer compared to normal posts.

Four and a half years ago I was hired into a new job. It was the first time in my life that I earned enough money to do more than just get by each month. It allowed me to pay off debt (school loans, car loan, credit cards), and still be able to buy things without really thinking about what I was doing. After about a year and a half I was completely out of debt. I had even sold my condo with the hopes of owning a house.  

One night I went to a Christian concert and I felt God impress something on my heart. I felt he wanted me to quit my job. I am not someone who typically hears things from God and the idea of quitting my job without something else in place seemed very irresponsible. It caused me to realize though that while I loved the work I was doing, there were difficulties in my immediate work team and growing ethical conflicts I was facing that caused me tremendous stress. At this same time I was at a point of growing in my relationship with God in new ways, so I was very torn by my desire to listen and be obedient to God while also trying to be responsible for my own financial future and trying not to negatively affect my work colleagues. After taking some time to think things through, I basically told God I would obey, BUT that I was in charge of the timeline and would only resign once he opened the door for a new job. I couldn’t see how resigning without another job could be in God’s plan. Little did I know…

Through the following four and a half months many things happened but eventually I did resign from my job without another one in place, and I was left unemployed. I expected to be able to find employment easily but that didn’t happen. I spent the following seven months unemployed and seeking direction. I kept asking God what was next, what he wanted from me, and what I needed to do to prepare for my future. As the weeks went by my need for God grew as my finances dwindled and I became increasingly isolated, frustrated and lost.

God answered my prayers by showing me the need I had for him, by showing me the way I could live with a lot less than I had before, by teaching me to pay attention to where I spend money and why I spend it, and by giving me time to deal with the issues. As I pursued God’s heart and asked him honestly what needed to change he walked me through each issue. The first step of the process though was for me to admit that I needed him and to let him be in charge instead of controlling things myself. For me that was the hardest step. During the months, God had me go item by item through everything I owned and ask if that item was helping or hurting my walk with God. I asked questions like: Why do I own this? Am I saving this for a future that might never come? Could I get by with less of this item? Would my life be different if I didn’t have this? Am I holding onto things in a way that keeps me from relationship with others or God? Does this keep me from thinking of what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable? If I died and someone else cleaned out my house would I be okay with them seeing this? Anything that stood in the way of my relationship with God or that I loved more than him was removed from my life. I also ended up with a list of projects to deal with. There were tasks to do, relationships to repair, healing and forgiveness to work through, and beliefs and values that had to be readjusted. My life was stripped down so that I could clearly see what was most important and see how my life and values did and did not align with God’s. As my list shortened I hoped that a job was on the horizon. Instead, I was faced with one of the most difficult events of my life which resulted in me having to leave my church and losing the connections and relationships there also.

Eleven months after it all started I was left with no job, no church, few friends, no activities or time commitments, and I was living on a month to month lease. I had nothing permanent left in my life except for those things that really mattered, my relationship with God and with those who were most important in my life. Finally God opened the door for me to return to work but only through a temporary contract. Over the last two years God has been helping me put my life back in place. He gave me back the stability of having a job, a schedule, and an income, but he also gave me a heart that wants to align with his values. It took a year to find a new church home, a church that would teach me even more about those values. It is taking time to find and develop new, healthy friendships. I am slowly finding new activities, and learning to choose activities that have purpose and strengthen my heart for God’s values. I’m still working on a short term contract and living on a month to month lease, hoping that one day those things will change. I am again I am in a place where I am out of debt but now I am willing and able to bless others with my extra income. What I gained through this is priceless. I know what I value and why. I know I can live with less, and I know that everything I have is a blessing from God, a blessing I want to share. I now love giving my life away. Many of my greatest joys comes from sharing my time, money, belongings, and gifts with others and telling them about the love I have for my God, who took it all away from me, only to give me back so much more.

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