Stop talking. Pay attention. Do your schoolwork. Pick up your socks. Clean your room. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Wipe up your crumbs. Don’t chase the dog. Feed the cat. Don’t pick you nose. Phrases I repeat ad nauseum to my beloved offspring. Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to catch water with a sieve. I’m convinced they all suffer from short term memory loss (although they somehow remember some naughtiness perpetrated by a sibling three years ago, as well as the play-by-play of the movie they watched last week).
As for me, I was just remarking to my husband that I’ve made good progress in a particular area of my faith life. To be sure he assigned me proper credit, I pointed out that although we’ve been in our slow season for his business I haven’t once fallen apart when bills sat unpaid. Maybe it was too prideful, but I thought I deserved a little pat on the back for having finally learned my lesson in trusting without constraints. My husband obliged me with a smile and an agreeable nod (since his leadership fueled my progress he probably deserves some credit here, too.)
Only because I’m typically more frugal (definitely not because of my mathematical skills), the task of bookkeeping and budgeting has long been my assigned domain in the household. Raising the near equivalent of a baseball team on a Little League coach’s salary often times meant squeezing our pennies until copper drips out. In years past, a stack of bills could lead me to tears.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get it all covered,” my husband always reminded me. He was right, of course, the means always managed to appear allowing us to knock out one stack of bills just before a new pile took its place. However, back then, his direction never fully imprinted in my memory before the next bout of financial woe erupted.
When my husband’s long requested prayer to own his own business was answered in 2012, it was clearly the workings of the Holy Spirit that imbued my mind and heart with a sense of peace and trust. Completely unprepared for exactly what we could expect from the leap into business ownership, I reasoned that if God had finally answered this prayer surely He would meet our needs.
Our first year was a learning curve as we’d discover that for a portion of each year sales would drop-off and our income with it. Not coincidentally, at this same time Padre Pio entered my life and his instruction to “Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry” seemed intended precisely for me.
So whenever I felt tempted by anxiety, Padre’s words rang out and I would hold a little internal conversation that went something like this, “Pray about it, Tara (yeah, I insert my own name to be sure I’m listening). Place all of your hope in God. Worrying won’t accomplish anything. Worry can’t generate income. Worry can’t pay a bill. Worry only misleads you into fear. Don’t worry, Tara.” I committed this to memory (or so I thought).
In fact, just this month we were so short on income that we’d only managed to cover the mortgage halfway in, but rather than sweat the “big stuff” I prayed and reminded God what a fabulous job He does caring for the birds. Because He promised we are all the more important to him. Then, miraculously, within the next three days we were able to pay every single outstanding bill.
How many times God has proven His Word to be true, I cannot begin to count. Each time it amazes me, like it’s the first time, and inspires abundant praises of thanksgiving.
Alas, there I was less than a week after God had bestowed the financial blessing we needed, basking in my pride for having matured in this spiritual journey and singing praises of gratitude, when I happened to call our accountant. Without fair warning, she let me know the reward for our increased business over the summer was a nice, big tax bill owed to the IRS.
“Huh?” But that wasn’t part of the plan because our new school year is about to begin and we have tuition and books to buy. No, not now because the patio roof is about to cave in and the family room carpet has come undone. Really, the couch has lost its springs and we were only going to buy a used one anyway. And there’s the big party in June to celebrate our first graduated son.
In an instant, I fell apart inside.
That evening was mostly one of silence as my mind raced around trying to formulate a scheme. Perhaps, I could juggle this or do without that for another year. So continued the night in my brain until I fell asleep. Waking the next morning it felt like a Mack truck had run over my side of the bed. My shoulders were stiff and sore like I’d carried a boulder up a ten mile hill. But still I tried to conjure up a few new ideas for balancing our budget with this new addition.
Then I remembered the fish. The fish that delivered the temple tax for Jesus and His Apostle. Jesus instructed, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” And in a most unlikely way He provided their money for the tax.
He has provided for us. He had just done so again in a very real and very unexpected way, but my memory failed to recall that truth. My progress retracted quicker than a fisherman’s pole when he senses a bite. The physical soreness was the price for attempting to shoulder the impossible weight of the world alone. I suppose pride really does go before the fall as I’d fallen right back into my old pattern of anxiety and delusional self control.
Pray. Hope. Don’t worry. Depend on Me. Trust Me. Follow My commands. Stop being anxious. The Holy Spirit must repeat those phrases ad nauseum to me. You would think after forty-two years my memory should be a steel trap, not a sieve. I suppose I’ll have to admit my kids come by their short term memory loss honestly. Fortunately, in all likelihood, there will be ample opportunities to practice this virtue and hopefully some day (before senility sets in) my memory will extend beyond the current moment.