A Testimony of Love
By: Brooke Meyer
This is the third installment in our 5-part series, Wisdom for Charity.
In our first two posts, we were shown that wisdom calls us to move beyond cheerful giving to effective loving. We cannot love, with any accuracy or depth, those we don’t know. Through the allegory of the monkey and fish, we saw that there are perceived needs and actual needs. We have to learn not to assume, but to ask and listen. But what if we don’t agree with someone’s assessment of his or her own needs? How does wisdom call us to question other’s perceptions and what does it look like to love in a way that is better than expected?
I humbly share with you a personal story about finding wisdom in a difficult circumstance.
My mom approached me recently in distress about her financial debt and asked for money. I felt sad because debt was stripping my mom of her dignity and overwhelmed that my response could wound our relationship.
The situation carried tension. Money has been a source of difficulty for my mom and she previously has resorted to shopping and dining out as a way to cope with hardship. Knowing this, a few questions kept surfacing:
- Where will the money go?
- Will I be an enabler to her spending habits?
- If she pays off some debt with my money, what will happen when she has disposable income again?
I needed wisdom. I immediately invited four close friends into prayer. Simultaneously, my mom disclosed every detail of her debt and monthly budgets. We walked through each line item one by one over the phone and re-calculated her budgeted vs. actual spending. The numbers weren’t adding up and each month she was behind when she shouldn’t be. As I exposed this to her, she got defensive and our conversation ended abruptly. It wasn’t easy.
I received God’s discernment through this phone call and my friends: do not give her money. It felt immoral and unloving to say “no” to my mom. However, my understanding was that her material need was not her most important need. My mom’s spiritual debt was greater than her financial debt.
The Holy Spirit prompted me to guide my mom into prayer for herself. Our prayers led her to ask God to show her the right next step instead of the quick and easy fix, to guide her to seek help from within her church community, and to affirm her belief in Jesus as her comforter and provider. Through this care, my mom opened up. She exposed her deeply rooted feelings of abandonment and not being fully known and loved. In her raw brokenness, her most important need was to be closer to Jesus.
She needed to feel empowered to take the right next steps. We worked together to create a new budgeting plan that she is faithfully now carrying out with self-control. I acted as her accountability in following through with her desire to seek help within her church community. We shifted her language to include truths about who she is in Christ when she talked about herself from a place of inferiority, shame, and embarrassment.
Although difficult, it was the best decision to say “no” to my mom’s desperate cry for help. My mom’s worthiness had previously been tied to her money and the Holy Spirit led me to her deeper waters to disrupt that. Had I chosen to give her money right away, I believe she would be just as miserable today as she was when she asked for money. My mom is now better equipped to proactively reclaim her finances with a renewed sense of community and Jesus’ love for her.
In all of this, I learned that it is imperative to make the decision to seek wisdom. I also learned to trust that the Holy Spirit will show me when, where, and how to search for and respond to someone’s greatest need. Wisdom allows us to understand what people need as created children of God.
-Read our first two posts here: Wisdom for Charity