Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Can I Afford?

By Rebecca C. Bradshaw

I always knew I was destined to be a business owner, but the only business experience I had was that of selling cosmetics and plastic containers for a few months. This time was going to be different. I was going to be successful. However, my definition of success and God’s definition are different. During my experience at an unsuccessful attempt of trying to own my own business, I learned about something even more valuable. I learned what I cannot afford.

I had noticed a “tugging at my heart” for several months to open my own business as a Guardian ad Litem. My work would focus on providing recommendations to a family court judge for the placement of children in custody cases. I volunteered for 10 years during my career as a paralegal. Because of those experiences and the marketing research I conducted, I knew I was making a sound business decision and would be able to manage every aspect of my new business. I also knew success was definite because, after all, I was being obedient to God.

I gave my two weeks notice at work and started immediately. After intense training at the state level, it was not long before I received my first three cases. Although I experienced fear, I knew my new strength was coming from the Lord. The excitement and heartfelt joy I experienced in helping the children also kept me exponentially inspired.

Things were going well and I was happy to be completely obedient to God for the first time in my life in the area of finances. I knew my paychecks were going to come from the parents of these children I assisted, but I did not realize that two-thirds of them would end up not paying me at all. Unfortunately, in some instances, these parents did not have the money to pay their electric bill, let alone enough money to pay me for the work I provided. After several months of intense work, the funds I expected were nowhere near sufficient to offset my costs.

I asked God all my questions, but no answers came. How can God clearly tell me to start this business and it not thrive? Was I completely wrong in hearing from God? Did I quit my job prematurely? I started to doubt my relationship with God and seriously doubt my faith. With every passing month, I got deeper and deeper into a financial mess. Frustrated and with no answers, I reluctantly took a paralegal job which was unexpectedly offered to me, to temporarily ease the burden.

Despite my efforts to return back to my Guardian ad Litem work, I never got any additional cases. I finished the ones I had started and continued with my paralegal job. Confused and exhausted, I believed God was still with me, but I could not make any sense out of anything. I continued looking to Him for guidance in order to meet my expenses.

One night, while sitting at the dining room table after planning the budget, tithing and paying the bills, I realized I had no money for gas. I had only a quarter of a tank in my car so I knew that by the end of the next day I would need to do something. At that point, I just poured my heart out to God. With tears in my eyes, I explained to Him that I get paid monthly and that meant two more weeks of waiting. “I just give it all to You, God. Here it is. Here’s my budget, my checks, my priorities and my bills. You tell me how I can make it work,” I pleaded between bitter sobs. I went over and over the figures, but I had made no mistakes. I looked upward with empty out-stretched hands and then I put my tear-filled budget calendar away, and went to bed.

The next day I went to work with the same pleading, pondering heart. How long would it be before I would know what to do? I caught myself trying to take it all back as I so often do after giving something to God. That morning, I was asked by my boss to come in for a meeting. When I got there, he apologized and said when I was hired he had forgotten to give me a gas card which he had always given his paralegals after the hiring process. As he handed it to me, my hand and chin trembled simultaneously and with tear-filled eyes all I could say was “thank you.”

My boss was telling me about the parameters in which I must use the card, but all I could do was think about how humbled I was beyond words to be so assured that God was with me and taking care of my every need. How could the God of the universe care about where I get gas money? How could He answer a prayer with such distinction, clarity and creativity for ME?

That day, God’s financial plan for my life started to unfold, which was far better than anything I had ever imagined. Learning to trust Him and resting in His peace has brought me ultimate joy, which goes beyond my human comprehension. Within six months, He moved me into the job I still have today. The last six years have been an incredible journey. I have been able to go back to school and will finish my Bachelor’s degree in three months. Every debt but my mortgage will be paid off within this next year.

Progress has come in small steps, but I have been able to do things and help people in life-changing financial ways that, without God’s guidance, would have been impossible.

Sometimes in our total states of failure, God shows us His plan for success in our lives through Him, and He guides us with a gentle hand and a whispering voice. Looking back, my own direction almost cost me everything. I learned that I cannot afford to overlook God’s priceless guidance in any area of my life. Can you?

Rebecca C. Bradshaw became a Christian during her sophomore year of college. She lives in South Carolina, and will be celebrating her 25th anniversary with her husband David next month. A writer for many years, Rebecca enjoys using the “power of the pen” for God’s glory.