When the Divine and the Practical Conflict


Let’s start out with something really honest that is constantly astir in my heart and mind when I make life decisions:

I don’t know what God has planned for this life.

This life is not mine. It belongs to God, and He will do with it what He wills.

Last week, I had two conversations about whether I should buy a house or not. I land on the side of ABSOLUTELY NOT. Just about everyone else lands on the side of BUT HOUSES ARE SO CHEAP RIGHT NOW.

Yes.

I agree.

And buying a house isn’t completely out of the question for me financially. It’d be super-rough, but I could probably budget things out so that a house would be within my grasp… if I found renters.

So it would totally make sense for me to start working towards a house so that I can own one before retirement age.

_________________________________________

I need growth and sanctification in the area of stewardship, for sure – but not because I’m greedy or spend $ like crazy. I have the opposite sort of problem in that I don’t give a rip about $, and I’d much rather let someone else have everything I own than think about it.

This concerns my friends and family sometimes, so they try to talk me into buying a house, paying more into my retirement funds, and, well… caring.

Okay.

Retraction: It isn’t that I don’t care; it’s that I passionately believe God doesn’t want me to worry and DOES want me to trust Him. I know it’s possible to trust God and plan well, but remember that honest, foundational thing I started out with?

I don’t know what God has planned for this life.

This life is not mine, and God will do with it what He wills.

I don’t know what to plan for.

I don’t know if God is going to give me away in marriage. I don’t know if He is going to make me into a mommy. I don’t know if He’s planning for me to live in Tucson forever. I don’t know if I’m going to be a teacher until I retire. I don’t know if I’m going to retire. I don’t know if I’m going to live until retirement age. I don’t know if I’m going to live through today.

I don’t feel good about attaching myself to a 30-yr mortgage for a house that may never be filled with anyone other than me, and might just keep me from being sent across the globe/country/state as an instrument in God’s story.

Also, I think a lot about this verse:

“Come now, you who say, ‘ Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are but a vapor that appears for a little while then vanishes away. You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”

James 4:13-16

One of the classic arguments people use is the, “You might not feel like you’ll ever be old, but when you’re sixty-eight, you’ll wish you’d bought that house and paid extra into that retirement fund.”

I hate that argument.

I don’t hate it because I’m the idiot kid who thinks she’s invincible and just can’t comprehend being sixty-eight. I hate it because I’m the kind of girl who believes God will snuff her out of this world when He wants to.

Mortality is one of the few areas in life where I don’t struggle with humility. I understand that I’m a vapor. I don’t know how or why God taught me that already. But He did.

So it isn’t that I can’t imagine being sixty-eight; it’s that I can imagine dying at sixty-eight, one hundred and twelve, forty-one, or twenty-six. I can imagine dying in a recliner with my feet up, a tiny apartment in East Asia, an airplane crashing into the ocean (they always hit the ocean in nightmares), or on mile twenty-six of the Rock-‘n’-roll marathon in January.

Sorry to be morbid, but I don’t know what God has planned for me. And that’s okay. When I’m going to die is one of the few things I never ask God to reveal to me.

If God gives me away to a good man and we get married and make babies, buying a house would make a lot more sense.

Another verse I love thinking about:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, with is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-34

I’ve lost at least part of my contract every year since I became a teacher.

But God has blessed me with places to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear that far exceed my needs.

There’s a divine trust I place in Him because He’s God.

And of course that isn’t license to be an idiot with my money.

But really believing in God – not just playing Christian, but really knowing Him – means trusting Him beyond the practical. Because He transcends the practical. Because He uses both practical and supernatural means to provide for His children.

In truth, I’m at a place in life when the practical and the divine conflict.

The practical thing is probably to make a really tight budget, tithe exactly 10% and not a penny more, and work towards a comfy retirement. But the divine thing is to be still and know that He is God. The divine thing is to give my current life situation over to trust and see what God does with it. I’m paying into retirement and saving when I can… but I’m also not not stressing about buying a house. It’s not even on my radar except in the sorts of conversations I had last week.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “When the Divine and the Practical Conflict

  1. Hi Katie. Thanks for processing this one on your blog! Just wanted to say that I struggle with similar things regarding money/stuff/planning. First, I must be honest: I am not good with money. I have felt God rebuilding my life in the area of finances so I can honor Him better there. Second, I feel like the lighter I travel, the easier I can go wherever God sends me. Granted I have a hubby, 2 kids, 1 giant dog and a house, so I’m probably not going to be sent too far right now (ya never know, though). Still, I don’t fit the mold of having everything budgeted to the hilt and a 401K, retirement and college funds set up and a plan A, B and C for whatever might come.
    I could really “hear” what you hear God saying to you about waiting on Him, not worrying about tomorrow because He provides. We are to seek first Him and His will, His kingdom! Those things are all true and good. When loved ones start putting in their (well-meaning) 2 cents, it can get tricky.
    I also think lots about daily bread…It’s not monthly or weekly bread, ya know? I don’t think there is anything wrong with planning. I do think God leads us each on our paths (you will quickly see that I say this a LOT :)). He knows exactly what YOU need and what is best for you and what fits perfectly in His plan for you! When we trust in Him to supply our every need (emotional & physical), He is glorified! When we listen for His voice, allowing Him to direct each step, we can’t go wrong (no matter how different it looks than what we or others thought it would). So, I would encourage you to yoke yourself to our main man, Jesus, and rest in Him. He’s got you, and your right where He wants you 🙂
    P.S. I wrote some sorta related rambling thoughts on a post on my blog called “lack, treasure and supplies” if you want to check it out.

  2. Excellent struggle to have Katie. I agree- let’s live radically dependent in Jesus. Let’s live like He is God! And I get ya, it’s not about being dumb but it’s about totally loving Him- wherever, whenever, however. Go for it! You’ll never regret living all out, passionately in love with, for the great glory of our amazing and worthy God.

  3. For the record, my loved ones don’t at all bother or offend me with these kinds of conversations. I know no one said that in the comments up there, but I worry about the tone of my post and some of the comments. As long as people are gentle with me and don’t try to verbally force me into buying the house, we’re good. I actually REALLY enjoyed one of the conversations about this. I really respect the people I was talking about this with; it helped me to reconsider stewardship and the ‘whys’ behind my decisions.

  4. sorry if i seemed negative about loved ones! i, too, believe strongly that God puts others in our lives to teach and guide us – that He speaks through them and that we are to honor and respect them. i was trying to say that we cannot look to what God is telling someone else to do to determine what He wants us to do (different parts of the body and whatnot…we can’t all be arms!). I love how God refines us in and through godly relationships – giving us accountability for our actions, like you said. again, sorry if MY tone was bad 🙂 it was not intended.

  5. Wordprocessor: If there’s one thing I’ve learned through blogging, it’s that if you feel like there’s a chance someone will be offended by something on your blog… they will. 🙂

    I wasn’t at all thinking that you were being negative about loved ones. I just wanted to make sure no one thinks that’s what I’m doing either.

    Don’t give it a second thought.

  6. “if you feel like there’s a chance someone will be offended by something on your blog…they will.”
    words of wisdom i need to remember! i tend to be “loud”…sometimes refer to myself as bulldog, too-much, freight train, so i can only imagine how i seem to others. ha! i pray God continues to develop a gentle, quiet spirit within me.
    and, i’ll just say once more: YAY FOR LOVED ONES!!

  7. I find it comical that in the Chronicles, Lewis used the word “practical” in a derogatory fashion, as if the way adults approach their decisions lacks spiritual insight and imagination. I believe that “prudence” and “obedience” are not even close to the same thing. We can be good stewards of our resources without presuming their existence in our lives. We can be good with money without ever having it or needing it. I know that God has never stopped providing for me, even when the numbers didn’t compute. I was to be obedient anyway. I have no doubt that He will continue to provide for you without a retirement plan or a permanent place to lay your head — if He’s been faithful to this point, He’s not bailing on you now 🙂

    Just don’t grumble as much as I have if God tells you to buy a house. Many people buy because it’s a “wise investment” — I didn’t want one and He told me I was getting one anyway :-/ I miss my mobility, but He wants me to stay put for a season. He stretches us all in different ways 🙂

  8. I guess I’m a little late to this party, so let’s see how much damage I can cause:

    My question to you is, “What have you asked God for?”

    That may seem like a silly and basic question but hear me out. Aren’t we expected to ask our God for things? I mean, He is called “The Provider” after all (by some at least). Aren’t we supposed to look at him like our father and be eager children? Do we not wait for His gifts and graces?

    Maybe the whole point of your post is to try to show that you are really going to not worry about these thing, which is an awesome thing. But just in case you aren’t asking yourself that question, the thing I would encourage you to do is to simply ask for whatever it is that you need. Or you can even ask for things that you just want…

    Take a spouse for example. You said you’re not sure if God will allow you to be given away to some good fella. Maybe it’s a want (because you want to have children). Maybe it’s a need (because you will feel closer to Him after holy marriage). When I see this, I think to myself one thing.

    Ask.

    Regardless if it’s a want or a need, we should still ask for everything. I’m not all that smart in terms of using the Word to suit my needs but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t come across anything that leads me to not believe this is true.

    He may give you those answers/avenues/opportunities/options/gifts as long as you’re trying to find out what they are/can be.

    This is, in my humble opinion, the best way to receive something from Him.

    Now this is the part where I say something extremely stupid.

    You mentioned that you aren’t sure when you were going to die and how it could happen as early of an age as 26. I, for some reason, thought you are older than this. And then I tried thinking of how you would be able to go back in time and kill yourself. I immediately laughed off this Terminator theory but was still wondering why that particular number. I was going to then find this quite funny and was going to comment on your post mentioning a “typo” in your writing.

    Then I remembered I was just a moron…

    • 🙂

      D.A. Bancroft – you crack me up.

      Thing 1 (yeah, like Dr. Seuss) – I really struggle to ask God for things. I was listening to a sermon about a year ago and it totally challenged me about going to God like you go to a father. The pastor said that his daughter asks him for big things and little things, wants and needs… and he loves it because it’s a part of their closeness and father/daughter relationship. So… I’ve started asking God for things big and small and He totally gave me and Friend Shasta a parking space miliseconds after we prayed for it 🙂 … and yes, that really did happen and I know I’m ridiculous.

      Thing 2 – I’m definitely 26

  9. As one of the people responsible for planting the “CRAZY CHEAP” seed, I feel that I am responsible to clarify what I meant. Turns out, according to this really smart guy with a money blog, house prices aren’t all that cheap right now when compared with inflation. The crazy bubble that just exploded has just bamboozled us into thinking these prices are actually low. They are actually slightly higher than historic averages. However, since much of what determines monthly payment is interest rates (like 75% or more of the payment), the current crazy low interest rates make it cheap to buy, not the prices. Check out

    http://observationsandnotes.blogspot.com/2011/07/housing-prices-inflation-since-1900.html

    CNN money has a mortgage calculator (as do many other sites) that you can play with. I think rates are in the 4.5% range. Try putting in normal rates, like 8-15% on a $130K 30 year fixed loan. The payment goes way up. You can look at houses on MLS, plug those prices into a mortgage calculator, and see what your monthly payment would be. I would be willing to bet that it would be as much, or possibly even less than rent for a similar house.

    If interest rates stay this low and people get back to work, prices will slowly creep up, but not so fast they you would miss an opportunity. There are also a good number of very smart people who think the economy is headed for some unprecedented difficulties that would probably pull housing down still further. Runaway inflation would probably cause prices to go up, since real estate provides a hedge against inflation. Contrarily, high interest rates would probably drive prices lower, since people buy what they can make the monthly payment for.

    Bottom line: there are definitely benefits to homeownership, and this is a cheap time to buy in terms of monthly payment. But not knowing the future (interest rates, inflation, currency problems), no one can tell you whether or not this is a good or bad time to buy. You have to do what works for you. I can’t tell you how many people told me I should be buying a house back in 2004-2007 (when they were 40-70% more expensive than they are now), how real estate never goes down, and how much money they were making “flipping houses”. By the Grace of God, we just couldn’t afford one. In retrospect, not buying a house during that time was the best thing that could have happened. Retrospectively, the Hand of God is easy to see working in your life. At the time, most of us (me included) are blind to his Grace.

    • Thanks, Steve. I’m always learning things when I’m around you… things I would never be motivated enough to pursue without you around 🙂 You’ve been such a help with me becoming a “real grown-up” with moving into apartments and houses, and I SO respect your opinion. Had it not been for us talking, I wouldn’t have even thought about a house and it’s probably a good thing for me to be thinking about, even if I’m not planning to buy soon.

      And, by the way, I totally expect you and Lori to move me into my house if I ever buy one. I promise I’ll pack everything up before you get there, though 😉

What are your thoughts on life, the universe, and everything?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s