Broke & Abundant
by Laura Johnson
I heard God speak to me on a brisk fall day in October last year. I was driving to the local recycling center to scrounge up enough pennies to get a gallon of gas for my car that was running on fumes. I knew this voice wasn’t my own (although it was in my head) because I heard this sentence interrupt whatever my mind was thinking at the time.
God said, “Did you think I would let you starve?” And I just broke down, bawling so hard I could barely see the road, because that was apparently what I did think. I was in a place in my life when I felt so low, so helpless. I was crying every day. Coming home every day from work and feeling nothing because I couldn’t go anywhere or enjoy anything since I didn’t have the means to do so. I had nothing. Or that’s how it felt.
What sparked the occurrence on the road that October day was that I had a few people over the night before. I agreed to have a little gathering a month earlier—at a time when I was more financially stable (as in my bank account contained more than $5). While the dinner was going to be a potluck anyway, as the host, I wanted to be able to offer my guests a full spread. But that week was terrible. I had some dried spaghetti and peanut butter in my cupboard and some chicken in my freezer and that was it. I am not exaggerating.
The previous two days I ate only one meal. And here I was having a party. I felt I couldn’t cancel because my friends were so excited about it. With the $3 I had left in my checking account I went to the store to buy some guacamole and tortilla chips so I could at least offer something. I prayed (or cried out) to God to let this be OK—or everything to be OK.
Dinner time came and the first friend arrived with a huge pot of stew, big enough for 20 people. One last ring at the doorbell and the remaining friends were standing at the doorway with five full grocery bags. So much food (and even beer!) entered my apartment; they barely could walk in the door. It was a miracle. I had been worried about not being able to feed even myself, and here we had enough to feast on for weeks.
At the end of a flavorful evening of food and fellowship, my friends said they wanted to leave the leftovers with me. At first I refused, but then I gave in—I thought to myself “I’m going to eat tomorrow!” The thing is: none of them knew the situation I was in. I was too ashamed to tell. They brought the food, not because they knew I was broke, but because they wanted to do something nice for me.
Jesus fed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. On the night of my party, my friends fed me—which in that moment was just as much of a miracle to me as the feeding of thousands.
It’s strange how not having any money makes you feel. In these economic times there are many struggling from paycheck to paycheck, and while we can be sure Jesus will never desert us, it can seem like there is no way out.
The week after hearing God, I looked at my bank account, saw negative numbers, teared up for 30 seconds and decided to stop being so helpless. I immediately went to Craigslist, saw an ad for a server position, called, went in for the interview that day, and got the job. Yes, that meant I was working seven days a week but never again would I struggle to pay a bill! Not to say that everyone could or should take on a second job, it’s just a reminder that complaining will not get us anywhere, and maybe you can make the decision to charge forward.
Life is full of decisions. Maybe I should have gone to the public school for college. Maybe I should have bought a used car and not a new one. Maybe I should have studied accounting.
These are all pesky “shoulda, coulda, woulda” thoughts that don’t matter because you can’t change them now. The important thing is to always give thanks for what you do have. While my accountant friends from college may be getting their first BMWs I am blessed with a job that fulfills me, and loved ones who support all I do.
Looking back on my personal economic crisis, it almost seems silly. I mean even if I couldn’t eat for a week or put gas in my car, there are people in the world way worse off. I had a roof over my head and I wasn’t really starving. Money is a necessary evil, but when you have it, life is much easier. Without it, the things you may have overlooked in the first place—life’s small miracles—are able to come to the forefront. God will never forsake you: that is a promise.
Laura Johnson is a journalist at an alternative weekly magazine in Northwest Iowa. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in journalism. One day she would like to travel to all 50 states. Thus far she has been to 32 of them.