Saturday, December 9, 2017

When The Math Doesn’t Add Up

by Candace Cortez

During one of the most expensive times of the year, I’d like to share a story with you.

I sat down tonight to “balance the books.” To make sure all our bills are paid, and our money is accounted for. After years of marriage, we are seeing the effects of faithful stewardship in our finances. We’re not rich, but we haven’t seen a zero balance in a while. We work hard not to spend more than we earn, even if it means no cable that month, my roots growing out an extra centimeter or two between hair appointments, eating meals at home instead of at restaurants, or whatever the sacrifices may need to be. It was not always this way.

Years ago, when my husband had to stop working to finish his education, this money planning process was not nearly as rewarding. No matter how much we sacrificed, we could not make ends meet. I simply did not make enough money to support us financially. This was difficult for my family on so many levels. Our comforts were hit, our entertainment took a dive, and so did our pride; especially my husband’s. Providing for our family is a part of his identity as the leader of our household. No matter how many things we cancelled, bringing our bills to the bare minimum, we couldn’t make the amount of money made, match the amount of money required to keep the lights on and house warm. The math didn’t add up.

As we balanced the books we would circle the final dollar amount by which we would be short that month. We prayed. We prayed a lot. Then we prayed some more. Those months were some of the most faith building months we have ever experienced. We watched as family, friends, and even random members of our community reached out and bridged the gap, bringing our balance to zero, if not just over it, giving us a few dollars to breathe with. One day, a check came in the mail for the exact amount of our circled gap amount. Other times, I had to do the hard ask. It’s not easy to ask for help. Some of my most vulnerable conversations have been requests for help because I could not do something on my own. For 10 months in a row, the math didn’t add up for us to live without help or adding debt. For 10 months in a row, somehow, our bills were always paid. God. Is. Good.

I smile writing this because God is a God who balances things differently than we do. When I see a gap between what is and what’s expected, I am filled with fear, worry, doubts, stress…you name it. God doesn’t bat an eye. He shines in those math gaps. When things don’t add up, it gives space for God to do miraculous things. Thousands of years ago, when the people were expecting a king, God sent a baby. That didn’t add up. When the boy only had two loaves and 5 fish, thousands left with full bellies. That didn’t add up. When we were sentenced to eternity away from God in suffering because of our sin, and the price for freedom was far beyond what we could pay, Jesus said “it is finished” and rose again three days later. That doesn’t add up!

Don’t fool yourself. There is nothing you can do to earn what God is doing for you and through you always. We can never donate enough money, take care of enough sick or rejected, plant enough trees, solve enough problems, to be able to bridge the gap between us and relationship with God. It will never add up without Jesus.

This really is the most wonderful time of the year, unless you’re trying to fill that gap with anything other than Jesus. Do not let the desire for stuff ruin your focus on the fact that when the math didn’t add up, God made a way by sending His Son. Do not let material things ruin the glow and joy we can find in being bought at a price beyond what we can pay back. When the math doesn’t add up for our souls, God makes it happen. Let’s celebrate THAT this Christmas.

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