Last year, I downloaded an article about poverty and its effect on decision-making. Two scholars from Princeton and Harvard collaborated on researching this idea and subsequently published a book, Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much. The information was intriguing and, when I read it, made sense.
“Poor people aren’t stupid,” NBC health writer Maggie Fox summarized, “bad decisions are from being overwhelmed.” She reported on the research that concluded that coping with severe financial stress decreases the mental bandwidth to effectively manage all of life’s demands.
But there’s more: the research also revealed that ANY distraction that results from scarcity decreases one’s ability to make good decisions—even dieting.
So imagine trying to make good decisions when you don’t have enough money and food.
I have been unemployed with reduced or no income for 18 months. At the beginning of 2014, shortly after Congress chose not to re-fund unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, and my bills began to pile up while my resources dried up, I found myself “twirling.” That’s what I call it when I am unable to make decisions and take actions in a logical, timely manner and, sometimes, approach the level of panic. “Should I pay the power bill or the cable bill? If I don’t pay for the cable, I won’t have the Internet to look for jobs. But if I don’t pay the power, I won’t have electricity for heat to run the Internet. How long can I extend nonpayment? Which one should I call to try to negotiate the bill payment? If I call them and they know I can’t pay anything, will they cut me off right away?”
I won’t go into the decisions I’ve made or my current status; I’m hanging on and still looking for and hopeful about full-time employment. Fortunately, it is just me and my dogs, Zach and Pinky that I must feed and shelter, and we haven’t missed any meals.
Many people, wealthy and poor, view religion as unnecessary or a panacea for people who are superstitious, weak or ignorant. They don’t see the benefit in God or church. But Jesus came at a time when much of humanity was dazed and confused—twirling; the political, economic and social structures they were subject to did not benefit the masses. There was a small aristocratic or rich class (the 1%) and large numbers of people who had to hustle hard for their daily bread. They often lived in dangerous places; worked dangerous, sporadic and ill-paying jobs; and sold or sent their children to people and places where they thought—hoped—they would get better care than they could provide. (Can we say Raleesha Rudd, or think of the thousands of children in India, Africa and other countries who are placed into debt slavery by parents hoping they will have a better life?)
Jesus spoke out against the powerful people; that is why he was executed. He also spoke for and to the poor and powerless. You’ve may have heard Matthew 11:28-30, “28 Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Message bible translates these words in in this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I am a witness to both aspects of this article: I have needed “real rest” and benefitted from the “unforced rhythms of grace” that allow one to “live freely and lightly.” Daily prayer, frequent reading of scripture and other spiritual/religious material, and weekly church fellowship have calmed me, renewed me, refocused me and infused me with hope, especially when I thought I was going to twirl over the edge.
The fact that I am clergy does not make me immune to human issues like confusion or anxiety or despair. The fact that I am clergy does not prevent me from losing faith in God’s grace and mercy. It is my faith in God and God’s grace and mercy that led me to become clergy; my faith, unlike my ability to sometimes successfully manage life issues, has never wavered.
Regular communion with God necessitates regular communion with other believers. God did not design us to go through the trials or celebrations of life alone. When we share our burdens with God and believers, they are lightened; when we share our joys, they are enhanced.
Come and join in our fellowship: We join with God to instill courage and joy in living.