lessons in abundance

Recently my husband and I decided to sell my car — a decision we’ve both felt great about. It wasn’t until I told some friends later on and saw the concerned look in their eyes that I realized usually a decision like this would signify bad news. I rushed to explain to them that this was good news, but it wasn’t until I thought on the whole exchange later on that I realized how conditioned I am to believe that cutting our losses is, well, a sign of loss. The decision to sell our second car however, for us, is the opposite: a victory statement. A decision based soundly in our understanding of God’s word and abundant life. A step we are making towards being the kind of adults, and stewards of finance, we desire to be. We were not forced into it by unfortunate circumstances, but chose it in order to create for ourselves the circumstances we desire for our future. 

This brief exchange with friends however reminded me that for most of my life, these kinds of decisions were littered with feelings of defeat and “have to”— the sort mindset I’ve come to associate with scarcity. Scarcity is sneaky because it’ll often parade itself as prudence — but it only speaks the kind of “wisdom” that can’t really exist within God’s kingdom of abundance and “more than enough.” If scarcity is one side of the mindset spectrum, on the other is abundance — a mindset that empowers us to know that we don’t “have to” do anything, but that we get to choose.

For years, I lived in a constant cycle of poverty: working hard to make a small amount of money, using each check to meet the most immediate, urgent need, and then praying like hell I would make it to the next check without either going without food or falling behind on bills. This is not unlike the way most of my friends lived — whether it was that first year out of college in LA or in NYC, where my friend groups ranged from musicians to tech start up founders, salaried non-profit employees and graduate students. This is also not unlike what I experienced growing up. 

When you’re stuck in the cycle of poverty, everything becomes about answering the next, greatest need. When you earn or receive money, you just plug whatever hole in the boat is filling quickest — while creating another hole that’ll have to be dealt with later on. There is no forward view, because the mindset of a victim is inherently based in a disregard for future. I don’t have the time, money, or resources to look that far ahead. Or looking ahead with any kind of hope is too painful, so I’ll just focus on what is immediately in front of me. 

My husband and I are a year into marriage and learning a lot about how the mindsets, like these, that we’ve held for most our lives have set us up for the situations we’re currently experiencing. And we’re doing the best we can, like most of our newly married friends, to learn to be great financial stewards — addressing our debts, creating and re-creating a budget, and figuring out our values around money. Which one day includes a conversation that begins with a question, “What if we sell the second car?” 

In the past, I was conditioned only to make desperate decisions to address urgent needs— I learned that when there’s a need, you do whatever needs to be done to fix it, even if that causes more problems to fix later. Or, when you get something as luxurious as a car, you hold onto that thing for dear life because you never know when something like this will come your way again. I used to think that the only reason someone would possibly get rid of something like a car is because they “had to” —basically, money got so tight there was no other choice but to use it to pay for something else.

Yet selling my car would be none of this for us. The more we entertained the idea, the more we realized that this thing we thought brought us freedom was actually taking more than it was giving. Sure, it made scheduling our lives quite easy — but it also cost quite a bit in insurance, gas, and repairs. Cars over 100,000 miles make little financial sense to keep — unless you are afraid God won’t provide another. My car is nearing 200,000 miles and the repairs it would need to continue to operating well would probably cost twice as much as the car is currently worth. It’s just financial common sense. The only reason to keep the car?

Maintaining the illusion of freedom I need to feel good about my life and saving myself from the frightening risk of trusting God to help us get another car when the time comes. Those two fears right there could easily cause me to miss the creative solutions or leverage selling the car might actually provide. They could also blind me from seeing my circumstances accurately.

More importantly than financial logic, we came to the decision based on God logic. And this is what matters the most. When considering our options with our car, we didn’t just look at our immediate need. We have plenty of them, yes — but we also considered the long view. We thought about the promises in God’s word about our future and his provision. We thought about the season God has us in, and how he has been teaching us to trust him and dream big in the face of any circumstance. We considered our character and the kind of people we want to be. And we knew we didn’t want to be people of scarcity. We don’t make decisions out of fear, and we don’t want to empower the cycle of poverty in our lives. We’ve acted for years like poor people, and we want to practice being the kind of people God calls us to be. We want to live from abundance. So what would a wealthy, abundant person choose to do?

For us, it’s letting go of the second car that provides false security. It’s stewarding well the small amount of finances we have now, so that, according to God’s word, we will be trusted with more later. It’s about following inner peace that only Holy Spirit can give — even when some pesky thing within you is screaming all the reasons why not having your own car is scary. Scarcity is letting that thing boss me around. Actually, scarcity would’ve been selling the car months ago when we returned from vacation to hundreds of dollars in unexpected expenses. 

And scarcity would’ve said this is a sign of lack and defeat — but abundance says we have the ability to choose this, because we’re in this game for the long haul with God and both of us have a better plan than these current circumstances. We cut dead weight so the ship can move more smoothly ahead — not because the ship was going down in the first place, but because we have our eye on a prize and we’re going to get their sooner than later if we can choose to do it.

I realized that this whole conversation about the car wasn’t just an isolated incident — it’s a symptom of a slowlybut surely changing mindset around security and identity. There are still days I feel discouraged and defeated, like when I forget to pay something and have to deal with the consequences, or dream for hours of how I would decorate our house only to realize we don’t have the hundreds of dollars it’d probably take to do it. But little bit by little bit, as I trust God with my dreams and tell fear, “Not today, you don’t get my heart!” — I’m starting to see my peace rise. The more fiercely I protect my heart and dreams, the greater I see the Lord blessing my husband’s work, giving us strategies and even better than that: he’s given us security that no money or material possession can provide. 

And when we have those big, scary conversations you have in marriage where you’re deciding how to strategize financially or budget, things aren’t so scary anymore. Because we’re learning that it wasn’t ever about money and it won’t ever be — it’s about our hearts and an experience with a God who helping us to become the best people we can be. Our desires and our needs are safe in his hands — freeing us to grab a seat at the table with him, relax, and look towards the future without fear.

a blessing for a new year at the start

things you learn in your first year of marriage