In my Church, on the first Sunday of every month, it’s open mic service. We call it “Testimony Meeting,” but, really, you can get up and say just about anything. It can get scary. The point is to bear witness of Christ and your faith in him, but sometimes people find a way to tie their faith into their weekend trip to Costco and, I don’t know, boogers. It gets random sometimes. That’s the risk, but the rewards are typically pretty great.
During this month’s Testimony Meeting, I grabbed the mic. I was sure, as always, to remove my glasses first. (Public speaking is always easier when you can’t see who you’re talking to. Plus, by revealing your eyes, you trick the audience into thinking you’re making a deeper connection! [Suckers.]) I felt a great need to give acknowledgement to one of the two big blessings my family received at the end of last year. It would have been ungrateful to do otherwise.
Last year, honestly, kind of sucked for my family. The brightest spot was the birth of our daughter Violet, but there was a lot of junk both before and after that. The year started off with our sewage backing up into our bathtub (worst. bath. ever.) and the apex was in August when a 16-passenger van hit our house and then skidded off into our car. These kinds of events and more were costly, costly, costly. Which my wife Erin and I are used to. We just really thought 2011 was the year we’d actually gain some financial traction. Well, I did.
Erin got the distinct impression, before 2011 even began, that we needed to hoard our money like misers. She could feel the badness coming. I’m grateful she’s our family financial planner because, man, I really wanted The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition on Blu-ray. Good thing that didn’t happen. We needed every cent.
Because of the hardship (and a little bit of public shaming on Twitter), I was able to convince Geico to cover completely the costs of the repair to our car and waive their usual policy of charging us our deductible and paying it back later. We didn’t pay a dime. Fast forward a few months to December and we get a check in the mail from Geico for what is, to us, a substantial amount of money. It’s our deductible.
I got on the phone and tried to give the money back. Honesty is a little more important to me than cash, even if we did need it. It took a while to explain the history, but once I did the nice lady at Geico took the matter to her superiors and a decision was made: the money was ours. The hassle of trying to fix what the suspension of their normal policy had broken was too much. You get in an accident and the other guy’s insurance pays, you get a check. This was our first check, so the money was ours to keep.
Now, the other half of the story:
This past summer, my wife and I found a huge wad of cash in the glove compartment of our car and a bunch of receipts dating back to 2008. At first, we were overjoyed. The money we desperately needed. Still, we sat on it, trying to figure out why the money was there and what it was for. Then a giant van got intimate with our house and car. We needed it more than ever.
Unfortunately, by putting the clues together, we ultimately concluded with little doubt that our hidden stash of cash was intended as tithing (a contribution of 10% of our earnings we give to our Church–also, for us, a commandment). Somehow, it got stuck in the car and forgotten about.
There were lots of ways to rationalize using the money to ease our financial burden, but we didn’t. We put the money in an envelope and we paid the tithing like we should have done three years ago.
It was a few months later that Geico sent us that check for the deductible they didn’t owe us. The amount? Pretty much the same as what was in the glove compartment.
Coincidence? Maybe. I don’t really care. I’m not a rich man, but I’ve been paying tithing my entire life and I’ve never been without what I need and I’ve never been in great debt. I think there’s real power in doing the right thing. I think God rewards those who obey Him, and the reward always outweighs the sacrifice.
At least, that’s been my experience.
Oh, and the other blessing that I didn’t tell the congregation about? December was also the month I signed with my fantastic agent, Bonnie Solow. I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store.