It’s crazy to realise we are well over half way through January! Not that I am complaining: even though I am doing pretty well with my ‘money fast’ for this month of Simplify 7, I am more than looking forward to pay day. And lighter evenings.
I am doing pretty well with the fast. Partly, I’m too busy to be spending much – other than all those direct debits which magically whisk all the money out of my account anyway. And all my friends seem to be really busy/broke too, so there’s little temptation to go on any kind of a shopping spree.
Still, there have been days when it has been very tempting to grab some chocolate along with my petrol, or take the easy road and buy something from the student canteen at lunchtime. I’ve certainly had to curtail my habit of hearing about something on the radio on the way to work and ordering it from Amazon when I get there.
But learning to be more disciplined has only really been a part of it. I’ve also noticed something else; call it an unintended outcome of this month’s fast.
No. Not the party kind. The more important kind…when someone goes out of their way to do something for you, for no good reason except to show they care.
I’m not really very good at accepting favours under normal circumstances – and I don’t like asking for them. I’m the type who tends to say ‘it’s fine thanks, I’ve got it all under control.’
However, having known one or two people who really DON’T like accepting favours; people who will willingly cause more hassle for themselves – and everybody else – by struggling to remain independent at all costs, I definitely try to accept favours graciously. I know what it feels like to be rejected.
But anyway, the point is that I’ve had quite a number of occasions this month when I have been only too grateful for an offer of help from someone – and not just people who are aware of my self-imposed restrictions this month.
There was the friend who invited me round for a meal on a day when my commitments were such that the alternative was my main meal being a self-prepared sandwich eaten in the car before my next meeting.
And the one who offered to sort out our theatre tickets and just told me to give her the money when I see her (in February).
Facebook friends might have noticed that I booked flights to the USA last weekend and might have wondered how. But the money came from my wonderful mum (who is also going on the trip) and who told me to go ahead so we could take advantage of the BA sale and sort the money out when it came to paying for hotels.
I could go on. But the point is that I haven’t really had to go without anything significant as a result of my (self-imposed) financial restrictions. So far, favours have been offered (and accepted) just when I need them. I haven’t even had to ask.
I know: I’m incredibly fortunate with my friends and family. I didn’t need this month of Simplify 7 to tell me that. It’s often said that money makes the world go round – and, of course, it’s important. (I think we’ve all felt the impact of the 2008 banking crisis!) But I have to reflect that friendship – or even just neighbourliness (if that’s a word) – is much more important in smoothing our journey through life. I value my independence, and I love to be able to offer favours to others – but I’ve learned that it’s also very pleasant to be on the receiving end.
There’s a couple of verses in Proverbs Chapter 30 which I have thought about quite a lot in the last few months:
And then he [the believer] prayed, ‘God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me –
Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
Saying ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonour the name of my God.
Recognising that independence isn’t always a good thing has been a big part of my learning over the course of Simplify 7 – and even before. It’s not always easy to accept. But I have come to realise that accepting I have a need for God, and for other people, is actually a good thing. Yes, it makes me vulnerable – but no man is an island, as the saying goes…and no woman is either.
So, I am very grateful to the friends, family, colleagues, etc who have done me a favour – financial or otherwise, whether they know about Simplify 7 or not. I think they are as much blessed in the giving as I am in the receiving, and that’s why I will continue to take pleasure in doing favours for others too.