Living on tinned tuna and no income, I gave away my last dollars

Vanessa wasn’t trying to test God. She just figured he had something up his sleeve for her

When I first moved back to Australia after spending nine months in Montréal, Canada, I realised I was homeless.

I had nowhere to live, no furniture, nothing other than my clothes, books and my decorative egg and teacup collections.

My divorce settlement left me with very little, and I found myself turning 50 and having to literally start all over again. You forget all the little things you need when setting up a home – a chopping board. A vegetable peeler.

I’d be in the process of cooking and realise I didn’t have a can opener, or a wooden spoon. And there was all the big things. I slept on a mattress on the floor for six weeks, and washed my clothes at my son’s house for months before I could afford a washing machine.

It was June 2018, with an elusive contract with a consulting firm still in negotiation, and I had just enough to buy basic food. I was living on tins of tuna, boiled rice, and whatever was on special at the local produce market down the road).

My sister, Di, excitedly shared in our family Facebook chat that she had been given an opportunity to speak at a conference. She would be presenting her artwork and her experience of long-term effects of child abuse, which was to include what we as a family had endured growing up.

The problem was she couldn’t afford to get to the conference.

The instruction to me was loud and clear. It came in a dream that night, and again the next morning while I was journaling, which I do every day – I was to send Di $220 towards her bus fare to the conference. I was scared, and I wasn’t. It made no sense. But I did it. And I sent her this message:

 

Let me just say, having spent quite a bit of time in parts of Africa where the “Prosperity Gospel” is rife in parts, I’ve seen pastors promising inordinate blessings to those who give generously to the church.

I’ve sat and watched people dance joyfully up the aisles, throwing money into the plate and praising God, only to find themselves unable to feed their family for days, weeks, or more.

What I’m sharing here didn’t come with a promise of blessings. I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, and I wasn’t ‘testing God’.

I simply trusted and obeyed, figuring God had something up His sleeve! And He did! That same day I transferred money I could not afford to part with, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for years.

No, I am not saying give all your money away and someone will hand you a cheque for ten times that!

We had done some business together in the past, and this was a catch up because I was now in Melbourne, his hometown. We had lunch, chatted about his business, my experience in Montréal, family, future plans … and towards the end of our time together he said this to me: ‘My wife and I were talking the other day and decided that we should give you something for the referral you sent our way a while ago, despite the fact that we haven’t received full payment from the client yet.’

He slipped an envelope across the table and got up and headed for the bathroom. I sat and stared at the envelope. Gingerly, I reached across the table and picked it up, opened it, and pulled out a cheque – for $2442.00! And then I cried. Here’s what I sent to Di when I got home.

 

No, I am not saying give all your money away and someone will hand you a cheque for ten times that! One of the things I see Christians falling into the trap of is assuming that one person’s blessing should be extended to all.

If someone has their prayers answered, they are healed, or they get that job they’ve been praying for, there seems to be a tendency to assume that answered prayers are a one-size-fits-all. Then when the next person prays the same prayer and they are not healed, or they don’t get their dream job, they are plagued with disappointment and can lose trust in the God who they have grown up believing answers prayer.

I liken it to diet and exercise – how many books and programs are out there promising that if you simply limit your carbs, eat more protein, drink eight glasses of water a day, exercise at least three times a week, ‘You, too, could lose 15kgs and look just like me.’

‘If it worked for me, it will work for you, too!’ Except it doesn’t.

It works for some, and it leaves others feeling like they have failed somehow, despite the fact that they followed the program to the letter, and others end up gaining weight instead of losing it and spiral downward into depression and a sense of confusion and loss of trust.

What I’ve observed is that God often pushes us to the limit, and beyond.

Prayer and trusting God is not a one-size-fits-all. What the Spirit whispers to me, and what God has planned for me will be different from what he is speaking to you and has planned for you. Why? Because you and I are different, and because he knows you and loves you.

All we are instructed to do is listen, trust and obey. Sounds easy, right? What I’ve observed is that God often pushes us to the limit, and beyond. He seems to find the very thing he knows we are clinging to – whether that is money, a relationship, a job, an identity we have built around ourselves – and then God asks us to give it up, to loosen our grip, to stop trusting that as much as we are and to start trusting God a whole lot more.

In business, our vocation, and in our personal lives, I believe we too often start with the end in mind – how much money we want to make, where we want to live, what career path we want to follow.

Whether we admit it or not, we create idols. We expend so much energy and effort trying to fulfil the plans we have for ourselves, and forget that that is the way the world works. It’s not how God works.

Start with what you have in your hands. Be prepared to give it up. Hold all things loosely. And know, really know, that God has got you in ways you cannot possibly imagine.

Vanessa Hall has spent more than 15 years exploring trust from every possible angle – in personal relationships, in corporates, in communities, and more recently, from a theological perspective. Her models for trust and trustworthiness have been taught to over 30,000 leaders in 19 countries, and she partners with and equips others to help build and restore trust globally. Her work has been described as profoundly simple, a healing ministry, and is both her passion and purpose. 

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