Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Windows of Heaven

"Tithing is an ancient law from God. He made a promise to His children that He would open the windows of heaven, and pour...out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Face the Future with Faith, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


The United States Dollar (USD) and the Great British Pound (GDP) used to be on friendly terms. Times, as they are however, have strained the relationship, so that Mr. Dollar taps rather weakly at the door of Sir Pound. During our thirteen months in London, I gave up converting the difference in my head with every purchase - it became too depressing. I liked to imagine they were on a level playing field, but the truth knocked us about with every visit to the bank. Living in London is one of the most expensive propositions in the world!

Besides straddling households on two continents (with three trips back and forth "across the pond"), we had two-plus-one in their senior year of college, and another marrying and buying his first house. When I think of the impact of our European travel on the family balance sheet, I have to use self-talk like smelling salts: 'It was worth it.'...'once-in-a-lifetime'...'think of the memories!'. However, the best antidote to sticker shock I've found yet is to "remember, remember"... (Alma 5:5-7 and Pres. Henry B. Eyring)

One of my jobs as a young mom was the household budget. I kept it and I spent it and I sweated over it (my husband sweated for it). Paying the rent, the car, the credit cards, the utilities, etc. was never a piece-of-cake -- it was more like eating mushy peas and liver -- but the hardest check to write each month was the one to the church. Neither of us had grown up in active families, so we weren't accustomed by experience or example to paying our tithing.

I can recall a couple of miraculous episodes -- obviously orchestrated by angels to bolster my faith -- when immediate blessings popped up after a squaring of the shoulders, a squeezing of the eyes, and a thrust of tithing into the hands of bishop.

One of those times left us short $200 for an upcoming trip to Philadelphia for Ashley's therapy program. Another meant we had $100 less for desperately needed groceries and baby supplies. In the first instance, we learned the next day that a group of our friends (who were oblivious to our predicament) had taken up a collection for us covering the deficit exactly. In the second trial, believe it or not, I found $100 wedged into the pages of my Old Testament! But those kind of Red Sea Partings, though absolutely true, are not typical testimonies.

What IS typical happened years later when our little kids were a little older.

In consternation I had wrestled over the bills for hours, finding no way out of the basic fact that we could not cut everyone a piece of the action. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, I was also cognizant of the fact that our tithing went unpaid. The check was written, the envelope stuffed, and the stamp affixed, but it had sat in "outgoing" for weeks.

With calculator-blisters festering on my fingers and wads of paper piling up at my feet, I sat at the kitchen table and bawled for a good fifteen minutes. Then -- with just a drop of resolve left -- like the stricken boxer who can barely manage to crawl back to his corner, I picked up the tithing envelope, opened the front door, walked down the driveway, and stood in front of the mailbox. It might as well have been Abraham standing there, looking at Issac on top of the alter: the incomprehensible thing I was about to do would either kill me and my family, or save us from annihilation. Believe me, it felt just that dramatic.

I left it there and went back inside. The mailman came and went and so did the days and weeks to follow. I can't even remember how we survived the crisis. What I do remember is that we never missed another opportunity to pay our tithing. It got easier and easier over the years, even though our contribution, by virtue of the 10% standard, got bigger and bigger. And that's the whole point, isn't it? The family prosperity-index climbed steadily up and up and up until today our grown children are virtually independent (three graduating from their university studies without any debt) and we can afford a credit-free year overseas and a big-fat Mormon wedding this summer.

Tithing is a spiritual, not a financial principle. Our maturity in the gospel has increased in direct proportion to our obedience. Growth however, has made us deeper, not taller. We still find the windows of heaven too high to see through, but we know now that they are positioned just that way so that blessings can flow from them with all the more force.


"To develop enduring faith, an enduring commitment to be a full-tithe payer is essential. Initially it takes faith to tithe. Then the tithe payer develops more faith to the point that tithing becomes a precious privilege." (Ibid.)

Muse with me: What blessings have you received from paying tithes?


Bri... only she said...

What a wonderful testimony of tithing. I didn't have to read this post to know your testimony of tithing was strong, though. It is evident in your children who, with no thought, pull tithing out of the check FIRST -- with an attitude that the 90% they do receive is the blessing.

Our first few years of marriage have been blessed by the testimony you instilled in your children by example. Even when we were sure the checkbook had been balanced and the balance would surely come up in the red, our tithing was paid and we've thankfully never had the need to rely on credit. Somehow, a friend's invitation to dinner, a family members help, or a completely unexplained balance in the bank helped us make it through. It is a blessing to have that reassurance that we will never want when we give for the Lord. He clothes us just as beautifully as the lilies.

Sarah said...

I LOVE your example of faith and overcoming those difficult challenges back there! Wow!

And wahoo to all the experiences and celebrations that have passed/are ahead, in spite of their costs. What a ton of blessings, to, surely, obedience and worship of God!

I love you

Sara Lyn said...

We've talked many times about how the checkbook shouldn't balance, but somehow always does because we've always paid our tithing. (We're so grateful we both had great examples with our parents.) The Lord has always provided what we needed somehow, although not always what we wanted. However, I have been struck that more often than not, we are even blessed with what we want and not just what we need. I am so grateful for the blessing of paying tithing - as you said, not just a financial blessing but truly many spiritual ones also.

Bonnie said...

I was blessed with a husband who was taught to pay tithing from his earliest years. He has been such a blessing to our children. But, we have our own little tithing miracles from our earliest marriage to our son's missions! I love your last quote about tithing evolving from sacrifice to privilege. As temple workers now we can honestly say with all of our hearts that it is PURE privilege!