Thursday, November 19, 2015

Car Repairs and Famines

We wandered around the dealership killing time for the fourth time in a month. An oil change and standard inspection had revealed that my 2007 Honda CR-V needed several other maintenance updates and a recall fix done and this was to be my final visit in getting those things completed. I looked forward to being done with this run of car upkeep because as much as I love my children - I do not enjoy the time we spend together in car service waiting rooms. 

I pulled into the service bay that morning and was thankful for this last visit as I pulled my children out of the vehicle.

I should have known better.

Within moments of me checking in the car, the service representative was back at my side in the waiting area informing me that my car was leaking a bluish fluid. She didn't think it was coolant, was hopeful that maybe it was washer fluid and not a critical issue.

"Please, please let it be washer fluid," I thought to myself as I took a deep breath and felt the tension building through my shoulders, arms, and eyebrows. I felt the tears creeping in and pushed them back, holding out hope that it wouldn't be a big deal.
Image credit

About a half-hour later, the service representative found me chasing the kids down a ramp with a paper in her hand. The tone in her voice as she said my name and the look on her face put a pit right in the bottom of my stomach and my heart fell through it to the floor.

"I can't let you take the car," she said. "It's leaking a lot of coolant." She showed me the paper, I read the description and saw another almost $300 worth of repairs needed to my car.

As I waited for my husband to arrive (he's awesome when I'm overwhelmed, plus his car had carseats and the offered rental didn't) my anxiety built. It wasn't just these repairs on my car that were weighing on me; it was the $500 we'd already spent on this vehicle in the last month in maintenance. It was the $1500 we'd just dumped into Steve's car for maintenance along with another $300 on its way here in the form of a bumper cover he'll replace himself. It was the upcoming $1000-1500 after-insurance expenses we're expecting to pay for me to get a root canal next week and a follow-up crown later in the year.

For those keeping a running tally - that's $2600 (roughly) in car repair and $1000-1500 in dental work for a grand total of $3600-4100 in unexpected financial expenses.

It was what those expenses could possibly translate to that was really killing me. It was the faces of our kids getting excited about our Disney trip in just 3 short weeks. It was wondering if we'd have to cancel character meals, cut back on planned souvenirs, or forego a day at one of the parks. It was thinking of how to break that news to them if they did. It was the holidays coming up and the few gifts we still hadn't bought. It was the hope we've had of planning a vacation for our 10th anniversary in 2017 (paying for it in 2016)... and now wondering if we'd be paying for newer cars instead.

A long, long time ago a Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams that woke him from his sleep. A young man named Joseph told Pharaoh that a time of prosperity was coming, followed immediately by a time of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh that he should take a portion of the crops during the time of prosperity, store them away and guard them. "That way there," Joseph said, "there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land." (Genesis 41:17-36)

Save during the prosperous times so that when the famines happen - you are prepared and will not be destroyed.

By nature, I am not a saver. I'm just not. I've often joked that if I were left in charge of our finances that I would put us into bankruptcy. I have gotten better over the years - but that is because my husband has been blessed with the ability to innately understand finances, to save, and is fantastic at budgeting and explaining concepts. Every year he has coached me through what to do, what we need to do, and I have watched in wonder as he stewards the resources that God has provided for us. With Steve's leadership, we have saved for rainy days/retirement/kids' college while still following opportunities for generosity, enjoying times with family at Disney or other family entertainment spots, supporting our church, and maintaining a reasonable lifestyle in our home.

So there I sat in the dealership service waiting area with an anxious lump in my throat, waiting for my husband to come back out from the repair bays with news of the car and the final cost. My kids were flopped in chairs on either side of me, wanting to get out and be anywhere else doing anything else. When Steve came out from the back and gave me a thumbs-up, it was more than the $120-ish dollars he'd managed to negotiate off of the price of the repair that gave me relief. 

In that moment, with that thumbs up, I felt a pressing on my heart to remember Joseph. Remember his warning to Pharaoh to save during the times of prosperity. Trust that your husband is following God's lead in your finances, and follow his lead. He will guide you, just as Joseph guided Pharaoh. This is your time of famine and it's going to be OK. Trust God, trust your husband. I heard Steve's words that he's said so many times to me - "This is why I do what I do" - and knew I needed to trust in these things.

When Steve met the kids and I in the waiting area to update me, I fell into his arms and cried (for about 5 seconds, ain't nobody got time for more than that). I thanked him, I apologized (knowing the current situations aren't my fault), and I silently thanked God for His provision. His financial provision, the provision of His wisdom, and the provision of His trust in us to be good stewards of His resources. 

Guys... I'm not writing this to be like "See! We have plenty in our storehouses! We're all good for the famine!" That's not my intent at all. 

Sometimes the stories in the Bible can seem so remote, so far away, so intangible. The concepts might make sense, but in modern-day Western culture we don't have storehouses of grain in our times of prosperity. Times of prosperity look completely different - they are times of normalcy, times when things aren't so bumpy. In those times of prosperity, we might forget to save up or we might decide to take on debt because we can "afford" the payments (which... that's a post for another day - remember, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender" [Proverbs 22:7]). We might go out to extravagant dinners or take vacations when bank accounts get larger and forget that someday famine may appear or storms may wipe us out. We put our guards down... but we can't. Ever. 

How are your storehouses? Are you prepared if a famine comes?

If your hot water heater breaks - can you afford it?

If your insurance doesn't cover an entire emergency procedure - how far back will you be set?

If your car gets totaled and you're in a position where you need one - can you replace it without going into debt?

Joseph's warning to Pharaoh is real, it's here, it's constant. If we did not prepare ourselves for this famine, this could have been an incredible disaster.

Will we have to sacrifice to replenish what we've lost? Absolutely. Will it be difficult if we have to pass on things so that we can be secure in an emergency again? Sure it will. 

But if we want to be good stewards of the resources God has given us - then we need to follow His lead, His wisdom, and prepare our storehouses.

My prayer is that others can start today in doing the same thing. Follow Joseph's warning and let God lead you in your preparations for any upcoming famines.


Looking for a good place to get financial advice and learn about budgeting, investing, saving, or paying off your debts? Check our Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. Many churches offer classes on a regular basis - so find one near you!