I am going to make a confession. Will you be my confessor? I want to share a certain struggle I have had for most of my life. It's about money. It has come to the surface because I find it difficult to charge people money when they seek me for the pastoral counseling services I've just recently started providing. Years ago, when I was just around 25 years old, I had what was probably my most significant spiritual trauma. I was in ministry and I was very abrupt and rude with a poor street person. I was so focused on my ministry that when he got in the way of it I mistreated him. I went home and completely crumbled for several days. In that time my whole spiritual orientation shifted. I dug up a neglected book I'd received as a seminary graduation gift by Henri Nouwen called Reaching Out. That lead me to Thomas Merton. That lead me to finding my own spiritual director, Sister Marie, now an Abbess of a monastery. In the truest sense, that was a spiritually revolutionary time for me. But what happened during that time was not all healthy. I was young, immature and not wise. One day I found myself listening to John Michael Talbot, who had recently become a kind of monastic and a hermit, having been influenced by his readings of St. Francis of Assisi. I admired all of this. In fact, this was a very disturbing time for our marriage. Lisa was very upset because I wished I was a hermit like Merton and Talbot. (I hate to think of these times, but alas, they are there.) I fell in love with one of Talbot's songs, "Lady Poverty". Here are the lyrics:
Lady poverty love me tonight dress me in sackcloth where once i wore white and disperse my fine linens to the naked and the poor lady poverty enter my door give me the riches of my lord let all suffering come to an end embracing all hunger let me call it my friend let my love be made perfect without seeking reward lady poverty enter my door give me the riches of my Lord and if Jesus was a poor man then like him i too must be and if Jesus was a beggar than lift me up to my knees for if love never seeks out its own if love always gives when there's no reward shown let us be beggars and paupers and servants at best laboring always so that others might rest that the sweet name of Jesus our tongues might confessI weep when I read these lyrics again after so many years because they were knitted into my spirit, my psyche. So much so that I'm not sure they can be extracted. There are nothing wrong with these lyrics as long as one remembers this is Talbot's prayer and not necessarily one's own. I failed to make this distinction and made this vow. I believed that because Jesus was poor I had to be also. Which isn't true. I know that now. But I sang it all the time then. I sang it in the church in which I was ministering. When I was a guest speaker in other churches I sang it there. I reduced my wardrobe to one set of clothes and shoes. Lisa calls this season my "Gandhi years" because I was also influenced by Gandhi and Mother Teresa, etc. (Sorry Lisa. It pains me to think of these times and the pain I caused you.) We may agree that the love of money makes money an idol. Mammon. But the hatred of money makes it an idol also. For instance, whether we fight for or against something, the impulse is the same, assigning supreme power to the object of our love or hatred. This is true for money. What I didn't realize at the time was that, because of my immaturity and lack of wisdom, I actually attributed to money more power than less in my own life. I've struggled with money ever since. As a result, I possess what I might call a poverty mentality. I know that recovery from this is one of my personal projects. It is probably the most strenuous assignment I've had to tackle to date. You can buy the original of my drawing "Jesus, Age 12", or a fine art print of it here.