Tithing was always a heavy medal. The weight caused the material it was pinned against to sag, and the constant flopping around with every movement soon began to be annoying, and the fastener constantly irritated the skin. But by God, as a devout Mormon it was a medal worth wearing.
After all, tithing wasn’t just a sign of devotion, of commitment to the one true God. It was also a commandment with a promise. The very windows of heaven were opened to one who paid a faithful tithe, and the blessings were pouring down in such quantity that there was hardly any room left to receive any more of them.
Or at least that’s what we always told ourselves, my ex-wife and I. Every time a financial disaster was narrowly averted because of a last-minute discovery of a little extra cash, we would look at each other with sober eyes and say, “See what happens when you pay your tithing?” Never mind that if we hadn’t been giving 10% of our gross income to a multibillion dollar corporation we would never have approached the financial straits we often found ourselves in to begin with.
I’ve been thinking a little bit about that lately. How we so often looked for and found signs to reinforce our faith. I started questioning my faith about seventeen months ago. A flurry of events soon followed. I asked to be released from my calling. I asked for my name to be removed from the records of the church. Problems in my marriage began to boil. I became an ex-Mormon. I separated from my wife. I drank alcohol for the first time in my life. I got a divorce and had sex outside of marriage for the first time in my life. A few weeks ago, I was involved in a minor accident and my car was totaled. This week, I lost my job.
For a Mormon, I can see the temptation to look at my life and see all the negatives. Then to trace those negatives back to the path I started to travel when I first began to question the truth of my religion.
“See what happens when you leave the church? Your marriage breaks up.”
“See what happens when you disobey the word of wisdom? You lose your car.”
“See what happens when you don’t pay tithing? You lose your job.”
“See what happens when you disobey God? He can no longer bless you. You’re going to be miserable until you return to Him.”
I don’t want to only look at the world through rose colored glasses, but I can’t see much more than the regular vicissitudes of life at work here. Bad things happen. Good things happen. And we deal with them, good or bad, the best way we can.
I’m not married any more. There are things about that, quite frankly, that suck. But I also now have the friendship and love of one of the most amazing people in my life. I couldn’t have had that if I had remained married.
I loved the car I was driving. I miss it. But I just purchased another used car that will fit my needs a little better. I would have had to wait a lot longer for that if I hadn’t been in the auto accident.
I got laid off. Ouch. That’s kind of scary. But it also represents opportunity. I don’t look at it as a negative. The company I worked for provided a fairly decent severance package, and I have a little time to find a job before I need to start worrying about running out of money. I’m actually excited about the prospects in front of me now. I suppose I had been wanting to find a new job for a few years now, but there was too much inertia with the job I had. Now I have no excuse.
A Mormon might look at me and say, “See what happens when you don’t pay your tithing?”
I might look back and say, “See what happens when God doesn’t exist?”
The Lord works in mysterious ways.