So . . . I came into money yesterday.
Not much money, in the cosmic sense of things, but a startling amount of money for a poor grad student. The English department was under budget for the semester (good job, folks) and divvied the surplus up among the grad students as a tuition benefit for next semester. (It honestly blows my mind that they think this is a good idea. They could remodel the professors' offices or have a giant party or send the entire staff on a ski vacation . . . but instead they decide to give it to the grad students. It's so goshawfully nice it makes my head explode.) Anyway, since I've already paid next semester's tuition, the funds just got dropped in my checking account. Bang.
When I saw the transaction in my online banking yesterday, I had a knee-jerk reaction of which, I now admit, I was not proud. The first thought that went through my head was "Wow! God has blessed me. I must have been really righteous this semester."
Really righteous. Like God works on the Santa Claus principle.
I think lots of people struggle with this idea of wealth=righteousness. It's logical. If you do good things, God will bless you. Ergo, anyone blessed with wealth has been righteous enough for God to bless them. It's a nice idea. Or it would be, in a perfect world that actually worked that way.
Because the truth is, I haven't been more righteous this semester. I've worked my butt off, true . . . but so have my housemates, and I didn't see any tuition reimbursement magically appear in their bank accounts. So have my sister and brother-in-law, and they're still fighting through the cost of higher education and small children and still managed to make me a beautiful little snow globe for my birthday, even though I'm kind of a jerk to them sometimes and probably didn't deserve that kind of effort.
It would be so easy . . . it would be so nice . . . to believe that this money is a reward for my goodness. But that's not how it works. I've been bad. I've been prideful, I've been snarky, I've been selfish. I've been lazy at times, and gluttonous at times. Just like every other semester, really. And I've had to return to God again and again, not with cheers of "Did you see how good I was? Good enough that I shouldn't have to pay my own tuition, right?", but more like "Dear Lord, I'm being a snark again. I know I shouldn't. I wish I were sorry enough to stop, but I don't know how to change that about myself. I'll try. I'm sorry. I'll try again."
This windfall is NOT a reward for my goodness. It is a thing that happened, the reasons for which God alone knows.
I think my friend and carpool buddy put it best. When I told her about this money, her response was, "Wow! It looks like going to London [where I'm studying abroad next semester] is what God wanted you to do, since he's helping those plans fall into place."
That I like. That I can accept. It's hard for me to believe that God would reward me for my flimsy and inconsistent goodness, but easy to believe that he would smooth my path in the way he needs me to go. And it's up to me to follow that path to the best of my ability, looking out for the reasons he needs me on it.
I'd love to say that, after this realization, I resolved to spend my new money in a completely selfless and Christian manner. I didn't. I paid off a chunk of my student loan (that I took to cover the cost of London) and went on a bender that involved filling up my car's gas tank, getting my hair trimmed, and splurging on five bucks' worth of Chinese food. I felt like a complete hedonist. (I'm not kidding. I really did. I was all like "Chinese food! Woooooot! Living the dream, right here!" and only later did it occur to me that this might be kind of pathetic.)
I may not be a saint, but at least I'm a very small-scale sinner. And that's something to start with, right?