What would you do if neither you nor your spouse had to work? Seriously. What if you won the lottery? Received an inheritance? Won a lawsuit? I don’t gamble, so I’m not going to win the lottery. I don’t have any rich relatives. And I pray that I’m never the victim of anything that moves me to sue.
But, still, it’s interesting for me to think about what I would do, so I’ve gone through that exercise of spending a million dollar windfall. Of how much would go to taxes and how much I’d give back to God. Then I’d pay off student loan debts and my mortgage and be left with …. Not much. Maybe enough for a nice vacation, a few things we really need, and the rest to put in savings for retirement or college. It’s actually not a very fun exercise when you have as much debt as we do.
But it turns out that thinking about what I (and my husband) might do if we just didn’t need to work for our paycheck is pretty interesting. I’ll tell you why, but if you want to join in the fun, go spend just five minutes (seriously, set a timer) thinking about how your life might or might not change. Here’s the rule: you will receive the same money you currently earn each month, but you just don’t have to work for it. No huge lump sum to play with and no increased financial standing. If you are going to stop paying for daycare or work lunches or a long commute, that’s fair game. So, go. I’ll wait.
Oh good, you came back. Was it just five minutes? Seemed like longer. Did you cheat? Mmmmm Hmmmmm. What are the first things you thought about changing? Because those are very likely the real top priorities of your life (no matter what you tell people).
I didn’t say I’d become a missionary in a foreign land or join the Peace Corps if money weren’t a barrier. Nope, I’d stay home with my girls. And I’d probably choose to homeschool when the time came. If my husband didn’t need to work, we wouldn’t be tied to this place that could have been the setting for Frozen and so we’d probably move closer to our families down South. I would want to have family outings and for Christmas to be a “thing” at our house – stuff that seems hard when Saturday is grocery day, bill day, cleaning day, and errand day. Oh yeah, and then in my list was some stuff about helping out with the church more. Hmmm… I feel like that should have made it up higher in my brainstorming list. Seriously, decorating for Christmas came before being Christ-like. Sheesh.
Thinking I could learn a little something about my sweet husband of 10 years, I asked him to participate. He didn’t really get it. After a few promptings, he agreed he’d probably finish up some flight instructing certifications that have been hanging out there for over 10 years. He’d spend a few days a month focusing on his photography hobby. He’d get our oldest involved with photography and flying. Then he started getting into it and ideas flowed. He told me we would go on lots of family walks. He might become a preacher. If we had a little extra or he could get scholarships, he would enjoy going back to school just because.
I thought this was super interesting. His priorities were harder to see because I was prompting him, but I did learn something – about me. Almost everything on his list was stuff that could be done now, although it might need some scaling back while we work full-time. Why doesn’t he just do them? Probably because I have gotten annoyed with his photography in the past. And his flying. And his Master’s degree. So I learned I am a dream crusher. A kill joy.
I’ve vowed to become a more supportive wife. I don’t have to become a rabid cheerleader, but I’d be a much better wife if I offered some encouragement. I’m that annoying leaky faucet of Proverbs:
A foolish son is destruction to his father, And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping. (Proverbs 19:13 NASB)
I’ve suddenly realized that it’s not just my girls that need me. So does my husband. God wants us to be a team – to cleave to one another. We are supposed to be so intertwined that you can’t separate us – you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Well, you can with us because the nagging shrew is me. The long-suffering, quiet one is him.
We are, gratefully, in this debt thing together and so today I mentioned we could start putting his photography skillz to use to pay off $50 here and $10 there. He feels incredibly guilty about how much debt he’s brought to the marriage. He feels like he’s standing in my way. But I can see how much I’ve stood in the way of his happiness, so it’s not about selling a photo here or there. It’s about seeing my husband happy and making that a priority.
What about you? What did you learn about your priorities?