Of all the icon painting techniques we use the most important is to learn to use wáter. Through my Icon paintings I have learned that wáter is life and in my opinión so is money.
Last Sunday I asked the community at St Paul’s Anglican for money. I had to think about what to say and how I could explain why giving money is important. It occurred to me money is a lot like water it flows in and out of our hands. When we throw a stone into a still pond, the rock makes a wide ripple which goes out in all directions. Money does the same thing. St Paul’s Anglican has no trouble being proud of their continuing support for ministries in and around the community of San Miguel Allende.
This years budget our came in 15,000 dollars short of our needs. Seems easy enough to fix, however I kept thinking about what is it that stops us from pledging more. I believe the root lies in the way we think of money, you have to let go of the rock to make ripples.
I was walking to church and passed a beautiful house in the midst of not such beautiful houses, I noticed beside the door there was water streaming out, running down the street abundantly. As I came closer to the house there were four Mexicans standing there looking at that precious water running freely into the street. I knocked on the door hoping to get the owners attention but to no avail. The house was closed up and the owners were gone. As I reflected on the situation I thought what a perfect icon of how wealth is wonderful but those so fortunate need to be a better examples, especially when we live in a foreign country and in the desert our behavior is being observed. We the fortunate have enough and at times unknowingly waste.
Money is a funny thing.
We think we own it, it is ours, we deserve it, we worked for it, we control it and we always want more. Water is different. We think the water we use is unending and limitless. We take water for granted because we have so much. But, what if we thought of water as precious and borrowed, delighted when we have it to share and confident there will always be more. Water comes from the sky and grows the trees and fills the rivers.
Money is just paper, made from a tree, which received water freely over time making it big and strong.
Meditate on Water this Lenten season.
The compesino farmers of Mexico value water in a specific way. They believe, if the well has water, it will continue to have water. One thing of paramount importance is that the water is used and shared. As they take water out the whole, it slowly and miraculously fills with fresh water. If not, the well water sits for too long and becomes stagnant and putrid. Eventually the water source gets clogged up and the ground water eventually seeks out a new direction to release, leaving the original well dry and useless. We can cut the budget to make ends meet but that would be like restricting the well, saving money/water rather than allowing it to fill freely.
There are many of us who have more than our share, which is fine, like the man who invests his money instead of burying it. However we are also reminded, to whom much is given, much is demanded. Or, as Maya Angelo said, “if you have learned much than teach and if you have been give much, share.”
My father in law is the peanut gallery.
Valentin and I lived next to him for a time when he was 76 years old. We worked as young artists day in and day out, making and designing one of a kind furniture in San Miguel. Periodically, Don Angel would visit and watch us, he used to say we worked too much! I would respond, “it is not work when you love what you do.” One day he said with some exasperation, “why do you two work so hard, you have no children! ”. I said, “but, we love to work” he persisted with “but why?”. Finally one day there he was again commenting and in my brilliant defense, I said, “well, Jesus worked all the time”. He quickly replied “Yes, But He never took any money!”. He was correct, Christ did not have a bank account, investments or land or even a house of his own. If we say we want to live in the image of Christ and emulate his teachings, my father in law could not have made his point more clearly.
We live in a society where most of us do work and we receive money. The thing is, we might ask, how does that wealth happen? By grace we are given a talent, by grace we are given the desire to create or produce, by grace we have mind and commitment to showing up every day, by grace there are so many ways to generate wealth. Ask yourself, where all the talent and desire comes from. With a bit of humility, we cannot help but see that much of it is from an unseen mysterious source. Be not afraid to give back, let it go, there will almost always be more.