What I remember from my second Harvest Time retreat is how full my breasts felt, particularly as the weekend went on. I realize that’s an odd thing to say, but I was weaning my son that weekend and as time passed, my abundance became painful. The pain of my overabundance is what I remember.
Those of us who gathered agreed that we needed to “get naked” with each other about our money. That is, we came prepared to share the full details of our financial lives, including our numbers.
A few years prior, I had learned, through Ministry of Money (now Faith and Money Network), about the importance of understanding how much money I had and where it was. Based on that guidance, I took time each January to create a spreadsheet listing my assets and their current values. I considered it a spiritual practice. I did not share those numbers with anyone else. The prospect of saying my numbers out loud in community terrified me. But I believed that talking about money with trusted friends might help me to work with my financial life with more integrity. That is why I did it.
These days it feels wonderful to have friends with whom I can talk openly about what I am actually dealing with (including numbers) when it comes to money. It is easy to forget how difficult it was to break our culture’s taboo about talking about money the first time. I do not remember what I said.
But I do remember feeling like my financial life was a mess, morally speaking. I felt like I had too much. I did not feel good about how my money was invested. I also remember the tears in the room when people shared their numbers because inevitably talking about money led to talking about our lives and in many cases money was connected to painful experiences. “Money,” we said, “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.” And I remember the relief I felt when I realized that I was not the only one who felt like my money was out of alignment with my soul.
After each of us had shared our numbers, we wondered what to do next. Our facilitators wanted us to become mentors to other people of wealth. I resisted that path because I felt unfit to mentor anyone else. First, I had to find a way to align my money and spiritual values for myself. But what did that look like? Others in the group felt similarly.
Not sure how to proceed, we decided to drop into silence. Outside the window a bird was singing. Then, from the silence, there came a quiet voice:
“I am committed to love you in the mess.”
This commitment to love each other “in the mess” became the foundation of the first Harvest Time retreat circle. For me, receiving that kind of compassion after I had talked about the ways that my money did not feel aligned with my faith was powerful. Being offered love when I expected judgment enabled me to begin to work with dimensions of my financial life I was tempted to ignore or deny.
It was a gift of grace.