Nobody knows where the bottom is for our economy, but the experts agree we aren't anywhere close to it yet. I know a lot of business executives who are grim right now, and what inevitably happens in the wake of that grim look is job cuts among the rank and file. Cut now, many of them are saying, because it's going to get a lot worse. There are the economic indicators: an S&P 500 index value cut in half since 2007, 2009 unemployment projections at 7.6 percent and rising, home prices declining as foreclosures rise.
Beyond these national measures are the more private indicators: the talk around the water cooler about what that latest corporate-wide email on waste elimination really means, those long meetings in the halls of upper management, the worried faces many of us parents see in our own mirrors.
When I was a boy, our family began its final disintegration around the time of the Carter/Reagan recession. We were financially poor, getting by for a time on soup and bread. After eviction we lived in my aunt's basement. We went to the grocery store with food stamps and rolls of coins. I was too proud to get free school lunch and so I told my friends that eating lunch "wasn't my thing," and kept my arms crossed so nobody would hear my stomach growl. My aunt gave me a job cleaning banks at night, the first of many part-time jobs that kept change in my pockets throughout college.
We were spiritually poor as well, none of us attending church, mostly because we only knew the kinds of churches where people eagerly look for the failings of others, places where drinking and pornography were regularly denounced, but in which gossip ran rampant. The existence of bad churches is no excuse for avoiding God, though many of us use it all the same. As I think on my childhood I wonder how it might have been, in the midst of those hard times, had we looked to a savior beyond that elusive dollar.
My wife and children don't want for food or shelter; they haven't an inkling of that helpless feeling. I carry it in me like a poison, this fear, not for myself any more, but for them, that they will want more food than we have, that they will have to sleep in someone's basement. But I think the greatest sadness from my childhood came not from the material things we lacked, but from the thirst that was in my throat up until the moment Christ claimed me for his own.
My worries-and maybe yours as well-are bound up right now in material things: how long we can get by with no income, what we would do if we lost our house. And yet the lover of our souls tells us to worry not for tomorrow, because today's troubles are sufficient. Let the children come to me, he says, and he may as well have said that we'd best bring them. Because if we are not leading them to him then we are leading them astray, and only God knows what he will do to such parents as that.
Things are going to get worse for many of us. Our children will be watching. The truth is, I don't know if I trust the Lord to take care of us. And yet these little ones will be watching, and listening, and storing up memories of what it means to be a Christian in times of hardship. Pray without ceasing, for me, for all of us, that we will be what we have always wanted to be, which is light in a darkening world. Pray that all those watching will see the peace of Christ in us, and not the fear of men.