I had been depositing faith into my spiritual bank account for 23 years. I earned my faith by obedient living. My faith bank account looked pretty inflated. There seemed to be plenty of faith to get me whatever I wanted. If I needed a miracle, I certainly could afford it, because I had been such a diligent saver of faith. Year after year I made deposits and no withdrawals had ever been made, because I had a good life; a really really good life. It was the kind of life that made it easy to believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was easy to believe because life wasn’t hard. God hadn’t taken any faith or spiritual withdrawals.
That was until April 20th 2006 when my living breathing angel, James, stopped living and breathing after a tragic fall from our second story window. That day my faith bank account got sucked dry. Perhaps it even got overdrawn. Overdrawn to the point I felt like I may have to claim ‘spiritual bankruptcy’. To the point where I wanted to give up and not try to ire-inflate that bank account. I thought it was pointless after all, going to all of that hard work of saving my faith only for it not to have any real value when it counted. I found myself scrambling for answers and fighting anger with, “WHY did I deposit so diligently into my faith bank account for so long only to find it didn’t buy what I wanted?” I had been saving up for a miracle when I needed one. I wanted for my son to live. I thought all that hard earned faith was so that I could take it to the cash register at Heaven and get what I wanted and what I deserved. Right? After all it was me who did all the hard work of obedient living. I’m entitled to blessings because I earned them. Right? I saw other people buy miracles that had much less saved up in their faith bank account, or so it seemed. Why wasn’t my balance enough? Why was my faith currency inadequate to buy what others were buying all around me? Was my faith counterfeit? Was it fake all these years? Lots of kids fall from windows; 14,000 per year in fact. Of those 14,000 only 17 die. That means 13,983 people bought a miracle with their faith money. And I certainly had more faith than a lot of those individuals. But when it came right down to it, it didn’t matter how much faith currency I had saved up, James was supposed to die. No amount of faith currency was going to keep him breathing. I could have been a faith millionaire and that wouldn’t have bought his life, because his life wasn’t up for sale. It was non negotiable.
Everyday for four years I was making withdraws from my spiritual bank account with my anger. I bounced my spiritual checks. I wrote them, but they always came back as insufficient funds because my anger was quite expensive. I continued to get further into spiritual financial ruin as my spiritual credit card balance continued to rise. I lay in my bed with covers over my head. Unwilling to let my anger go, it continued to keep me in my spiritual debt. I lay wishing I were dead with my baby. And then I would be happy. If I were just a DVR box and could rewind time to when James was in my arms and re-watch and re-live and laugh again over and over like I used to, effortlessly and with ease, then I would be happy. Or if I could just fast forward time to my death bed at 90 years old knowing he would be waiting for me, then I would be happy. If only I could turn into an electronic I would. If only. . . But I couldn’t. And I knew it.
I begged God, plead even. “God, I’m about to claim spiritual bankruptcy. I am about to give up because I have nothing left in my faith bank account to keep me going. I’m going in spiritual debt every day. I can’t gain here; I’m only losing ground. I can’t find a way to get ahead of this spiritual debt.”
The Lord answered me, “Have you paid your spiritual tithing?”
“Spiritual tithing? I pay my monetary tithing, but what is spiritual tithing?”
“Give one tenth of your blessings to someone else through service.”
“But I’m not blessed. Look at my life. My son is dead. What do I have to be grateful for?”
I heard outside of my door my two living angels playing rambunctiously. “Those two are blessings. Look around you and you will see just how blessed you are. You just have to look and recognize the small moments as just that, your blessings. But your greatest blessing is the knowledge I’m about to give you. It is sacred knowledge that you must never forget.”
“Lord, you are my spiritual financial counselor, I will listen and embrace whatever you have to say as long as it helps me get out of this debt.”
And then my Father in Heaven made the most magnificent deposit ever made into my account when he testified, “Daughter, remember that I, your Heavenly Father loves you beyond words or description. My love for you is unconditional and insurmountable. You are cherished and watched over. The debt you are in has all ready been paid through the atonement of my son, and your brother, Jesus Christ. When no one else understands what it feels like to be in such spiritual ruin, He does. You are not paying this spiritual debt off alone. While you believe your faith bank account has been withdrawn it has only grown. Understand that I had to take a risk and make a temporary withdrawal as to make an investment that would only increase the value of your faith. I had to temporarily take some faith in order to help it grow. Your faith isn’t gone at all; it’s just been on reserve. You are ready to have access to your bank account again. The way you make deposits though is not just through obedient living; it’s through gratitude living. You live a life of gratitude when you have a service attitude. Serve my children. There are many who need you. You have received for so long and now it is time to give back. The beautiful thing, Michelle, is that as you give of yourself, you are also making deposits into an additional account, your gratitude savings account. The more you give, the more grateful you are. The more grateful you are the more you bless others. The more you bless others the more you are blessed yourself and so the cycle continues.”
And so the story goes when I realized how valuable a gratitude bank account was, I was able to go on my merry way with a service attitude to gain gratitude. Through gratitude I gained faith. Through faith I let go of my anger, by letting go of my anger, I stopped overdrawing my accounts. My life looks far from perfect. But in my heart I know my adversity was exactly what I needed to see how many blessings God has poured upon my life so I could start saving in my gratitude bank account. Everyday I’m astounded at how much laughter, joy, contentment, smiling and true genuine happiness my gratitude currency buys me. I’m grateful to be grateful. It’s what happiness is.
Michelle Newman is the mother of three beautiful children. Five years ago, her family was blessed to have her oldest son James become their guardian angel. It hasn’t always felt like a blessing, but through the years the Lord has shown her family how powerful it is to have a loved one on the other side as she has felt comforted and buoyed up at times of need from strength beyond her own. James is her oldest son, he would be seven, Spencer who is six and Kierah who is three. Her children are the joys of her life. Dancing and singing in the kitchen is an everyday occurrence. They enjoy jumping on the tramp, playing the Wii together and watching movies. The kids look forward to their slumber parties every other Friday in Mom’s bed and having a ‘special’ night is always a real treat.
Michelle also suffers from hobby syndrome. She loves to dabble in most things and will try everything. In the fall she finds fulfillment in canning her peaches and homemade applesauce and apple cider. She also has an insatiable desire for speed and adventure. In the summer you will find her hiking, river rafting, running, cycling or on the lake wake boarding, In the winter you will find her snow boarding, snow shoeing or snuggled up next to a fire knitting. She studied photography at Brigham Young University-Idaho and now by profession she lives her dream of running her own studio and photography company, Shelly Geller Photography. She is an aspiring author and inspirational speaker and is in the process of setting up a charitable foundation to pay for the medical and funeral expenses for families who have lost children.
Read more at These are the Days of Michelle’s Life.