The Rev. Jan Oller, St. John's Episcopal Church
Hi Jan -
How do you feel about paying the bills?
I mean your personal bills.
Seriously, take a second and think - how do you feel about paying bills?
Sometimes it depends on how much money you have. If there’s plenty, it’s easier. Let’s be honest.
In my own life, however, I realized that no matter how much money I had, I found paying bills stressful. Even if I had enough to pay these bills, I worried there wouldn’t be enough in the future. This was a lifelong habit (and a family pattern).
So what was I to do? Was I the only person who felt this anxiety? And what could I change?
I read a transformative book called Money as Sacrament, by Adele Azar-Rucquoi. I highly recommend it. It’s out of print, but there are used copies on Amazon. This book by a former Roman Catholic nun changed my experience of bill-paying.
Azar-Rucquoi shares her story of having no money at all during her life in the order, leaving the order and having very little to support herself, and then receiving a significant inheritance and having more money than she ever dreamed of. She writes about paying the bills as spiritual practice, and a way to bless other people. I had never thought of it from that perspective.
Since I learned her approach, I’ve been thinking about paying the bills as spiritual practice. I found that it's possible to take a prayerful approach to bill-paying. Even if you have bills set up on auto-pay, you can do this practice when you review your bank statement.
- Set a time for bill-paying and personal money management. Think of it as an appointment with God, not simply a duty or necessary evil.
- Light a candle. This is something Azar-Rucquoi suggests. It’s a way to mark this time as holy.
- Breathe. Then do it again. Then again, slower.
- As you engage in the practice of setting up online payments, writing checks, or reviewing automatic payments, notice any thoughts. Whatever they are ("I can’t believe how much the water bill is this month!" or, "How stupid was I to spend that much on my credit card?" or, "I’m really saving money on my cell phone bill this year!"), let them go. Just notice. Notice what happens when you are giving money and paying bills. Is there a difference in how you feel about giving and about spending?
- Reflect on how your money supports others in their work,both in your giving and your spending. Give thanks for that work. I always found this easiest with people I know personally, like my hairdresser. I’ve even met her daughter, and I'm grateful I can help support her family. And even that water bill helps pay people’s salaries and support other individuals and families.
- Give thanks for all the money coming into and going out of your life.