by Melody Tan | 12 September 2023 |
The rising cost of living has been making headlines for a while now, and it’s undeniable families are feeling the impact. At the time of this writing, the Reserve Bank of Australia has decided to keep the cash rate on hold, which spells reprieve, especially for those with a mortgage on variable interest rates.
Interest rates, however, are just one aspect of rising costs. Even if you don’t have a mortgage, simply buying groceries or trying to power your home should be enough to make you cry. It’s near impossible trying to have your money stretch as far as it used to.
Just as we thought life would return to normal because the pandemic was declared “over,” many of us are now worrying about paying the bills and feeding our family.
We all thought the economy would take a knock when COVID-19 hit. It did in a health and medical sense, but we continue to feel its flow-on effects in other areas of our lives. I’m no economist, and so to me it simply feels like there’s no end in sight to the issues we’re facing.
Back in April 2020, near the start of the pandemic, my husband was told his job was going to be made redundant. Yet another victim of the economic downturn due to coronavirus. It was something we sort of saw coming. He worked in accounting, but it was for a business heavily reliant on tourism, which was pretty much rendered non-existent thanks to COVID-19.
The Australian government’s JobKeeper payment provided us with a glimmer of hope, and my husband went on the plan when it started. JobKeeper was a wage subsidy scheme introduced by the Australian government as a way to “keep Australians in jobs and supported businesses affected by the significant economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Instead of receiving their normal wage, employees in these businesses were given a fixed payment by the government, depending on their weekly work hours.
At that time, JobKeeper was scheduled to finish at the end of September 2020. If the company could hold out till September, we thought, perhaps life and my husband’s job would go back to normal.
In late June that same year, my husband’s company realized things weren’t going to go back to normal any time soon. Certainly not in September. And so, he and many of his team members were given two choices: accept redundancy now or wait until September, when Jobkeeper ends, and then accept redundancy. Either or, the end is nigh.
2020 was going to be our year. My husband was offered the perfect part-time job in late 2019 after taking almost three years off to look after our son full-time.
Our son would start preschool in 2020 and would soon be in school. Raising a child was starting to become less tiring, less of the eat-sleep-poop-repeat cycle. With my husband on track to returning to work full-time, we started putting things into place to fulfill the long-term plans that we had, plans that we had put on hold because they required a double income.
Needless to say, those plans were put back on hold again—for almost the same reasons as some three years earlier.
See, my husband did take time off to look after our son full-time shortly after he was born. But it wasn’t really voluntarily. In 2017, the company he was working full-time for decided they were going to move to Brisbane. Once again, my husband was faced with two choices: move with the company to Brisbane or accept redundancy.
For a variety of reasons, we decided I would return to work while he chose redundancy and stayed home to look after our son. So yes, we did choose to become a single-income household, but it was only because my husband’s job was made redundant. Long-term plans went out the window as we had to quickly adjust to our new financial situation.
However, the finances weren’t the only problem. Having your job made redundant can be one of the most hurtful and most demoralising things you can experience. And my husband had been through it twice.
Coronavirus has impacted many of us in many different ways and I know in the grand scheme of things, what our family went through is pretty insignificant. Many of us continue to struggle financially far more than my husband and I. Some of us have seen loved ones suffer from COVID-19. Some of us are still battling the effects of catching the virus. Some of us have even lost loved ones.
And I know that hurts. And hurts a whole lot more.
My own father passed away when I was 17, after a short battle with bone cancer. I’m all too familiar with the kind of pain you experience from having to say goodbye to someone you love before you’re ready.
When it hurts
Life isn’t fair. Life hurts. Life throws you curveballs you never saw coming. So where do you find peace? Where do you find faith? Where do you find hope? And where do you find God?
I’m going to propose something marginally radical. I’m going to say that how we connect with God when it hurts is by not even trying to find God.
Yes, I realize how confusing that sounds. So here it is again:
We connect with God when it hurts by not even trying to find God.
When we’re going through pain and when we can’t understand the reasons, the last thing we need is a guilt trip for being unable to find God.
So go ahead and cry, go ahead and shout, go ahead and fully and thoroughly embrace the hurt, the pain and the grief. Be upset. Be angry. There is something cathartic about crying and releasing our pain, so we shouldn’t ever rob ourselves of that. And if we need a time-out from God, so be it. But—and this is the important bit—when the tears dry up and when the words run out, and all we’re left with is an empty, tired shell . . ., that’s when we find God.
I didn’t understand it when my father passed away when I was 17. And while I wouldn’t be so bold as to claim it was for my salvation, the reality is that his death is the reason why I believe in Jesus today.
In 2017, we didn’t understand it when my husband was “forced” to become a full-time stay-at-home dad and we had to put our plans on hold. But looking at the influence he has had on our son, the bond they have, and the quality of time we’ve had to spend together as a family, I appreciate the forced “pause” we had to experience in our lives.
When we decided it was time for my husband to return to part-time work, rejection letter after rejection letter had us once again questioning God. But then we realised none of the jobs he applied for were as good a fit as the one he finally got.
In early 2020, I had to make the extremely painful decision to stop the Mums At The Table print magazine. And while I still had a job (unlike my husband later that year), not being the editor and letting go of the magazine felt like a redundancy of sorts.
There was anger, there were tears and there certainly were questions. But in a matter of weeks after that decision was made, Australia felt the full force of coronavirus and we were all forced into lockdown. Suddenly, the decision to stop producing a print magazine designed to be distributed in public places seemed like a genius strategic move.
It also meant I could fully focus on ministering to our community of some 7,000 mums in the best way possible while in lockdown: online. We flourished—thanks to a decision made some weeks earlier that had me railing at God.
Mums at the Table today
Today, Mums at the Table looks completely different to what it was back in 2020, but we’re all the better for it. We’ve formed partnerships with local churches and we’re thriving both online and through the many in-person relationships with the community developed by our local church partners.
We have a team of wonderful volunteer moderators all over Australia and New Zealand who have made it their mission to support mums and be the village it takes to raise a mum. They are making a difference in the lives of so many women in their local communities, and I am in awe of them daily.
I know life will continue to throw us curveballs. And I know when that happens, we’ll go through stages of grief and anger. And there will be times when we won’t even want to connect with God because we just don’t understand why we seem to be experiencing setback after setback in our lives.
But I’m okay with that because I know, at the end of it all, we’ll come through it better, wiser, and stronger.
The journey won’t be without doubt, worry, or sadness, but as it says in Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
And just as things have worked out for us in the past, I trust they will continue to do so for us in our seasons of uncertainty. It may not quite be the way we want or expect it to be, but perhaps with a little bit of hindsight, we’ll understand the reasons why just that little bit better and we’ll connect with God just that little bit more.
Churches or individuals interested in being part of the Mums at the Table ministry can contact Mums at the Table at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melody Tan is a long-time friend and writer of AT. She now works as the project manager of Mums at the Table. She lives in Sydney with her husband and primary school-aged son. This piece originally ran in Australia’s The Adventist Record.