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In October last year, my boss and HR manager sat me down and told me that the company was going through tough times, and that in order to survive everyone would need to take a salary cut. They were asking me to take almost a 50% reduction in pay.
I knew that the new figure would just cover my living costs. It would mean no room for luxuries at the end of the month. Added to that, my husband and I had just bought a new property and had gutted it.
On the plus side, it would mean that they would pay me less but my working hours would also be halved, freeing up more time to deal with snags around the renovations and pursue the things I had a passion for but never quite got too.
The last few months have had their ups-and-downs. Money has been tighter than before. Each time the contractors send a bill, I take a deep breath and brace myself. I’ve been working out our groceries from a meal plan to make sure we stick to budget and nothing is wasted.
Then there has been the opportunity to travel to see my parents – who live three hours drive away – without the need to take leave on a Friday. And all the time I’ve had to sort out new postal boxes, find shops and meet new friends in a new town where everything feels unfamiliar.
Looking back at the last few months of living on less I’ve realized four things:
1. Your value isn’t found in your salary
The first is that I never knew how much I connected what I did with how I saw myself. Being told that I was no longer worth half my salary to my company made me have to reflect on my own self worth.
Somehow along the last 10 years of my career I had come to think that being paid more money meant that I was better human. The implications of this are huge and I hope to you, obviously untrue. When my first reduced salary was paid into my account, I was still the same person.
I, and every other human, has value simply because God created us, because Jesus chose to die for us.
The number written on a pay slip at the end of the month does not determine our worth. God has already determined our worth. And he has said that you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31), you are worth more than gold (Isaiah 13:12), and you are worth dying for (Romans 5:8).
I’ve begun to recognize situations where I don’t treat people as if they are worth “more than gold” just because I earn more than they do. I am ashamed of this and I’m working toward being more intentional in treating everyone as precious and worthy simply because they are made in the image of God not because of how much they earn.
2. Your fears aren’t the end of the world
One of my biggest fears in life has been losing my job. Through out my working career I have stressed about being fired, about not having a salary at the end of the month. I have squirrelled away savings for when this happens in the hope that I’ll have enough money to see me through a couple of months without an income.
While I didn’t lose my job a few months ago it did make me realize that if the worst-case scenario happened I’d be okay. For some reason, within a few weeks of having this conversation with my bosses, I actually felt empowered to take control of my own future.
I’ve started a small side business doing social media management. So far I’ve two clients but I hope to get more and one day for the income that I make from that to eclipse the paycheck my company give me. Doing this has made me realize that my if-I-lose-my-job-it’s-the-end-of-the-world-fears weren’t real because I’m stronger than I think, and capable of more than I give myself credit for.
The other side of the coin is that I’m not afraid to stand up for myself at work anymore. I’ve become more assertive about what I can and cannot do in the limited time allotted to me because of reduced pay. Facing up to the fear of losing my job has made me realize I’m probably strong enough to survive (and maybe even thrive) through most of my worst-case scenarios.
3. Money doesn't make you happy
Just under four years ago my husband was diagnosed with cancer—just 8 months into our marriage. One of the lessons I learned as he underwent treatment for over two years was that time is more valuable than money. I thought I learned that lesson, but when I lost half my salary, I found that part of me still believed that having money would make me happy.
On the days when I’m honest with myself, I acknowledge that I already have too much stuff. It is so easy to think that happiness is tied to having more stuff, and the money to buy more, but most of the time happiness is tied to the people in our lives and things we are able to experience with them.
My heart has felt so full the last few months as I’ve had more time to give to people. For instance, when a friend calls and asks to drop by I’m available to see her or when my parents visit town I can enjoy a leisurely breakfast with them. Losing half my income made me conscious that I’d bought into the idea that money would make me happy.
4. God is my provider
There are still ups-and-downs, like nighttime conversations with my husband about how we’re going to pay for waterproofing the roof after our brand new ceiling turned into a colander during a storm. I’m learning to remember, through all of this, that the company on my paycheck at the end of the month is just God’s representative. God is my provider. He is the one that clothes me, that feeds me and satisfies my every need.
I know that everyone is in different places in life and for some people losing half a salary would be catastrophic financially. I am cognizant of the fact that I have been given the luxury of learning these lessons because my husband has been able to shoulder the costs the rest of my salary used to cover. I would love to hear your experiences if you’ve been in a similar experience, or if you lost your job. What did you learn from it and how did it help you grow or discover more about God?
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.