Recently at On Faith, writer and university professor Halee Gray Scott talked about what happened to her family in the Great Recession:
I was nine months pregnant when my husband, Paul, decided to quit his job in 2009 — right after the economy took a nosedive. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its biggest single-day decline in its 124-year history, obliterating more than $1.2 trillion in market value. American and European banks failed. The S&P 500 lost 21.6% of its value in a single week. Housing values plummeted with the subprime mortgage crisis. Millions lost jobs and companies scrambled to find secure footing.
It hit close to home for Halee and Paul and their new baby, Ellie, as financial pressures forced upheaval in their lives, including moving from California to Colorado:
In Denver, things technically seemed to go well, but cracks started to show. We lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I worried about things. I worried about how we would pay the rent from month to month, let alone tuition. I worried about the kind of life I was building for Ellie. I worried that she would feel insecure and unstable. I missed things, too. I missed my family and friends, the people who really knew me and loved me anyway. I missed the little deli downtown that made the best veggie sandwiches in the world. I missed my students. I missed teaching. (Who was I, now?) I missed stepping out my backdoor to climb a mountain without worrying about babies or snow. I missed California because, despite being a Texas native, I was, in a very real sense, born there. Paul proposed to me there, we got married there, I earned two graduate degrees there, I finally grew into my own skin there, I became a mother there. It was home, and had we the money, we could have stayed.
I tried to be brave, but I was bereaved.
Then, she says, we “lost further, lost faster:”
For Ellie’s first birthday, I bought a custom cake from the best baker in Denver, as if it would assuage my guilt for bring her into such a volatile environment. The night before her birthday, she was admitted to Denver Children’s Hospital for over a week with a severe, life-threatening case of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It was impossible for her to breathe on her own, so the machines breathed for her. Because of our crash-and-burn insurance policy, that visit drained our savings and we lost everything.
We decided then to move to Michigan, a place neither of us had ever been, but where Paul had a standing job offer. We moved, site unseen, to the town of Holland, a blistering cold, overcast outpost on the shore of Lake Michigan. We were thousands of miles from friends and family.
When you lose everything, the next-to-last thing you lose is hope.
In that dark valley, Scott lost faith as well as hope. But she came to realize that her faith had been faith in success and not faith in God’s provision:
Sometimes you can do all the right things and still lose everything. Life is not a box of Cracker Jacks — there is no almighty guarantee that your financial footing will always be secure. For anyone. God is not like our politicians. He does not make empty promises about fair weather; he promises a ship sure enough to weather whatever weather comes our way.
Of course, I didn’t really lose everything, though it certainly felt like it at the time. I’m embarrassed, now, at how little it took to unsettle me. Ellie didn’t die that night in that Denver hospital. We paid our debts. We never went hungry. We never wanted for anything, really, but sunshine. I didn’t get a guarantee; I got daily bread for the day. I learned that God doesn’t love the rich any more than the fiscally challenged. He has loved both kings and paupers, his own son a carpenter, born in a stable, buried in a borrowed grave.