Last year my husband and I began an intentional journey of exploring abundance. Armed with biblical principles, we believed that abundance was available — and suspected that experiencing it in all areas of our lives, not just finances, had something to do with surrendering our ways for God’s.

A large part of this journey has been redefining what it means to be generous. The Bible talks a lot about being generous — but like most 20 and 30 somethings I know, we didn’t always feel like we could “afford” to be generous. We tithed somewhat regularly, but found ourselves feeling pressed on all sides all too often. Our “first fruits” sometimes went to bills instead of to God. In short: we were struggling, and knew there had to be more that what we were experiencing.

Our pastor recently taught a thought-provoking, heart-stirring series on how blessing works according to scripture. The picture he painted was not exactly what I personally experienced,  and not what I observed around me. Hearing the series was the push we needed to go all in and change the way we viewed tithing and giving. If what the bible said was possible, we wanted to experience it.

We decided that with each check we received, we would tithe 10% immediately and set aside another 10% specifically for generosity. We did this before we knew whether or not we would have enough for everything else, in faith that God wouldn’t leave us hanging. We realized that it’s not really the same to tithe after we’ve already paid the rest of our bills — it takes no faith. It challenges nothing inside of me, because I’ve solved my problems and taken care of myself.

As the weeks went by, we tried to give away the “generosity fund” (as I called it) as quickly as we received it. With each round of giving away the money I thought I needed to be secure, it got easier… and more fun. We invested in artists and friends, we gave generous gifts, and felt more like the people we always dreamed of being.

The experiencing of giving has taught me that I am a powerful, capable adult who is an active participant in the relationships and the world around me. We haven’t starved, and our lights have stayed on. I didn’t have to wait to be generous after all.

Every time we give, our hearts change a little bit more. It’s only been a few months, but I already feel so distant from the anxiety I have carried my entire life around finances.

When we feel control, anxiety, or fear in our lives, there is a good chance we are not experiencing abundance. All of those things will keep us living smaller than we were made to be. They cause us to act unlike ourselves, making us suspicious, stingy, and nearsighted.

Abundance is just another word for freedom or fullness. Anything that keeps us feeling stuck or less than our true selves is the opposite of abundance — in finances and everywhere else in life, too. God always has an answer to free us from those things that keep us from the abundant life he promised.

In this case, his way is tithing and generosity.

I’ve tithed a lot in my life, but I’ve never felt about it how I do now. I’ve also never felt nearer to the Lord in my finances than I do right now. In our marriage, we experienced more peace. It is easier to give, and easier to ask God for help. It wasn’t about checking the box and doing the “Christian thing” — it’s about engaging in relationship with the Lord, trusting him and his instruction, accessing the freedom for which we were designed to experience.

We’ve kept record of everything we’ve given away, and I can think of a million and one problems I could have solved in my life if we hadn’t. But I don’t feel regret or fear — I feel relief. I see proof that I haven’t let my money, or lack thereof, boss me around or change my character. I feel thankful, steady, and empowered.

Instead of being defined by our money, we’re learning that we get to define it. I am beginning to understand that my confidence and identity do not have to be determined by its sneaky (and very convincing) voice. When we have a tight week or make a mistake, we don’t fall into despair or feeling like victims as quickly (most of the time). We know we are powerful over our finances, and we can make powerful choices with it that benefit us and others.
Most of all, I’m excited that we’re changing the script of our lives to be one of abundance, not lack. My past experiences don’t get to tell me who I am or what I can expect the Lord to do. This is another kind of abundance: clarity of who I am, and the peace that flows from that knowing. We wouldn’t have accessed this peace without taking the risk to step beyond rules into relationship — to risk, to have faith, and to let joy change our hearts for the better.