10 years ago this week, I filed for voluntary bankruptcy. After a string of bad luck were simply unable to pay bank debts back. We tried for some time to negotiate and liquidate the few assets we had but the banks were like relentless wolves after meagre prey.

I would like for this story to be a rags-to-riches testimony of God’s divine ability to turn things around and surpass our expectations of wealth and assets, but the divine archetype of the neoliberal capitalist god sold by proponents of the prosperity gospel left the building a long time ago. I simply couldn’t conjure his favour and blessing, regardless of my righteous efforts and prayers. And the Trinity knows I tried to twist all their arms.

In grateful reflection, I thought I’d share some of my key learnings:

1. YOU CAN SIMPLY BE UNLUCKY.
Don’t take all misfortune as a divinely ordered verdict or punishment. It’s not personal – don’t let it go to your head. Sure, you can be unwise, but remember: morons get married, multiply, and make millions too. Thousands of years ago, King Solomon wrote that time and chance happen to everyone. Nothing seems to have changed. Try to not take it personally.

2. YOU CAN SIMPLY BE LUCKY.
Don’t take good fortune as some kind of indicator that you’re extra special or divinely chosen. It’s not personal – don’t let it go to your head. Sure, you can exercise wisdom and work extra hours etc, but remember: morons get married, multiply, and make millions too. Those who have trouble accepting this idea of chance playing a role in their wealth (or the wealth of a hero), are welcome to their myopic view of the world but must understand that atttibuting all your gain as being a reward for your efforts and smarts is an opium for your ego – but toxic for everything else.

3. PEOPLE WHO HAVE WHAT YOU DON’T, DO NOT OWE YOU.
Over the years, and especially when we had founded our non-profit, we were the benefactors of people’s generosity and wealth. I’ve spent time with (and worked with) plenty of millionaires. I recall one very tough financial season someone saying to me, ’These rich people you know should just give you money’. I replied, ‘Listen, just because someone has the means to give, and you have a need, doesn’t mean you get to demand, expect or steal it.’ The same applies in reverse with your social, emotional and relational capital. Do what you want with what is yours. Bury it, invest it, capitalise it, or give it away.

4. ALL ABILITY IS TEMPORARY.
I currently work part-time as an Aged Care Chaplain. I also spent most weekends this year caring for a 32-year-old very disabled man who suffered a sporting injury in his teens. Being around disabled bodies is constant reminder of our frailty, as humans. Author John Swinton doesn’t use the term ‘able bodied’ to describe those without a disability, instead he apopted the phrase, ’Temporary Able Bodied’ because it’s just a matter of time till the able bodies become disabled bodies. Accept and attempt to enjoy your abilities, while you can. Help those less fortunate.

5. LIFE IS A PROCESS OF GAIN AND LOSS.
Spend enough time with the sick and dying, and you will notice a sharp life-cycle of gain and loss. If you allow yourself to accept both gain and loss as normal, life is breathtakingly beautiful. At midlife, my strength, eyesight and other faculties aren’t what they were 10 or 20 years ago, but I have gained wisdom, deep relationships and courage. One day, all will be lost, and we will gain whatever the next life offers us.

6. BIAS, EXPERIENCE AND PERSPECTIVE BEND OUR VIEW OF GOD.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in relationships and literature outside your religious beliefs and denomination, you are likely to know resonate with this learning. I must accept that my rather universalist leanings (that everyone is forever included in Christ) has been shaped largely by my experience, struggles, education, work and now exposure to death on a very regular basis. My shifting cognitive theological views then, help me make sense of the world and reconcile the exposure and experience of loss, joy, love and suffering. (BTW, I wouldn’t label myself as a Universalist as such, but I largely suspect God is.) I know it sounds like common sense, but our view of God, and that of the billions of people we have never met, are not the same because every human experience is different. The question I ask myself is, ‘How well can I give dignity to another’s views and still hope to authentically share some of the treasure I have found on my journey?’ Maybe one way is by posting those findings here, and emailing them to you.

Thanks for reading. You’re amazing.

In love and becoming,

David Tensen