That’s the title of a book by Loren Cunningham, and it describes my life for the last 12 years. It has been a journey of learning to trust God for finances. I can only skim the surface in the next few minutes, so I’ll give you three vignettes that paint a picture of what it’s been like.
At the end of 2008, my employer laid me off. It was the fifth time I’d been laid off, so I had seen it coming, but this time I was 53 years old and had promised my wife that we would never move again unless it was by her choice. That promise was based on the fact that we had already moved ten times since our wedding, covering much of the US. My specialty, camera lens design, is so rare, that it has never been possible to find another job in the same city, so a new job would mean a move. How was God going to pull this one off?
The first piece of the puzzle fell into place in December, before I left my employer. The owner of a business that I wanted to work for came to my employer to teach a class. I approached him during a break and told him of my interest. He responded that he would be glad to interview me. The only catch was that the company is in Boston.
In January, my wife and I attended a Lutheran Renewal conference. One of the main speakers was a mega-church pastor from LA. During his talk, he quoted Deut. 28:12-13, which reads, “The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail…” This really struck me, as only a word from the Lord can. At my former employer, I always felt like I was being jerked around by management – I could easily relate to being the tail. Later in the month, I flew to Boston and interviewed. The interview went well, but I couldn’t bear the thought of asking my wife to move again.
February brought … nothing. No word, no other interviews, nothing. But March brought another interesting possibility. A company in New Hampshire wanted to know if I would work for them as a contract engineer. That got the wheels spinning. We were in the midst of the Great Recession, so the company in Boston faced the very real possibility of hiring me, paying to move me to Boston, and then having to lay me off. I could understand their hesitancy to make an offer. The job in Boston would involve writing software for lens design, which is something that can be done remotely. What if I were to work for them as a remote contractor?
They loved the idea, and in a couple weeks we had hammered out a contract. They offered to pay me twice the hourly rate I had made at my previous employer for 20 hours a week. That would give me 100% income replacement and 20 hours a week to establish a business! Plus, we wouldn’t have to move. Hallelujah! I could be the head and not the tail. This was the birth story for Eckhardt Optics LLC.
The second vignette starts three years later. Up to this time, things had gone well. I worked on their software, and the other side of the business began to grow. But as it grew, it became more and more difficult to find 20 hours every week to work on their software. They watched me struggle for a while, then decided that it was time to part ways.
At that point, the other side of the business was still quite small, so money got tight very quickly. I began to see the downside of being the head. My income for the next year was near the poverty level, and half of that went to mortgage payments. It was our youngest son’s senior year in homeschool, so we were busy with his PSEO classes and looking at colleges. We had paid for our other three sons’ college expenses, as was our family tradition, so we expected to do the same for our youngest. We just didn’t know where the money would come from.
When May arrived, we had to make a commitment. My wife and I agreed on which college was the best fit for him and believed that God was leading us and would provide the money. So we signed him up, telling him that we had no money in the bank and no idea how we were going to pay the tuition. We did a lot of praying during his college years, and God always provided the money we needed when we needed it, often in miraculous ways. One example was the fall of his sophomore year. When the tuition bill arrived in August, we had no money. Same for September and October. In November, my son called and said that we needed to pay tuition so he could register for classes. The day before he was to register, a customer unexpectedly prepaid a large bill which enabled us to pay the tuition.
Another example of God’s provision happened in 2019. At the end of January, there was not enough money to pay me, so my wife and I were wondering how we would make our mortgage payment. Then we got a letter in the mail stating that the mortgage had been paid in full, five months ahead of schedule.
Vignette 3: Eckhardt Optics is now twelve years old, and we have grown to a team of four. Our current vision involves bringing manufacturing in-house. I hired a mechanical engineer to design machines for this in December 2019. Then COVID hit and we lost the contracts that were to have covered his salary. Thankfully, God continued to provide throughout the year, and now the first machine is designed. It looks as if we will get the money for parts next week (or the next…), so we can start building the machines. There will be setbacks and successes along the way, but God will enable us to do what He has called us to do.
Through the last twelve years, we have been stretched and we have been blessed. God has grown us in ways we could not have imagined. I have learned that the head gets paid last, but has the clearest vision of how God is providing. It has been a huge blessing to be the head and not the tail.
God is faithful. He will provide.