Good Morning All.
To be quite frank, this past week was ROUGH. Emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise.
For the first time in my life, I fell victim to a scam.
What I believed was an older, handicapped, prospective client reached out to me via Instagram complimenting a piece that wasn't listed for sale, and inquiring about purchasing it. I was elated that someone was interested in acquiring my art, even if it wasn't for sale. I was flattered, and I was eager. And being that my art is all Bible-based and the "customer" was looking to purchase it as a surprise for a landmark wedding anniversary, I made allowances I ordinarily never would have to help them get it. They sent me a check for much more than the artwork was worth, the difference of which was to be transferred to the "registered shipping agent." I did a mobile deposit of the check – and had been under the mistaken impression that if a check was a fraud – it would be detected immediately and the deposit wouldn't process. It posted, and as the client was pressed for time, they requested that I transfer the payment for the shipping agent quickly, so that the artwork could be picked up ASAP. In the back of my mind, I was aware that this transaction was becoming increasingly convoluted, but I believed in the good of people, and wanted to connect this person with my art, so I trusted that this was a legitimate transaction and transferred the funds. After I had done so, as it was late at night, my new "patron," told me to, "Sleep like a baby," and signed off. Over the course of the next 48 hours, my customer stopped responding to inquiries re: coordinating pick-up of the artwork, and completely ghosted me. Perhaps they were busy, but the nail in the coffin came when the check they had sent my way bounced.
I had been scammed and I was in disbelief. I was in disbelief because this person who had flattered me and show genuine interest to a my new business, had no scruples whatsoever about robbing me. But as it continued to dawn on me what had happened, I felt...stupid, I felt like a dumbass, I felt ashamed, and I felt embarrassed. I felt stupid and like a dumbass because I had never been so deceived, and in hindsight, the increasing convolutedness of the transaction should have put me on alert, but my belief in the good of people trumped it and I made concessions to help connect this supposed customer with a piece they meant as a gift for an important anniversary. I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I am barely a month into being a business owner, and this happened. Were people going to think I was an idiot for falling for this? Scams like this only happen to old folks, right? So how the heck did they get me?
I guess I've always thought that people who do evil do so because of a rough start in life
or some other duress. Not once did I think that someone would manipulate my trust and optimism in my new business and have no moral qualms about doing so. I went out of my way to help this person get the art I believed they wanted for a special occasion, and found they only wanted to use me as a mean’s to their end. This scam was a violation. A violation of my trust, my belief in the goodness of people, and my business. It's a violation that’s made me bawl, call myself stupid, and because I think everybody’s gonna think I’m so stupid because I fell for this. It’s made me give way to thoughts like, “What business do you have owning a business when you aren’t even wise enough to spot a scam?” It made me realize that I tie a lot my identity to what I do professionally. For so long, I was in a fluid mosaic of I teaching and art as my identities, whereas it felt like all my peers had it together, so they could firmly say I am this and this and this. Then, just a month ago and after lots of prayer, I said I’m gonna own doing art for God as my identity. And this now happens. Immediately my identity shifted to, "I made a mistake, therefore I am a mistake," and that is so, so not true, but it felt true in the immediate fallout. Somebody else wronged me, but I felt like it was all my fault.
Those same feelings led me to a dark head-space that it was hard to get out of. I was wallowing in my self-perceived stupidity and doubting whether I had the chops to manage a business that put Christ first. I was depressed. In the midst of these feelings, I found that it's easy to stay grounded in that darkness - to let those momentary thoughts of regret and kicking myself to define my identity. I had a choice to make. Was I going to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that I felt were the only thing I could control, or was I going to act on my faith and take all of this to God in prayer. After a day and a half, I decided to take the latter and when I did, God showed up. I won't lie and say I was instantly back to my optimistic self. Monday and Tuesday were pretty crappy emotionally. I had to file claims with my bank and a police report. I was told that most likely, I wouldn't be able to recoup the money. I was told that I should have been suspicious when I heard this or that. I was told I should have waited for the check to clear. I was told everything I coulda, shoulda, woulda done. But God showed up through my family who spoke life and truth into me, telling me that I was not stupid, even though I kept saying it aloud. They validated my feelings and acknowledged that the situation sucked, but reminded me that I had their support and that this wasn't the end of my business unless I wanted it to be. When I decided to finally have a one-on-one with God, He showed up through His Spirit and reminded me of a few things:
I am not stupid.
I have every right to own and operate a business for God, because He is the one who commissioned me to do so.
I am not defined by my failures or what I fail to do for Christ, I am defined by what Christ has already done for me. My identity is not what I do, it is who I follow and believe.
The half truths and lies that had led me to a dark place were not my own thoughts, but Satan speaking death into me. He saw that my confidence had been dealt a crippling blow, and sought to keep me from getting back up to continue ministering of Christ through my art. If he could just keep me down, that's one more agent of Christ that he need not worry about. But where Satan speaks death, Christ speaks life and that is the voice I have chosen to give way to.
Even though I might get knocked down, as long as I am seeking the kingdom of God above all things, my Heavenly Father will provide everything I need – not necessarily everything I want, but everything I need.
As I write this, it's Sunday morning and I have absolutely no clue if I'll be able to recoup a single penny of what was lost. But that's OK. It sucks, don't get me wrong, but it's alright. Why? Well, because even if nothing is recovered, I know that as Gloria Gaynor famously sang, I Will Survive. I have my health, a support network, and commissions I'm working on that will help me bounce back. I've learned a hard lesson about business practices and will not waiver from my terms for ANY reason. I will not allow a fear of falling for a scam stifle my passion to express my love of nature and God through visual art. If anything, I am not more on fire to use my art to testify of the God who loves me, because if Satan is trying to take me down as a visual arts minister this early on, it must mean that the Big Man is getting set up to do something I can't even imagine that will bring more people to know of His infinite love. So it's time to go hard in the paint. To let the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard my heart and mind. To be strong and courageous – not afraid and discouraged, for wherever I go, the Lord WILL be with me.
I got knocked down, but I'll get up again, because Satan and his scams aren't gonna keep me down.