Here’s some open-book honesty that I am both reluctant and compelled to share:
Last January, I handed over a maxed-out credit card to my parents. I had run up so much debt – thousands of dollars – and was unable to make even the minimum payment. My parents, despite the fact that they told me over and over never to use a credit card, took the card from me and told me they’d pay it off for me. I promised them that I’d never use a credit card again and that I never wanted to be in debt to anyone, particularly to credit card companies with climbing interest rates.
I knew it would put my parents in a bind, but there were no other options. They could pay the minimum payments, but doing that will get you out of debt in about 40 years – even if you were only a few thousand dollars in debt. Interest rates are killer. But, my parents wanted to help me start over. They wanted me to have a clean slate and a fresh start – they wanted to cancel my debt.
I was (and still am) so thankful and appreciative of that. But, I also feel guilty about it beacuse it isn’t their debt to cancel. They didn’t go out and buy expensive clothes. They didn’t purchase an iPod. They didn’t eat out four days a week. This debt was not theirs, yet they were willing to make some sacrifices to pay it for me.
Remind you of anyone?
I would like to say that I learned my lesson, but I didn’t. I am now paying off some new debt by myself. Granted, the majority of my new debt (2/3rds of it) was incurred due to an unforseen living situation for which I wasn’t financially prepared. And I find it hard to beat myself up for that. But, some of it was for my need to be stylish… and some of it was for plane tickets to Colorado. And some of it is for the eye doctor, which, let’s face it – not really an option when you’ve been wearing the same pair of contacts for two months.
With my first debt, I didn’t have to face the consequences. I simply said, “Mom, Dad, please help.” But, now I can’t. Now I have to pay it on my own, which really bites. But, I’m realizing more and more what a sacrifice my parents made for me because I am experiencing what it’s like to pay off debt. It is not easy, and it is most certainly not fun – particularly when you are sending seven-hundred dollar checks to the creidtors and thinking of all the things you could have done with that money other than use it to pay off debt.
I tried to remember all of the things I purchased with credit cards, and, well, most of it was just “stuff.” There were times when I had to buy groceries and gas with my credit cards, but only because I was spending so much money per month to pay off the same credit card. Kind-of a vicious cycle, don’t ya think!?
When I think of what I could have done with that money, well… I get very sad. I think of the trip to Hong Kong that my church is taking… I could be going, except that I spent my money on “stuff” and now I’m paying for it. It ismoney wasted – wasted on things that I can’t even recall, things that are probably hidden in a drawer or in a box ready to go to the Salvation Army.
I’m moving forward – I’m not beating myself up about it anymore, although it embarrasses me and makes me very ashamed of myself. I’m doing everything I can to pay off this debt and then I will try to help my mom pay off my old debt.
This reminds me so much of the sinful nature of humans. We have been given an extraordinary gift – Jesus came to pay off our debts, to reconcile us, and to give us a fresh start. Yet, we don’t always recognize and appreciate what it cost. And, worst of all, sometimes we completely ignore it and return to our selfish and sinful desires. We forget what we have promised God and we screw up our clean slate in order to fulfill some momentary desire. We mess up and willingly and (often) conciously put ourselves back into debt – for things which, in time, we won’t even be able to recall.
But, we must move forward. We must repent and work to end whatever sins we struggle with so that we can be made perfect (Matthew 5:48) and do the work of the Lord. We must face the consequences sometimes and do the dirty work ourselves, but God is not far. He is not watching cruelly, while we slave and toil to reconcile our sins. He is teaching us, molding us… and ultimately preparing us for greater things.
God will clear my debt – maybe not in some miraculous sweep of His hand – but, He has provided work for me to do and the energy to do it. He may not plop the exact amount I need to pay everything off, but He has given me paychecks that were bigger than expected, a tax refund that finished paying off one card, and made some big purchases (ahem – new tires!) much more affordable than expected.
I wanted to sit on this debt, at first. My idea was that the land my mom is selling would sell quickly and that she would pay off all of my debt when the land sold. But, then, I was compelled to take matters into my own hands, with God’s guidance, and that He would teach me and provide for me while trying to conquer this little mountain of mine. I fully believe in waiting on God and that He can perform miracles and do wondrous things, but I also don’t believe that He wants us to sit on our hands idly while we wait on Him to move. When we’re waiting on God, I think He is waiting on us to do something. For us to make the first move, take the initative… because, otherwise, how will we ever learn? How will we ever grow if we don’t move?
My great-grandmother had this quote framed in her house and I have always loved it, “God helps those who help themselves. The government helps those who don’t.”
Don’t get me wrong, if I had felt compelled by God to wait for land to sell so I could pay everything off, I would have done that – I have done that in other situations and watched Him do some great things. But, this time, I felt like He wanted me to learn something by paying off the debt myself. And, I am learning. And, I am being blessed by Him through this! So many great things have been happening that I would have never experienced if I had just sat around… waiting.