When I started this blog, I thought things were going to be easy. I thought I would get to write about all of the wonderful things that Jesus has done in my life and that the people who stumbled upon my blog would read it, sigh, and say, “Well aren’t things sparkly!”
I had no idea that I’d have to put myself out there like I’m going to do in the subsequent paragraphs. But, you know, I’m ok with it. Because what I’m going to write needs to be written.
Two nights ago, Jesus won a long but quiet battle that has hung around in the back of my mind for the last (I can’t believe it’s been this long) four years. I say it’s been a quiet battle because for the most part, it didn’t affect my daily life. Instead, it just kind of stayed in the background only rearing its head when my monthly credit card bill came. That’s right… for the last four years I’ve carried around credit card debt.
Now I have to disclaim that I’ve known better all along in terms of worldly knowledge. I grew up in a home where the parents paid cash for everything. Credit cards were bad-news-bears and I remember my dad being flabbergasted when I told him that my credit union had approved me for a $1,000 credit line at the age of 19 and an annual income of nearly -$15,000. So… for the first two years I had my card I charged things like jeans and dinners out with girlfriends and paid off my credit card every month. I had great credit and grew somewhat prideful that I had been able to master something that plagued so many people.
So what happened? Ironically, I met Jesus. Now, please understand that I’m not blaming Jesus for my credit card debt – far from it! I was just young and indulgent. After being a Christian for about 12 months, I felt that Jesus was calling me to work less my senior year so that I could be around the sorority house more and invest in my sisters’ lives. So, the law firm I worked for reduced my schedule and I hung around the sorority house. My fun-money income was cut in half but I kept spending like I was working the five days a week I always had. Then, the opportunity to go to New Orleans came up but I couldn’t afford the trip and my fun times out without the help of my Visa card. So I charged the trip, went to New Orleans to help Hurricane Katrina victims, and told myself that Jesus would make the growing credit card balance work out because I was helping Him.
Looking back I know there were many opportunities for me to stop spending and start paying off my balance, but as a young adult, there were just too many fun things to do that I didn’t want to pass up on. I continued to add on to my card’s balance over my second senior year and every time I signed a receipt I told myself that it would be ok. My credit card debt didn’t say anything about my life as a Christian. It was me who was throwing my money away when I only paid the minimum balance, right? It wasn’t like I wasn’t giving money to my local church and donating money to local charities. Furthermore, after I started reading personal finance books, I stopped using that card altogether. It was just a matter of time until it got paid down. By this point, I was in my current state of employment (which is very blessed) and was well-equipped to pay the little balance down. So why wasn’t it happening?
I can honestly say that my failure to move forward on the issue was because I had a jaded view of what Jesus thought about it. Earlier, I wrote that I was adamant in my belief that Jesus didn’t care about my debt. Well, that viewpoint gradually changed to another incorrect assessment that Jesus did care about it and He thought it was disgraceful because Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey said so. So… the burden became a source of shame and I was once again frozen, making minimum payment after minimum payment because it was easier to spend my new grown up paycheck on grown up things that didn’t make me feel disgraceful. This was all well and good until I read two books that helped reshape my view of Jesus and prepared my heart to be receptive to what the Holy Spirit had been saying all along. The two books (Breaking Free by Beth Moore and Desiring God by John Piper) were brimming with references to God’s word which reminded me that my relationship with Jesus was so much more than being “good” (to me this was being free from credit card debt) for the sake of being good. Instead, my relationship with Jesus was about being free from the wages of sin and death. I was supposed to be free to enjoy God, live a full life, and have the freedom to go where He called me. In my case, the credit card balance had transformed from a small set of burdens to a set of shackles. It was suppressing and limited the movement that Jesus died to give me through faith in Him.
As soon as I was able to understand God’s true heart about my Visa card matters, it was easy to agree with Him that the balance had to go. It was ~6 months ago when this all happened and I e-mailed some sisters in Christ and asked them to help keep me accountable. Since then, it’s by God’s grace that I was able to hit the ‘process payment’ key on Friday and blow kisses good-bye to the burdens which have followed me around the last four years. Without Him and His provision, I would have never been able to say “no” when walking through Target or have gracious friends who were ok with staying in so that I could stay on budget. I know this because I tried and tried for three and a half years to do it by myself and it never consistently worked. So what else is there to say but PRAISE JESUS?!
Well, there are actually a few things to say (or rather disclaim):
*I am in no way judging anyone who may read this and have a credit card balance so please don’t take this that way. Seriously, I’ll be bummed…
My intentions in writing this were to glorify Jesus and to testify of His goodness and provision in my life. I hope I’ve made it clear that my credit card debt was built out of indulgence and entitlement (one of my most ridiculous charges was a cruiser bicycle that I rode around on for two months when I lived in Lake Tahoe -trust me though, I swore I was buying it for Jesus. Really?!).
*Most financial advisors will recommend that people have a low-interest credit card in their arsenal of financial tools to help when times get rough. I still have my card. I’m just not using it at the moment…
*Jesus loves it when we reach out to community for help. A special thank you to my sweet parents, sister, and friends for lifting me up in prayer as I trusted Jesus and His battle plan for taking on this burden.
*We all have different trials that we’ll face. Jesus wants to fight them for us. Thus far, the battle with my Visa has definitely been the biggest/longest challenge I’ve been through. That’s not to say that there won’t be other problems in my future, however, I can happily say they won’t be credit-card related. Otherwise, my sister, K, might beat me up and Jesus will probably cheer her on!
Psalm 55: 16-18, 22
16 But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you; he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.