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Out of Debt

I never considered the possibility that I could grow up and become a minister. Girls didn’t do that. I didn’t really consider the possibility that I’d do anything more than get married and have babies. I wanted to be in ministry, but I thought the way I could do that was to marry a pastor.

When I graduated from college and moved to Nashville, I felt sure that my husband would be here waiting and sweep me off my feet. That didn’t exactly happen… The guy that I dated for the first year I lived in Nashville ended up being at best, a charmingly handsome compulsive liar, and quite possibly a sociopath. He was really good at lying, so it took me about nine months to figure out what was going on. After that, it took me three months to get it through my head that he wasn’t going to change. To say I’m loyal to a fault would be an understatement.

After that gem of a man, I fell in love with a guy from church whose friends I knew and whose faith was secure. He had some great qualities, but in the long run was not a good match for me. We didn’t bring out the best in each other and after some really hard work to try to fix our relationship, we realized it shouldn’t be that hard and ended things before it got worse.

That was an extremely painful time in my life, but I’ll admit that one reason I went through all that with him is because he appeared to be financially stable. I was not financially secure and that frightened me so much that I was willing to go through misery to find a way to get there – not wealthy, just secure. Not one of my shining moments…

Since then I’ve earned a seminary degree, changed careers, and rebuilt my life. I haven’t been in love since then, but I’ve learned some important lessons to prepare me for the next (and hopefully last) time around.

I also accumulated a lot of debt. Going back to school isn’t cheap, even with scholarships. I worked as a graduate assistant while in school, a very good networking job, but not lucrative. Then I didn’t work much at all for nearly a year while finishing up my degree and looking for a full-time job. After I got my full-time job, I never got caught up from the time I was out of work.

Sometimes I freaked out about my finances, but I always had this romantic notion that my future husband would be a wealthy man who could rescue me from my black hole of debt without batting an eye or questioning my ability to manage household expenses. I am definitely an optimist!

That has seriously narrowed the dating pool, by the way… Not too long ago, I finally realized I was going to have to take control of my finances and make some difficult decisions. In an act that I can only describe as feeling like I’d just lost my right arm, I cut up my credit cards and made a promise to God that I would never rely on credit again.

After a month of wrapping my brain around my new circumstances, I made more difficult decisions. I took drastic measures, admitted my problem (so humiliating), and found ways to begin actively paying off my debt. There is now a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel and God has provided some amazing things to help get the ball rolling.

Something else has happened through this process of confronting my debt and dealing with it head-on. I have confronted a darker part of myself that I didn’t want to face. Even though I consider myself an independent, somewhat successful young woman, I still believed that I was somehow special.

I believed that the rules did not apply to me.

I could be in debt, use credit cards to live on, be financially irresponsible – and because I was so special, I would never face the consequences.

In hindsight, it’s hard to believe I was so blind, which makes me wonder what else I might be missing…

The truth is that as a Christian, as a minister, and as a mature adult, I must be financially responsible. I must be a good steward of the things God has entrusted to me. Duh. I know. I’m a late-bloomer in this area.

As girls we are taught to believe we will be rescued, swept off our feet by a white knight and carried away to a castle where all our problems will disappear.

I’ve often heard my godly, single friends say, “when I marry my rich husband…” I used to join in that conversation with no reservations.

Recently a new idea has started rattling around inside my head. What if God has placed within me the gifts and ability to become financially secure and I’ve just not tapped into them? What if something I can do will bring financial success to my family?

When I am pressed, when I can’t afford the things I really want or even need, what will I do? What am I made of?

These are the questions I’m currently trying to answer. The DECISION to be financially responsible has been eye-opening in many ways. I’m looking forward to what other things God has up His sleeve. Of all the things I’ve learned about His character, the one that stands out to me the most is how surprising He can be. All I know to say is, “sneaky, sneaky…” while I look up to heaven and smile.

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