To talk about our debt used to require a certain whiny pitch.
Paying our own ways through college; house, three kids in quick succession, van, hospital bills. We were feeling tight while a two-income family. Then God tapped us on the shoulder and pointed out Michigan, and what was tight became tighter as it took us a year to sell that house … while we lived in another state.
When we added the outstanding debts in September — something we’ve been doing for about four years now — we were depressed.
None of that debt was from anything America would tell us was a poor choice. Hospital bills, student loans; they’re not exactly cable TV and designer clothes on a credit card. That was our only victory: we didn’t have credit card debt!
So why did it hurt so badly?
Because God was using that to show us how differently He wants us to live? Because God was showing us what money can damage, even when we don’t have it? Because though the Lord cares deeply about how I feel about my bank account and about providing for me, money is not His love language.
And He doesn’t want it to occupy our minds, either — even if when we’re done repaying debts we can “live like nobody.” I cannot be the only one who cringes when Dave Ramsey uses that phrase.
We need to repay the debt, so we are: my husband’s working a second job (yes, delivering pizza), and we’ve knocked off half of it already, and we’ll be at least three-quarters done after tax time, but it’s not because he moves that many pizzas.
We did The Thing America tells you most definitely, never, ever, ever, under any circumstances should be done unless you like eating cat food.
We did. We did cash in my 401(k).
And I sleep really well at night, and not because I’m young and naive and didn’t really think it through, but because I trust the One who — when I prayed for the money to release us from the debts of this world — pointed out my hoarding a relatively small amount of money and asked me what I was investing in.
Yes, faithful, good, amazing followers of Christ can have 401(k)s. Yes, you can build wealth, if that’s your story, to really feed the poor. But it’s just not my story.
If debt holds me back from dreaming, so can the American dream.
On Dec. 21, I hit “close” on my 401(k) account, and after a breathless moment — “Lord, I trust you, but you should know I’m pretty sure this is crazy” — I heard “I am going to provide for you,” and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t have a condo on the ocean in mind.
Our God is a God of abundance, and if we’re called to live like the sparrows, who store not a thing, then … shouldn’t we invest in something else?
Our God is a God of abundance, but this is a messy area I’m stepping into, and I know it, and I choose it.
But I haven’t lost any sleep over it. I feel this is a way God’s redeeming us; it’s a way He’s saving us from a dream we didn’t want. I feel He’s making a way for us.
The tension is, my husband still has a 401(k). And I know I benefit from it. But our lives are tension — I have an iPhone. We have two (now paid-off!) cars. We eat pineapple and kiwi, both of which are native to places Michigan weather can only dream of.
But for us, for me, this is my very small step in faith. Very small.