By: Staci Stallings
I have a friend. Okay, I have several, but this particular friend has been digging out of a financial mess for awhile now. Since 2006 to be exact. It has been a long slow process, and it will not be over even when this part of the story culminates. However, I think this piece of the story is instructive, so I want to share it with you.
One of my friend’s payments has been for a car. It is a nice little car. Nothing overly fancy maybe but nice. My friend bought the car before she understood finances very well. It sunk her into quite a bit of debt that honestly she didn’t need at the time, but the salesman made it sound too good to pass up, so she bought it. Well, add to it bills from her previous car, credit cards, doctor bills, etc., and this payment represented a big chunk of her life every month. She was down to paying minimum payments on practically everything until Dave Ramsey showed up in ’06.
Since then she has paid off all of the “little” debts–to friends, to the hospital, etc. She is now down to four: this car payment, two credit cards, and a friend. She’s been working on paying off the car, making extra payments and paying off chunks of the principal.
As of last month, she was down to $960 left to pay off the car.
Now you have to know that paying off anything this big is a dream not even fathomable to her a couple years ago. Oh, it would have been nice, but it was never going to happen.
Well, my friend has been coming over some Saturdays to help me clean. I felt bad about this until Saturday when she spent literally two hours sitting on my couch folding laundry while I and my kids ran around and put it away. I would never have gotten that much laundry folded! No wonder I always feel so behind!
ANYWAY, she has been coming over to help me. On top of that, she had just sold off some unwanted items and made $85. So, at the end of working, I handed her a check for the time she has worked the last two months, which amounted to $200. And I said, “Well, that means you should only owe about $180 on that car.” (My head can do simple math like lightning, and I had been keeping up with how much she owed on the thing as it got closer.)
She was instantly taken aback. “What? $180? That can’t be right.” I said, “Well…” So I grabbed a piece of paper and started putting down what she was planning to pay toward the car this month. Sure enough $180.
Wow. Did she get EXCITED! I mean she was dancing around my kitchen, hugging me, and very nearly in tears.
See, this payment has always been “more than.” More than she could ever do. More than she could ever accomplish. More than she could ever hope to pay off. It was a dream that would never actually come true. And now, suddenly she’s only $180 away from it being a reality.
She said, “I’m going home to put it on paper and see how much I actually owe.” As we were using rough figures, that was a good idea, and quite funny actually from the woman who had never balanced her checkbook prior to 2006! What an accomplishment!!!
I called her later, and she was even more excited… if that was possible. She officially owes $181.02. She said, “I can work and do some odd jobs and come up with the $181. And I have 2 cents in my ashtray.” Too funny!
Now, here’s the lesson in all of this. My first instinct was to give her the money to pay it off. I have the money, and it would be easy to do. As I thought about that though, I realized two things:
#1 That is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid off this huge debt we could never have paid on our own.
#2 But… while we’re here, sure He could snap His fingers and make everything perfect for us… but… like me with my friend, He sees the value in letting us do it ourselves–so we gain confidence. We’re not completely helpless, at the whims of whatever’s going on around us. We have choices that make us stronger or that weaken us. WE get to chose. To rob us of that victory by stepping in and just doing everything for us wouldn’t help anything. He wants us to learn to both do it on our own AND to let Him back us up when we need it. It’s not one or the other. It’s both!
Are we indebted to Him for what He did in #1? No doubt. But God doesn’t look at our debt. He looks at our growth, what we’ve learned through the struggle, what we’ve gained in getting stronger through the pain. He looks at us like a Father with a child on their very first bicycle saying, “I know you can do this. I believe in you.”
You probably remember the feeling of riding that bike for the first time. How great it felt to have accomplished something that maybe you never thought you could. I’m beginning to learn that God is that Father to us… over and over again. Standing there, not in judgment, but in encouragement. Always ready to pick us up. Always ready to help us out. But most of all, cheering us on as we do things we never thought possible.
I can just see Him in Heaven right now, calling the angels over to watch as one of His children realizes that she doesn’t have to spend her life chained to debt. By slow but persistently good choices, she can be free from this and begin living in His abundance rather than in Satan’s pit of worry.
And it’s not a lesson just for finances. She (and we) can do the same thing in our relationships, in our bodies, in our lives.
So, if you’re living in Satan’s pit of worry over your finances, know it is possible to get out. It is possible to pay things off and get your feet back on solid financial ground. Hold God’s hand and take the steps He’s asking you to take. One day, you could be saying, “I can earn the $181, and I have the 2 cents in my ashtray!”
Trust me, God will be right there cheering you on!