"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Friday, December 18, 2009

Northward, Ho, The Wagons!

Okay, so I'm not above piggy-backing on a friend's blog. Especially when it is timely. First, go check out Melanie's blog (and be sure to read her links, too).

Now to how this touched me today. Today is a day that the ability to stop circling the hill country became real. Today, the last string that tied me to the past was cut. Today, our bankruptcy was finalized. Today we rejoiced and turned fully north.

Yes, I said rejoiced. This has been a huge weight in our lives and one that I have not felt free to share. Partly because with all the things I've shocked my friends about on this blog, this was the one I felt may result in some consternation among them. Partly because this financial circumstance has symbolized the combined whole of things that have been the cause of much hurt and bitterness. Partly because I figured that if I shared that I saw the fact of our bankruptcy as a huge, unadulterated, GOD - GIVEN blessing, it would begin a firestorm of reproach and proof that God never desires anyone to go to bankruptcy court; especially not those whom He has called to ministry. *Gasp* To think that the woman would pawn fiscal irresponsibility off as a blessing...just as well they're no longer in a position of religious authority...

However...

Now that's it is finalized - and after reading Mel's blog today - I feel compelled to write. So, reproach as you will; I still believe that God's hand is all over this. Those of you who have read this blog from the beginning have heard much of what led us out of full-time ministry, the personal hurts we faced, and the steps to spiritual and emotional healing that have happened over the last couple of years. What was carefully omitted was the financial effect of the religious position in which we took a net pay cut every year for 7 years, 3 high-risk pregnancies during those years without maternity insurance, a traumatic auto crash which resulted in physical therapy and the purchase of a newer and more expensive vehicle, a move to FL to a lagging job market, and the realities of 4 kids who *will* grow and need food and clothing to accomodate that growth. There were so many points of hurt that stung so much every time I looked at the mounting debt, every time I decided which bill went unpaid this week, every time that my husband came home dead tired but knowing that he couldn't take a day off because we needed that money. Anger boiled at people who had declared their noble commitment to seeing that their minister was cared for, then refused to acknowledge that a family of 3 (which we had been) requires far less to sustain it than a family of 6 (which we became). Disbelief baffled me as I pondered those who suggested that if we weren't making it on the salary, we seriously consider whether we should be having babies at all. Accusations of hypocrisy jumped to my lips when remembering that the student loan debt - required to attain the degree necessary to attain this position as we had no parental assistance in our education - was scoffed at as irresponsible and no concern of the personnel committee's in determining a fair salary. Indignation surfaced as I remembered the dump truck that obliterated our almost-paid-off vehicle and carried no insurance, leaving us with the bill for a new car. Wrong upon wrong was written there in the family financial accounts. And every time I balanced the checkbook, I fought not only a financial battle, but a spiritual one as well. Love keeps no record of wrongs and yet here it was in red all over my checkbook. How I was reminded, week after week, of the sacrifices we had made of our family and our finances. And then the day came.

The day that there simply was no more money. The day that I couldn't decide who would get paid because there wasn't enough to pay anyone. The day that the credit limit was exhausted and there was no more cash to keep moving the debt around. The day that bankruptcy became the only option. It was against everything we'd been taught. A Godly man doesn't default on his debts. A Godly man doesn't give up. A Godly man - if he truly has faith - prays and God WILL ALWAYS open the floodgates of heaven and supply his needs (in exactly the manner he expects and that will be socially acceptable to his peers, of course). We were failures. We must not have had enough faith. We put up with the pay cuts too long; we put the church above our family for too long; we did this, we did that, we...we...we...did exactly what we believed God had asked of us. We stayed in the position exactly until He released us. We came to FL when He said go. We didn't seek revenge. We didn't lash back and quit even as we saw the pay cuts happen. We accepted it; accepted where we were; accepted that God had it... and wound up with no financial options. Could it be that He needed us there? Could it be that we needed to be there? To finally take God completely out of His box and live the reality that He works in ways we don't understand and leads us --- *actually leads us* --- down paths that look like failure, loss, pain, in order to more fully strip us of ourselves and reveal Himself? We couldn't believe we were considering bankruptcy; that God would leave us no other option. Yet here we were.

And here we were with excitement and in agreement with one another. Crazy, huh?

I can call it nothing less than excitement. To have worked through all of the spiritual and emotional issues we'd worked through over the last few years yet have this constant reminder in the form of financial stress was daunting. To have the prospect of a bankruptcy that would remove that last reminder, abolishing the debt accrued in those difficult years and allowing a completely fresh start in even this last area of our lives was exciting. We thanked God for putting the option in front of us (on the same day He had led me to a website and Dan to a friend at work that gently suggested bankruptcy; by the time we were together that night, we were both trying to figure out how to raise the subject with the other). We met with a lawyer. The lawyer thought we were crazy. Why had we waited so long and tried to keep afloat, only getting deeper in? We had been eligible for bankruptcy all the way back in those years in the religious position; a family of our size was able to make twice what we had made at our most affluent and still qualify. Hmmmmm... And we had endured two years of pay at one-third of what we had made in the church, paying for necessities on credit so as to keep our debt payments current, and waiting for that God-dropped cash to fall from the sky. Because we were too proud to admit that we simply couldn't pay the bills. Because asking for our debt to be forgiven was completely ungodly. Did you read that? I'll say it again...catch the nuance: BECAUSE ASKING FOR OUR FINANCIAL DEBT TO BE FORGIVEN WAS COMPLETELY UNGODLY.

Did you catch it? The blatant, self-sufficient, pride-driven lie? Tell me you've never heard it before. Even as we tell others that God forgives the most aggregious sin for the asking, we are also told that to ask for financial forgiveness of debt is nothing less than gross negligence of our duty and unfits one for being seen as quite spiritual enough for leadership. It doesn't matter why the debt accrued; all debt is sinful and all request for complete forgiveness should be disdained. Partial forgiveness may be grudgingly allowed, more lenient terms of repayment arranged, but never full and complete forgiveness. This is the double weight under which we struggled: the debt combined with the inability for it ever to be paid off by us or forgiven by our creditors. It is a heavy load. And yet, through this two years of learning to live with God rather than man's religious ideas of Him, we were set free even in this area. (If you'd like, do some Bible research on the terms "debt", "forgive", and "jubilee"... you may catch some of God's ideas on the subject, too!)

Today is a day of rejoicing. Today, we live in forgiveness of our financial debt. And, I daresay, it inclines us to remember to be more forgiving to those who are indebted to us. Today, we see that our Father provides in ways that are beyond our comprehension and ways which allow us to more clearly see Himself. We have had some wandering in the wilderness because we needed to learn more of Him. It is time to turn north. To not tread the same ground again.

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Bravo! Speak your truth and let others do with it what they will. One of my favorite life mottoes is "what other people think about me is none of my business".

    I rejoice with you! What a wonderful thing to have that weight lifted off of your shoulders!

    Krystal

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  3. Thanks, Krystal. I love that motto, too. Hard one to *really* get yourself to live by, though. At least for me. Maybe I'll get there someday; I'm already in places I never thought attainable, so there's hope!! :)

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  4. Powerful, insightful and true. You say what we all are thinking and or needing to hear. I'd love to interview you all one Sunday at Nomad Church. Let me know if there is a weekend we can get together and catch up. I know Dan's schedule is probably really crazy, but give me a shout sometime and lets catch up. 321-795-7580

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