The Shoreline

Posted: November 9, 2009 in culture, faith, money

Over the last 8 years of my life, debt has been a constant reminder of my terrible actions and stupid decisions.  The terrible actions and stupid decisions, well, I won’t get into those today.  As for the debt…

It feels much like jumping off of a sinking about about a mile from shore.  You’ve got on a life jacket, so you’re staying alive, but you’re a mediocre swimmer, and the current proves too strong.  You swim hard, kick, fight, make progress, and can see the shoreline.  The shoreline full of debt-free people who enjoy less stress, take vacations, save for the future, and drive paid-for cars.

Then you stop to catch your breath, and the current does its thing.  And 8 years later, instead of being a mile from the shoreline, you’re now .85 miles away.  Closer, but a long ways away and struggling.

I know the situation is about 97% my fault, but it’s so much easier to be mad at the system, the credit card companies, ridiculous health care premiums, and the untimeliness of certain costly events.

Dave Ramsey has been a good guide and a reasonable voice, but his methods alone can only take you so far.  Selling every unessential item you own, taking on three jobs, and never spending a dime on anything unnecessary sounds inspiring when you read it.  Until, of course, you realize every unessential item you own is probably worth about $100 total, you care more about the sanity of your family than about working three jobs, and that never spending a dime on anything leads to hermitism, social depression, and never doing anything with friends.

So you make an airtight budget that pays your bills, gives you a small weekly allowance that gives you at least some freedom to grab an occasional lunch or see a movie once a month, and then hope to God that the car doesn’t break down, that a bone doesn’t get broken, and that you’re lucky enough to keep your job.

And, then, squeezed somewhere into there, you give back to God.  You tighten the small weekly allowance, just to make it possible.  And you go through a mental battle that wages a war on whether or not that God-money is optional.  “Bought too many groceries this week?  Just take it out of the God money.”  (no, no, no)  “Donated money to a third party cause of some sort?  No problem, just take that out of the God money.”  (ahhhh, can’t do that)  “Have to buy a pair of shoes this week, because yours are 2 years old and falling apart.  You gotta do it, gotta have shoes.  Just take it out of the God money.”  (crap! stop!)

And so you swim.  And hope.  And pray.  And say thanks for forgiveness for stupid decisions.  And you give.  And work hard to accept what you have as a blessing from the Giver.  And you squint even harder, trying to see the light in the tunnel.  You dig harder, trying to see that ray of sunlight coming through the dirt.  You swim faster, seeking the joy of the shoreline.  And you enjoy family and friends.  You worship.  You trust.  You live.

  1. Leeann says:

    Even people who have no debt, drive paid for cars, and live in paid for homes have stress and many don’t take vacations. We’re one of those families. With the exception of our house and regular monthly bills, we are debt free. We sacrifice a lot to stay that way and pray that no big disaster comes our way, but we still have our share of stress. The health of the children, job security, health care/insurance, etc. Like you, we put our trust in the Lord and take care to give back to him and teach our children to do the same. We have received many blessings that I know are a result of our diligence in following the Lord.

    Hang in there. The tide will change! You’ll find yourself on the beach before you know it.

    Love ya! Praying for ya, too!

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