Posts Tagged ‘self help’

Today’s episode of taking charge of myself, my finances, and becoming my real self actually goes back to when I lost sight of all hope. I was lost inside of a long, black tunnel, and if there was a light at the end of it, it was a freight train bearing down on me, not the end of the tunnel. It was the beginning of redemption, but also the beginning of a series of lies I am only just now beginning to unravel in the quest to be a more genuine person, a more genuine Christian woman, and to be the person I have been created to be.

We (and by “we”, I mostly mean “me”) were deep in debt. I was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and I was doing it on credit cards so my husband wouldn’t know how deep in debt we were. Yeah, that works.

About the same time, my husband discovered a church and a pastor he thought he could believe in, and the next decade plus were spent serving and doing good works to earn the blessing of a God Who doesn’t ask us to do any of that. And it was all wrapped nicely in a package that said God doesn’t ask us to earn our salvation, but if you don’t pay your tithes plus, you’ll never get blessed. In our desperation – and because the church also harbored us and offered a refuge – we bought into it.

It wasn’t all bad, I want you to know that. I made life-long friends. We had some awesome times. We saw God move in miraculous ways. But it also sucked the life and joy out of us, slowly. Our children were maybe – or maybe not – the better for it. Or the worse. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. One child pursued God, but not in the charismatic evangelical way she was raised in. The other child remains agnostic. The last child rejected it, and walked away, shaking her head at the cruelty. My husband threw up his hands and walked out of the last service he served in, never to return.

I continued on until one day I found I wasn’t working hard enough to earn the favor of a position and I said, “No more.” Because it isn’t about works.

It wasn’t all the headship of the church, either, but the people they “raised up” to fill positions who got power hungry were often the roadblocks. And the constant “Tithe or you won’t be blessed” preaching. “Give and ye shall receive.” “Cast your bread upon the waters…” “You’re not blessed? You’re not giving enough!”

We owed tens of thousands of dollars. I was a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) and a homeschooler. “You should get a job.” (What? And pay exorbitant day care fees?) “You should put them in public school. God wants our children in public school to witness God’s love.” (Um, we’re not homeschooling for religious reasons, but for academic reasons!) TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CREDIT CARD DEBT AT HIGH INTEREST RATES.

Sometimes, I felt like we were drowning.

Then, a job fell into my lap. I took it. The kids were older. They didn’t need me. We bought a house. We paid off all those tens of thousands of dollars. The only other credit we had was for car loans. I co-signed for my daughter to go to college for a year (she funded the rest of her years of college). Eventually, with exception of the car, school, and mortgage loan, we were debt free. We quit tithing.

Well, we left the church and didn’t have anyone to tithe to. And still, the blessings flowed in. I got raises. We paid off cars. We roofed our house. My husband retired with a pension.

We don’t own a credit card, although we do have Visa/debit cards (which have come in handy when we have needed to make a purchase that exceeded our $200 debit withdrawal). We’ve paid cash for most things over a period of seven or eight years. The roof is the only thing we put on credit.

Until today: I needed tires for my car. Making the decision to put tires on credit was excruciatingly painful. Fearful. What If. But there was no option: the tires were bald and one had a nail in it. I’ve been driving all winter on bald tires. In snow. On faith. And good driving skills. But enough.

“Your credit is amazing,” said the guy at Les Schwab. We put four very nice tires that should last 80,000 miles on my car. My car needs a brake job, but I can pay cash for that next month.

Came home and realized how tense my muscles were. All those fears coming at me, at once. I am afraid of debt!

Well, sometimes, debt is OK. I can pay this off in no time. I budget and I stick to it. I’m learning about my relationship to money and my own self-worth, and how those things tie into each other.

By the way, I’m going to give you some controversial advice: if you owe a lot of money, pay the debts off first. Before you start tithing. Don’t let anyone guilt you into tithing first. God will bless you for paying your debts off. And, for His sake, learn how to handle money. Then you can tithe.

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