“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22 NIV
Entering into this relationship we had a lot of baggage. Unfortunately some of those bags were loaded heavy with loaned money that we had to pay back every passing month. It was two weeks before JP proposed that we had the “financial” talk in a Big Sur cafe. We laid everything out on the line. How much money we had. How much we earn. How much we owe.
I dreaded pulling up my student loan website and showing him the huge number that had never gone down in the 6 years of paying monthly post graduation. I had been paying interest this whole time and somewhere in my mind decided that I would most likely be paying this huge payment every month for the rest of my life. I had just accepted it as a way of life because it felt like there was no way out.
Something stirred in my heart while we sat in that cafe in Big Sur. All of a sudden these feelings I had repressed for so long flooded to the surface. Shame. Guilt. Fear. This was no longer only my burden that I would bear…well really ignore…it was now JP’s.
I couldn’t stop the tears from flooding down my face and he came to my side and brought me close to his chest. I just held onto ambitious (and stubborn) Mary who wanted to be a photographer but had absolutely no money to do it. I signed up for the first school that I inquired with and they milked me for everything I didn’t have. My mom co signed the loan with poor credit and alas, I was in a hole 5 figures deep with a large percentage of interest. Was I negligent in my decision making?
I try not to visit woulda, coulda, shoulda town for too long. I am well aware that everything happens for a reason and it’s all a part of God’s ultimate plan. My story has been shaped by photography school and somehow it has been shaped by this heavy shackle of debt I drag around with me everywhere I go.
JP has a lot of school debt as well, not as much as mine, but it still exists. We couldn’t help but feel discouraged that this would be something we would be paying back for a very long time and now with our loans combined, it would be even longer. There really was no positive side of it…well only that I thankfully became a successful photographer so at least I am able to pay this huge loan off for a reason.
“Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor,
you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8 NLV
Now the great first part of our debt story as a couple is that as we walked into marriage with only our car and student loans. We were free from credit card debt and had radically saved a 6 month emergency fund as well as paying for a wedding (seriously a miracle!) but then something happened. We fell flat on our faces and were poor stewards of our money. We ended up in a big hole with credit card debt as we tried to balance monthly expenses as well as enjoying the luxuries of Los Angeles dining a bit too frequently. It was one of those experiences that completely surprised us by how much damage had been done so quickly but really there was nothing to do now but dig ourselves out. The debt tornado had passed and now it was time to clean up the mess from the storm.
There were a lot of emotions tied to this. Despair. Frustration. Anger. More shame. More guilt. More fear. But something magical happened. We got down on our hands and knees and asked for forgiveness. Together. Throughout our relationship we have come to this beautiful place of knowing that none of the money we make is ours. It is all a blessing from God and it is our responsibility to handle it wisely. Unfortunately, we did not in the beginning of 2015 but we were ready to make it right. We surrendered it all to Jesus. We surrendered all of those nasty and negative feelings that could weigh us down and make us lose the light of the world.
The result of those prayers were nothing short of miraculous. The weight had been lifted off of our shoulders and we found peace in our hearts. We were forgiven and not only were we forgiven through some really hard mistakes, we were loved fully. Throughout the next few days, opportunities for work poured in and we were humbly blown away. We laid out all of our income and expenses for the year, month by month, week by week. As small business owners, there is never a steady paycheck and that is what hurt us in the beginning of the year. Not planning accordingly to when our income would actually be coming in. With the surplus of job opportunities that poured in that same week of laying it all down at the feet of Jesus, we mapped out that with A LOT of hard work and major budgeting, we would be out of this nasty hole by the end of this year. Seriously, that is a HUGE mountain that has been moved friends.
That vulnerable and sensitive conversation in Big Sur allowed me to experience something I had never before. JP lovingly and willingly took on my debt and never made me feel guilty for it. That beautiful gesture freed me of so many awful feelings of inadequacy that the enemy would whisper into my soul. My tears had been wiped clean and I no longer had to carry that burden all by myself. As JP and I both surrendered our financial mistakes and stresses to Jesus, we felt those same feelings together…but tenfold. We felt free, hopeful, loved, reassured, forgiven and determined. We saw a way out of this hole and even though we dug it even deeper this year, we feel even more faithful that we will be able to radically pay off all of our debt in the next few years.
How can we feel confident that we can pay off all of our debt in the next few years? Because we are not doing it alone…we have handed over all of the control to Jesus and He has filled our souls with joyful determination.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5 NIV
Last week we made the first big step! We paid off our Prius! Such a blessing from God and we couldn’t help but celebrate with a cheesy photo from that day!
Whatever might be wearing you down, whether it is debt, a lie, fear, a sinful lifestyle, etc…I encourage you to lay it down at the feet of Jesus. You too have someone who will hold you as tears run down your cheeks when you finally own up to the burdens you are bearing. I promise you will not only feel free but the Lord will delight in you surrendering your control to Him and you can finally move forward together.