Archives For guilt


November 25, 2012 — 1 Comment


I am no stranger to debt. It started, like it does for many these days, in college. I remember the first “student loan meeting” I had to go to. They showed a film on what life would be like if you defaulted on your loan. It showed a guy (college graduate?) slaving away as a short order cook, and explained that regardless of how little you made, if you defaulted, they would still probably garnish your wages.

This really didn’t bother me. I got through college mostly on grants. Considering where I went to school, it could have been much worse.

After this, though I went to the student center where they basically had a huge stack of credit cards they were giving away to incoming freshmen. I signed a form and 10 days later I had my first credit card and it was all down hill from there.

I worked full time my first semester at OBU and my grades reflected it. I decided I needed to focus, live on campus, take 16 hours, and study.

Well, I did some of that, and still made it through. My first two years I funded my night life with that stupid credit card. Remember, I had no real income – I did take some side jobs, cash only, weekend work, and I worked every summer. But once that card was maxed out, it was not as much fun as it had been in the beginning.

Eventually I graduated, got married, and decided to move to Texas to go to seminary. My wife and I refinanced all our student loans so we’d be making one payment, and then deferred while I was in school. We were so poor back then that we could not afford the interest payments. By the time I graduated from seminary, we owed twice what the loan amount was to begin with. Our payment, to this day, is almost as much as our mortgage payment, and most of that is still interest.

I’m not whining. I was told up front how it would be. I made informed choices. I thought I’d go to school, get a great church job, Cheryl would be writing and selling music by now, and we’d live in the big house and have no worries.

What killed that? Two high risk pregnancies, bad choices on my part of what churches I would agree to work for, more credit cards – full of mostly medical debt and car repairs, although I do remember buying a plane ticket to Boston that one time. It was a great trip by the way.

I’m glad to say, all those credit cards are paid off, both our cars are paid off, and the accounts closed now. We do have a card, and it has about $300 on it. It seems that to be able to do things in the world, like buy a house or a car, you have to have a credit rating, and to do that you have to borrow money and repay it. With interest.

I’m not complaining about that either. It just is. What I’m saying is, our choices messed up the first 10 years of our lives together. We were in debt to our debt. It crushed us in every way you can imagine. That is mostly over now – although we do still owe the student loan. I don’t see a good way out of that one. It’s at the tail end of a long list of debt that we couldn’t pay.

So how did we get the other credit issues resolved? One word – bankruptcy. That’s right, we paid a fee in cash to a lawyer, he wrote up some papers, we went to a judge, and he dismissed our debt. He saw what we were up against, and he forgave that debt.

I know a lot of people do this, and I tend to disagree with it for a variety of reasons. People go out and buy cars and houses and run up credit cards to furnish those houses and they have all the toys. When we filed, we didn’t have any of that. What we both did have was great jobs that pay well, and a mountain falling on us. We needed help, and we did not go into it lightly.

We had been paying for years, and we were not making a dent. We tried consolidation, snowball, Dave Ramsey, Crown Financial and about 12 other things and we were still not going to be able to pay off what we owed. So we filed bankruptcy. And it went away.

So, who pays for all that? And believe me when I say, it wasn’t all that much money. But who pays for it? Well, the company writes it off, they increase their costs, which you, the consumer, end up paying. So – you pay for it. And so do I.

Now that this little episode is several years behind us, I’m beginning to rethink all of it. Did we do the right thing? I don’t know…one thing I do know is that we were extremely uncomfortable, and being out of debt helped. We can actually function now, and we have no interest in being in debt anymore. As soon as the student loans are gone, that’ll be it. No more debt.

What brings all this on is something I heard in church this morning – We define comfort as having what we want, but God defines comfort as giving us what we need.

I think for us what it came down to was, we didn’t trust God. That is why this failure stings so much every time I think about it. We trusted ourselves, our jobs, our talents, and when those failed us we trusted the system. Did we ever once pray about it? Not that I remember. I do remember wallowing in self pity and whining a lot. But I didn’t share any of this with God, and as a result, we’re still kind of in the same place, even though the debt is gone.

Today, the pastor talked about how on the city walls, people would nail up for all to see the names of those people who could not or would not pay their debts. From time to time, someone else would take pity and pay the debt off. In that case, the paper was removed, folded over, the name of the person who paid the debt was written on the paper.

Regardless of my mistakes, regardless of how much I screw up my life, regardless of what I owe to whom, the name Jesus is written across my heart. God doesn’t see a failure. He sees a son. Beloved and worthy. Now my task it to learn to trust him, so that what he sees in his heart and mind can become real.

See how bad I messed everything up? And still God loves me. No matter what you’ve done, or not done, God still loves you all the same. He can’t love you any less, because he is love! If he did love you less, he would not be God! Learn to trust him, as I am learning. Your life will change.

Tonight, I’m going to write on paper how much we owe on our student loan, and I’m going to nail it to the wall. I’m going to pray every night that God would provide a way to get that stupid thing paid. And when he does, I’m going to fold that paper over and write his name on it in red ink. I may have it laminated at that point so that I never forget – where I’ve been, and just how much God has provided for me.

Sunglasses At Night

October 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

I wish I was half as cool as Corey Hart. I can only wear my sunglasses at dawn and early dusk. Its just not the same.

There was a time though, when I was much, much younger. A time when I had hair and was a little less pudgy. It was then that I wore my sunglasses at night.

I wore them for a variety of reasons. I was very cool. Hey – at least I had a healthy self image anyway. Most of the reason was because I liked to drive around with my high beams on and when people would flash me with theirs I could say, “Ha! Your bright lights don’t hurt me – I’ve got sunglasses on!”

Pretty stupid, right? Me and a friend named Danny did this all the time, in addition to a variety of other things. We also threw pennies out the car window into oncoming traffic, and trashed our youth minister’s yard when he was on vacation. Yeah and this is just the stuff I can share in public. None of what we did was anything that would get us totally arrested. Maybe hassled by the cops a bit, but not anything real bad.

Another reason people wear sunglasses is because they are trying to hide something. Once in college I got into a fight with a friend named Charlie. He was and is a great guy. I was really upset that a girl we called Bubbles had decided to put me right into the middle of the friend zone. So, I partied a little which in this case means I barely knew who I was then picked a fight with a guy who was totally sober.

He beat the everloving tar out of me. The whole right side of my face was the size of a small cantaloupe, and he hit me so hard the inside of my eye was blood red. So I wore sunglasses day and night for weeks so people wouldn’t see. And yes, they were Wayfarers. Just like Corey Hart.

Again – stupid, right?

The thing is, we all tend to hide the bad stuff. We do something or think something or say something and then live in denial – “Nope, wasn’t me. It must have been someone who looked or sounded or smelled like me, but it wasn’t me.”

Did you know that most people, even when presented with evidence that they definitely did what they were accused of, still deny the truth?

Why is this?

Shame. And guilt. We all live with shame and guilt, but these things are not from God. They are from the enemy. God is not interested in shaming us or making us feel guilty. These feeling are associated with keeping things hidden. God is interested in shining the light into all the corners of our lives so that everything hidden is brought into clear view. That way we can deal with it – and allow God to cut those things away.

Shame and guilt can keep you from your destiny. Shame and guilt can ruin your life, ruin your dreams. And this is what Satan wants for you. He wants to destroy you and keep you from fulfilling your purpose in life.

I know all this from experience – it happened to me! I had guilt for many years. I had guilt over an event in my life and it tainted everything that happened for years afterward. When I gave up that guilt and shame, I was able to start living in my God given dream again.

I’m not saying God didn’t love me and didn’t bless me at all during this time. But I fell way short of my potential during those years because I was hiding something – something that was eating away at my soul.

I love sunglasses. I have several pairs, and each has a particular function. Some I wear because they look cool, some if it’s really sunny, some if it’s overcast. I don’t hide behind them anymore, though. I have no shame, no guilt and nothing to hide!

What is God saying to you right now? Take a minute and think about something you are struggling with. Ask God to show you what the lie is that keeps you struggling with this. Ask God to show you what His truth for you is. Give up the lie and live in that truth! Live in His dream for you! Be joyful, fulfilled, a blessing to those around you! You can’t do any of that living with guilt or shame. Give it all to God right now!