Doug and I are the greatest consumers ever. We just can’t say no.
House: We got one of those.
Condo: Yup, and have never been able to sell it.
Timeshare: Of course! And bonus we have never used it.
Cars: Two of those.
Credit cards: Too many to count.
And what do we have to show for it? Happiness? Joy? World travels? Nope. How about $30,000 worth of debt (which is better than the $62,000 of debt we started with four years ago). This is real the kicker: Doug and I are making more money now than we ever have, which means we should be getting out of debt soon, but—and this is a big but—the more money that comes in, the more money we spend. No matter what we made, we were always living above our means. More money, more problems.
So, why? One reason is because I am an emotional shopper. For my 40th birthday, I went to IKEA and bought over $400 worth of stuff for our living room because I was sick of looking at the carpet, the artwork, and the curtains that were never mine. They were hand-me-downs and I was sick of living in a house that I never felt was mine. It was extremely emotional; I didn’t care about anything else other than what I wanted. And no matter the money it cost, I was going to spend it to get it. It was irrational and stupid because there was nothing wrong with the other stuff; I just didn’t want it, and instead of paying off debt, I created more debt and bought a living room. I guess you can call it somewhat of a midlife crisis. If you include the tattoo I got for my 40th birthday, somewhat of a midlife crisis turns into full-blown midlife crisis.
But honestly, it’s not just me being an emotional shopper. It’s more. It’s me looking for my self-worth outside of God. Yes, I said God. Don’t freak out—let me explain. When I’m sad, I mean really sad, I start getting jealous about other people’s lives. I look at my friends who have huge houses and I think, man, if I had a bigger house, I would be happy. I look at friends who drive way nicer and newer cars and wish that I could have a new car, too—because if I had a new car, life would be so much better. This turns into what I call the self-deprecating vortex. The more things I want to make me happy, the more depressed I get.
People say if I just looked to God for my happiness, life would be amazing, right? Absolutely. I believe that if I truly believe God is good and trust him with everything, I would live an incredible life, right? Of course. But it’s really hard, because I’m hit with messages all day that tell me I’m not enough. I’m human and flawed and continue to disregard God and look for other people’s approval.
I’m trying to live the American Dream when God is trying to show me he’s got so much more for me.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the American Dream. But when you try so hard to live it, like I have, you start to wonder, What was it for? The debt that it’s caused? The jealousy I have toward other people, even friends? The depression I feel because I don’t have nice cars or clothes? Is it really worth it? No, because it’s not really real. I’m trying so hard to keep up with the Jones’, when the Jones’ don’t even care that I exist. But God does care. He wants so much more for me if I would just trust him. Which means I have to admit I can’t do this on my own.
A couple of months ago I was praying for God to show us the way to get out of debt. Next thing I know, I’m sitting across from my boss (who happens to be a friend and pastor) telling us he is supposed to help us get out of debt. I was hoping that meant he was going to cut us a check for $30,000, but alas, that was not the case. Instead we got an accountability partner. Someone who has gone down the path before us and can show us the steps we need to take to get out of debt. Someone who is going to look at all of our debt, including our spending habits, and hold us responsible for our decisions. God answered my prayers, and it isn’t going to be easy, but there is a plan for us to be debt-free in one to two years.
Then I did something that is so countercultural it’s laughable. I increased our tithing (because, you know, when you are trying to get out of debt, what makes total sense is giving more money to your church instead of toward the debt). But crazy things happened after this that can only be from God. Our condo was trashed and sitting vacant, and now there is someone living in it who is fixing it up while they rent it. And it gets even crazier. We had friends who approached us and asked if they could sponsor our kids’ swimming. If you have any child who plays year-round sports, you know how expensive it can be. (And we have two.) These friends want to help us. They told us that sports played a huge part in their kids’ lives and they know how important it is for our children. Seriously?! I cried. Doug cried. It’s humbling and amazing when you see how much you are loved. Only God.
So that’s what we are going to do. We are going to accept the help God gave us through our friend who is our accountability partner. We are going to accept the help God gave us through our friends who are sponsoring our kids. We are just going to accept God’s help when he gives it to us. Does that mean that our lives will now be easy? No. We will still have hard times and there will be times when we fail, but I truly believe God is good and I am learning to trust him with my whole heart. And that is more than enough, especially more than a brand new car.