On January 19, 2020, I had the privilege of speaking in front of our church on a Sunday morning. Normally, I prefer the behind the scenes aspects of ministry, but because this opportunity allowed me to share two things I’m most passionate about, Jesus and eliminating debt, I thought it might be worth the risk to step out of my comfort zone. In the message, I shared my testimony, which is Christian-speak for my story of how I came to know Jesus. Then a little later, I think I coined a new word and shared my “debtimony,” which is Bob-speak for my story of how I came to know debt. I thought it may be of benefit to share that story here and then give you space to share your debtimony.
Before I came to work at Sunridge almost 14 years ago, I had a pretty good career at Callaway Golf. During the 11 years working there, there were many opportunities for me to grow in the company and I was doing alright financially. I made many decisions based on this upward trajectory, but in hindsight, these decisions lacked knowledge and experience. An example is how we used a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) to upgrade our home with a pool and bought a brand-new car. While the HELOC was a major piece of our debt puzzle, we were also not in the habit of denying ourselves. We did many things we wanted to do, like an occasional trip to Disneyland, or going out to dinner, even when we didn’t have the money. We would just charge it–after all I worked hard and deserved it, right? Before we knew it, we had a mortgage, the HELOC, our car, Visa and department store credit card bills to pay month after month. We had this mentality that as long as we made the payments each month, we were doing alright, and if that was the standard, then I guess we were. In 2006 I left Callaway to start my new calling at Sunridge. What seemed like “doable” payments while I was at Callaway, soon became a little scary in my new vocation. On top of that, there was a disconnect for me between my personal finances and how I was operating the church finances.
Thankfully, my wife and I found that there was a way out of the mess we made and that brought us hope. We learned, through Financial Peace University (also known as FPU), that we didn’t really have a math or an income problem. The problem was with the person in the mirror. We needed to change our thoughts on what we deserved and what we could afford. Proverbs 22:7 tells us, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes slave to the lender.” We didn’t want to be shackled to our debt anymore, so we followed the plan; we built an emergency fund, we cut up the credit cards, and then worked hard on the debt snowball. After 7 long years, we finally paid off all non-mortgage debt, including that burdensome HELOC! I’m not going to sugar coat it; it was hard. We said “no” a lot, we sacrificed, and we learned to live under our means. But it is so worth it! We now have margin in our lives to be generous, to help others, to save for our future, and to enjoy our present. If you have not taken a course like FPU, I wholeheartedly recommend it!
How about you? Are you willing to be vulnerable and share your story? Who knows, it may inspire someone else to see debt for what it really is, a thief.