So, if you know me at all, you know that I am in alot of debt. I went to one minorly expensive, and one majorly expensive university. I moved to NYC without a job, during a national employment crisis. So yeah, I have alot of debt. And I have mostly just resigned myself to it. I have 30 years to pay off my student loans, which will be just in time for me to retire. And everyone in the United States is in debt. It's what we do. It's part of the American Dream.
This is what I told myself for a long time, and it mainly worked. I went to work, paid my bills, occasionally ran out of money before having paid all my bills, but this was the only way I knew how to live. It would occasionally overwhelm me, and I would call one of the friends who knew me well enough to know exactly how deeply mired in debt I was, and they would listen to my panic and my hopelessness at finding a way to stop it, probably growing tired of listening me over and over and over.
My best friend and I trade New Year's resolutions each year, as we have seen each other over the previous 12 months, and know what would be good for the other person. Most of the time. His resolutions for me range from clean out your car and be on time, to this year's be more proactive. Part of this proactivity for me was wrangling my finances. And another friend, in whose apartment I have had a financial melt-down, invited me to go with her to Financial Peace University, which was being led by a friend of ours from our small group at church. I reluctantly agreed, and here we are. I spoke in a previous post about the inner turmoil this class has brought to me, about my struggle to be someone focused on social justice and the needs of others, but to also be fiscally responsible to myself. I can't help but feel that there is an inherent element of selfishness in financial planning. It is a world of my needs first and then yours with whatever I have left. This is not necessarily the way of Dave Ramsey's program, but it leaves Giving to the very last lesson, and speaks very little to the relative wealth of even the most indebted American in comparison to that of almost every other person in the world.
At CCfB this week, we discussed Luke 12:13-21 and Mark 6:25-34, and the ramifications these scriptures should have on our lives. My minister/friend Joe put it up on his blog, and he and I have been e-discussing this a bit today, as he knows I am involved in, and feel extremely conflicted about, Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey overwhelms me. Every week, I find myself shaking my head at so many of the things he says. But I also know very well, because of what I've watched many of my family and friends go through, that it is necessary to get all of this under control. While I sometimes find Dave greedy, and feel that he is often twisting the meanings of the scriptures he uses in the lessons, I can also see the good in the system he has set up for people. I have always been very open with those closest to me about my financial situation, and talking to many of them about this class, and my struggles with it has helped me to get some perspective on it, and to know that in the end, if I am able to find a way to pay off at least some of my debt, that it will be worth it. And with that I have had to find a way to do this without letting it change my priorities. While Dave Ramsey's goals may not be mine, his means to getting there can be helpful for my situation. And I am doing my best to look for ways to get ahead, but am trying to allow God to show me the way to do this without sacrificing my health, or my sanity, or my principles.
I started reading The Irresistible Revolution around the time I started this class, and while at first it was one of the things that made me want to chuck it all, after much thought it has become kind of a supplemental text to guide me--looking at Dave Ramsey's stuff through a lens of social responsibility in addition to personal/financial responsibility. There is something anti-consumerist about Financial Peace University, because every financial decision is to be made with much thought for the consequences/necessity of it. And if you look at wealth building as what you can give back rather than giving it all to creditors, it changes things a bit. So, all of that to say, I'm still trying to work it out. And to remember this:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.--Matthew 6:25-29