During this #CarSalePending saga, I’ve come face to face with a position that I’d vowed never to be in again over a decade ago.
You see, in 2009 I came home (to Jamaica) from California with a semester’s worth of school debt and unable to continue my degree because my family’s financial situation had drastically changed. The first semester at college had been an exercise in faithful prayer. I’d chosen to pay my tuition in three installments and every time I prayed (and fasted) the money came through.
Therefore, I wasn’t daunted when the second semester came around; I would continue as I had in the first semester. However, the deadline for the first installment passed with no miraculous supply. I continued to pray and fast even though I was plagued by migraines. The deadline for the second installment passed with no miraculous supply. Then the deadline for the third installment passed with no miraculous supply. I went home and wasn’t able to go back to school. Then my delinquent account was handed over to a debt collection agency.
I started working as a Grade 2 teacher at my family’s homeschool but my salary was only enough to pay part of the monthly interest accrued (all but 10% of my salary went to paying the debt). My debt continued to grow as the delinquency interest rate had increased.
In 2010 I started working at a brokerage firm and started paying an amount agreed upon with the agency but it continued to be a “slow boat to China” with fluctuating conversion rates and living expenses.
In April 2014, upon advice from a good friend, I asked the school to cancel my debt but they told me that the most they could do was to cancel all the interest that had accrued and I pay the original debt amount. They gave me 30 days to settle it in full. Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for the amount I wanted to borrow from my bank and so missed the due date.
In September of that same year, I approached them again with their offer, having by then gotten a promotion and salary bump that qualified me for the loan. The way I saw it, if I could decrease the amount I was paying towards the conversion rate and wire fee, then I could settle it faster. The school accepted that arrangement and I transferred the debt to my bank.
In May 2016 I got a loan at a much better interest rate and shorter repayment period and I transferred the debt for the last time. By May 2020 I had fully discharged the debt. What a weight off of my shoulders that was!
So let’s circle back to that vow I’d made. In 2009 I had vowed that I wouldn’t get into a position where I needed to trust God with money. Gasp!
You see, that second semester had been an intense time. I was going to classes, getting close to friends, making plans for the next year while secretly engaged in extended prayer sessions and living under a cloud of uncertainty and guilt over the debt that I was accruing. I was flitting between hope and fear like an inelegant butterfly. And then at the end of that period of psyching myself up to faith I came away with a debt for an incomplete degree, credits that I couldn’t use when I later restarted my university education... and, I'll admit, some great memories.
I stuck by that vow in the decade that followed and soon added the care of my family to it - at least those who were within my reach, and lived at the house in Jamaica. As long as I had strength they would not lack. I couldn’t handle their disappointment any more than I could handle mine. Yet we still struggled together to make ends meet, and it’s not like I wasn’t a Christian so I had to pray and ask for things that I couldn’t provide.
And then I went on this trip, knowing full well that the vow had to go. Don’t worry, I renounced it. But even then I had budgeted for my sabbatical. The car remained a wild card that only God could settle because I’d done all I could. I remember wondering whether the various changes in my plans and potential delay in the selling of the car would result in my savings being wiped out prematurely, setting me back in the place where I was in 2009 when the vow was first uttered.
As of last week, it looks like that’s exactly what’s about to happen. I’ve been watching my plans fall apart and wondering if I’ll end up scrambling away from this faith journey.
So what’s the good thing that I could identify? I haven’t reinstated the vow because it would mean putting back up the walls around my heart and playing at being God. The good thing is that God sometimes works slowly because He knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us better than we love ourselves. He knows us at our core - that place where we often don’t like to look into and prefer to leave covered over.
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I would like to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I am not what I once was, and by the grace of God, I am what I am.” - John Newton