Journey out of Debt: Spiritual Bookends

DH = Dear Husband

Our journey out of debt, which began in June of 2012 with $257,000 owed, is almost certainly going to end in September of 2018. Debt reduction is about far more than money. It interweaves with every facet of life, including the spiritual. I’m cautious about venturing into the topic of faith on this site, but our personal story of debt-freedom would be incomplete without it.

June 2012

My Tres Dias cabin-mate

In June of 2012, DH and I took our first steps towards debt freedom. It also happened that in June of 2012, I attended a 3-day Christian retreat called Tres Dias.

To kick off the Tres Dias weekend, we all met our cabin-mates. Mine was a woman I had never met before from Toronto. We shook hands and chatted – and somehow started to talk about debt. Like DH and I, she and her husband were following Dave Ramsey’s steps to debt-freedom.

In the USA, Ramsey is far better known than he is in Canada. Of the 50 or so women involved in that Tres Dias weekend, my cabin-mate and I were almost certainly the only ones who were following Ramsey – and possibly the only ones who had ever even heard of him. In my 6 years of debt-reduction, I have never met another person face-to-face other than my Tres Dias cabin-mate who follows Ramsey.

Furthermore, nobody talks about their debts. And yet there I was talking on and on with a stranger about the mistakes each of us had made to become indebted, about how we had come to follow the same debt-reduction guru, and about the specific strategies we were each using to move forward.

Our Tres Dias theme song

Every Tres Dias weekend has its own theme song that participants and facilitators sing several times a day. Ours was Mercy Me’s God With Us. The chorus includes these words: “My heart sings a brand new song / The debt is paid / these chains are gone / Emmanuel, God with us.”

The weekend was powerful in many ways, not the least of which was in its leaving me with no doubt that in choosing to get out of debt, DH and I were doing something profoundly right. And we weren’t taking it on alone.

September 2018

Our 25th wedding anniversary

In September of 2018, we will make our last mortgage payment. October 2 will be our 25th wedding anniversary. October will be our first month ever of complete debt-freedom. Isn’t that beautiful? I find that a remarkable coincidence!

Conflict over finances is the #1 reason for divorce, and I understand why. During our years of financial stress, we came too close for comfort to the breaking point. Our journey out of debt has been something that has unified us. A friend of ours has said more than once how obvious it is that DH and I have become stronger as a couple. Our eldest daughter, who has lived away from home for many years, says that she is struck by it too.

DH and I have set the date for a combined anniversary/debt-freedom celebration at the end of September.

The publication of one of my posts

Three months ago, I was surprised to receive an email message from someone who works for Activated, an online Christian magazine. She was asking if I’d be “okay” with their publication of one of my blog posts. I was more than “okay”! I was thrilled!

It was an awkwardly titled post that I’d written 4 years ago: “Debt, Faith, Fitness, Remembrance, and Freedom“. In it, I dissected the problem I’d had with the concept of building wealth. “Where I associate debt reduction with becoming responsible, exercising discipline, and cleaning up my act,” I wrote, “I have a stubbornly ingrained (and false) association of wealth building with greed and selfishness.” I recognized that my false notions of financial health had played a part in my old self-sabotaging financial management. I wanted to put a stop to the sabotage and to pursue the freedom of strong finances.

At the time I wrote the post, we were just two years into our journey out of debt. I looked ahead to a future of debt-freedom with cautious hope:

“We’re still a long way from paying off our debt and getting our financial house in order. Time will tell if we maintain the discipline necessary to keep things going in a positive direction once we’re out of the red. Time will tell if we use our growing financial freedom well and generously or if we squander it foolishly. My hope is that we will embrace it and that we’ll “stand firm” to maintain it – because I don’t like captivity. It is for freedom that we are set free. I want to live it.”

I accepted the terms of the post’s publication and asked when it would be featured. It will be published in September – the month of our last payment.

Spiritual bookends

So let’s review. In the beginning, in June of 2012:

  • The Tres Dias weekend happened the same month we began our journey out of debt. At no other time in my life have I attended an overnight Christian retreat.
  • My cabin-mate and I, who were strangers, talked about debt within minutes of meeting each other. We each followed Ramsey – who is not well known in Canada.
  • The song chosen for our Tres Dias weekend included “The debt is paid / these chains are gone” – and we sang these words multiple times per day.

And for the grand finale in September of 2018:

  • Our debt-freedom coincides with our 25th wedding anniversary. I find this profoundly symbolic.
  • In September, an article that I wrote 4 years ago about my hopes for our debt-freedom is going to be published in a Christian magazine.

I don’t think I’m making connections where none exists. They do exist. And I think they’re wonderful.


Your comments are welcome. 


Image courtesy of Jeri’s Organizing & Decluttering News

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prudencedebtfree

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • What a cool story–a true “well-told tale” that comes full circle. I love it that your journey has been spiritual as well as practical. I think so much of our money concerns are really spiritual and emotional ones. Starting there helps us work out the practical side with more ease.

    • Thank you, Kalie. For us, starting with the practical side helped to make the deeper root issues surface, and as we dealt with those, the practical side did work out with more ease. It’s a messy business to get out of a mess, but worth it on multiple levels.

    • Thanks, Bran. I love the fact that the two are happening at the same time. Definitely a time of thankfulness!

  • I am so happy for you and your DH! Your spiritual journey choked me up 🙂

    I like to call coincidences “Godincidences”, because I see His hand in every aspect of my life, and the intricate way that He weaves our lives is truly amazing!

    Your story is so inspiring. Are you planning on going to Nashville to do your Dave Ramsay scream as your big celebration?

    I envision your future entailing a writing career, Ruth. You have so much insight and wisdom to offer the world. The best is yet to come …

    • Oh, I like your comment, Nancy! We hope to go to Nashville. I’ve sent in our request, but we won’t hear back for a number of weeks. We will also have a party at home late September. I believe that what you say is true: “The best is yet to come.” Thank you!!

      • I just re-read your very first post back in May 2012 – you’ve come a long way baby! High five to you both!!

        • I went back and read it too after seeing your comment. Sort of surreal. Thanks for the high-five 🙂

    • I love it when they come together too:) I get anxious about organizing parties, but this one has got to happen – and I’m hoping it will be great!

  • Long time since I’ve last been here to visit but congrats on the multiple accomplishments and being debt-free and celebrating 25 years of marriage at the same time!
    When you look back at how life unfolds, it really is crazy how one-off events weave together.
    We just went to a family Christian retreat two weekends ago and almost everybody had heard of Dave Ramsey. Of course, it was right outside Nashville where Dave lives so that worked to our advantage.

    • Thank you, Josh. Good to hear from you again! My impression is that Ramsey is a household name in much of the U.S. – but especially Nashville. I would love to visit the city in the fall. It would be like a pilgrimage at a key point in our lives:)

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