One of the verses I quoted was Luke 14;28
DH = Dear Husband
“Thank you,” said the woman who was sitting behind us at the end of the church service. “I really appreciate your courage in sharing. I’m sure that what you said touched everyone here.”
“I have so much I want to talk with you about,” said one of the greeters. Her eyes were welling. “Could we have a coffee some time?”
“Thank you for your message,” said the young father of two toddlers. And he told me about the struggles his parents had had with money as well as the plans that he and his wife were trying to sort out.
“Can you send me information about that book?” asked the pastor’s brother as he passed me his e-mail address. I told him I’d be happy to. I had spoken about Dave Ramsey’s book as part of my talk. “It was excellent,” he said – and then paused intentionally, holding my gaze to let me know it was not a trite comment. “It really was.”
DH and I spoke at church this morning. About two months ago, our pastor approached us and asked if we would be willing to give a testimony about our journey out of debt as a full sermon. He was doing a series on the renewal of the mind, and he wanted to touch upon the topic of money. I suggested to him that perhaps it would be better to ask someone else – someone who had long had personal finances all figured out. He responded by saying that most people struggle with money, and that since we had done so much thinking and soul searching about our debt, we were in a good position to share our thoughts and experiences. We accepted. And this morning, we spoke at the pulpit.
Our message will eventually be available as a podcast, and I’ll provide a link to it when it is, but more important than what we said was how people responded to it. Have you ever been to a presentation that touched people so profoundly that they were speechless for a period of time afterwards? It was like that. After he had returned to his seat, DH actually broke the slightly awkward silence with a joke. Chuckles rippled through the congregation, and the pastor finally found his voice. “What can I say but ”Thank you’?” he said. He later explained that he had thought he would do a wrap up for our talk, but that when the time came, he couldn’t find the words.
My writing of a weekly blog post about our journey out of debt has had the effect of making me very comfortable talking about money struggles. I sometimes forget that it’s still a taboo topic. But it is, and most people suffering from financial stress do so in silence. “Nobody talks about this stuff,” said the greeter during our conversation. “I mean you hear the statistics about high debt levels, but nobody ever talks about their own debt. You hear from the people who have paid off their mortgages, but you never hear from the ones who are sinking in debt.”
I had a sense that the floodgates had broken, and that people were relieved – but didn’t quite know what to do or say. I believe that many open money talks took place around the various lunch tables of our congregation after church today. “You were courageous,” I heard more than once. But while the public speaking made me nervous, the topic held no anxiety for me. No courage required.
A man with whom DH had only ever spoken at a surface level approached him to share his precarious employment and financial stress, his eyes welling up.
“You got me thinking of the money messages I received in my childhood,” said the pastor. “My parents always argued about what to buy. I learned that money was something to fight about, and that creditors were to be held at bay – meanwhile, you’d buy boats and hockey equipment …” DH couldn’t believe that even the pastor had been moved by our testimony.
“I wrote down the line that [DH] repeated,” a friend said to me over the phone this evening. “I think I was meant to hear it.”
“Maybe this was bigger than we can know,” said DH a couple of hours ago. I think he’s right. And I’m amazed. I didn’t know that by opening up to present our story, we’d be tapping into the stress of so many – offering unaccustomed relief by a sheer acknowledgement that debt problems exist – and real people, not just statistics, have them. I didn’t realize, even though we were speaking on a Sunday morning at church, that we were providing ministry.
Do you see that debt struggles have, among other things, a spiritual element? Have you ever felt the relief of knowing that someone else shared your struggles?
Comments are welcome.