The desire was overwhelming. I felt like a magnet was pulling me into the store. I couldn’t resist its alluring draw. The clothes called my name; the candles drew me in with their luscious scents…and the shoes! I just couldn't resist this passion that had so suddenly overtaken me.
As I walked out of the store I thought about how I would explain the situation to my husband. I started shaking and sweating. My palms were sweaty and my heart pounded. How do I explain this? He's going to be furious. Maybe I can just hide it. He'll never know. I'll just put a little out at a time. I can intercept the credit card bill, and he will be none the wiser…
I was living a lie
The web of deceit was encompassing me and closing in more tightly. I had lived this lie for so long that I thought it to be truth. People will love me if I dress in all the latest fashions. If I give my friend this beautiful candle and card, she will like me even more. How wrong I was to think this! I had fallen into a trap of deceit, lies and over-spending. My mind was never still. The constant turmoil was causing me to lose sleep, my health was bad, and I had little or no patience for my family. I felt I couldn’t even leave my house because I had to intercept the bills in the mail. I had never felt such a distance from my husband.
Matthew 6:24 tells us, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
How did I ever let this spending get so out of control? I needed to reach back in the recesses of mind and figure out what brought me to this point. When did this just become second nature? What ever made me think this was the “easy” road?
I remember my first credit card - I was a new graduate and entering the adult world. How easy and fun it was to receive that first card. And the first time it was swiped, oh the power it wielded! At first I didn’t go overboard, but then it became easier to use it for those “emergencies” that always crop up. Before I knew it I had charged more than I could afford to pay off in a month. The revolving credit had taken hold of my life, and I became victim to the unending downward spiral of the “plastic god.” I lost sight of my true Master and fell victim to the world’s MasterCard.
God was trying to get my attention
This vicious cycle went on for 15 years! God was trying to get my attention, and I knew that it needed to end. But how? How do you tell someone you love that you have betrayed, deceived, lied, and wasted the money he had worked hard to earn for his family? More importantly, how do you tell a God that loves you enough to send His Son to die in your place that you have betrayed Him? Truly submitting and humbling myself before God was something that seemed very foreign to me because it had been so long since I had done this.
I tried to recall what I had spent the money on but could not come up with an answer. Things…that’s all, just things. I knew that I needed to tell my husband, but how? I did not have the courage to go to him. I was fearful that I would lose his love, my family - all that I had known as “safe.” I went to a friend and confided to her. She prayed with me and encouraged me to go to him with the whole truth.
The night I told my husband, I felt like I was having a panic attack. He admitted he knew something was going on, but did not know what. But I fell short. I blamed circumstances, people and things instead of pointing the finger directly at me.
It got better for a while and the small reprieve from the constant turmoil was nice. But I still felt like I needed to “fix it” instead of just letting go. I felt I needed to get a job to pay all the money back. I was still scrambling to correct the situation in my own way, in my own time. I felt like I was dying inside because I was giving up something that had been a part of me for so long.
I eventually fell back into the old habit of splurging and spending. But it did not go on for long. My husband confronted me. I was still hurting the people that loved me the most because I was not willing to be totally vulnerable and to be submissive to my husband. I had deprived him for so long of this God-given authority in my life.
I learned to cry out to God
I remember the day that God finally got my attention. A big spotlight shone down on me and I saw myself clearly for what I was: a liar. I saw all the ugly things I had done. What was wrong with me? How could I have done this to the people who meant the most to me? I knew I had a problem and needed help. That day was the turning point. I reached out for help and finally admitted it was me and no one else.
I had to give up all privileges and start from scratch. I was stripped of my identity: my credit cards. I felt like something I cherished had just died. I was panic-stricken. But in my desperation, I learned to cry out to God. I couldn’t make it through an hour, let alone a day, without falling helplessly at His feet. It had been a long time since I had done this, but the comfort I was feeling was wonderful; the eventual joy that came was immense.
When I was told of the total damages I was shocked - almost $50,000 of debt! The guilt washed over me again. The shame was unbearable. I felt like the whole world knew and I couldn’t look anyone in the face again. But step by step, healing came. I was not willing to go back, but was determined we could see our way clear of this obstacle. We set up some ground rules that I needed to follow. If, today you are in the same position, you may find these helpful.
* Be truthful – Do not hide anything! "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (John 8:31-32).
* Be vulnerable – You will feel as if you’re opening yourself up for more hurt, but persevere. Hide nothing. It takes courage to walk the tough road, but the results it brings are worth it.
"Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD" (Proverbs 16:19-20).
* Communicate – This is where my husband and I opened ourselves up to hurt to begin with - by not communicating. Force yourselves to talk with each other. We have found that our best time is after the kids are in bed and we can come together to share the events of the day.
"Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:6-9).
* Love – First and foremost, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5). Do not lose sight of this!
Oswald Chambers said, “Getting into the stride of God means nothing less than union with Himself. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don’t give in because the pain is bad just now. Get on with it and before long you will find you have a new vision and a new purpose.” This has proven true in my life and in our marriage.
We have worked hard to overcome the set back of my sin and God has been faithful to give us the strength to endure. It takes work to keep the lines of communication open, but it is work that we find rewarding. My husband and I have met in the middle, appreciating what each of us brings to our marriage. After nearly 17 years of marriage, we finally figured that out! Two people giving 100% of themselves makes one flesh serving God.