I have been singing this lyric for years in church, and it didn’t mean anything to me. I mean, in a Sunday-school- Jesus-is-the-answer- “it sounds great” kind of way I understood the line, but it carried little weight. That was until this week.
We live in a world right now flooded with the word “debt.” The United States is in debt. Americans are in debt. Social Security is going to go into debt. Greece is defaulting on their debt. China is holding our debt. Somehow we have found ourselves in an entire would where someone owes someone else a lot. And despite the dire sentiments and political wrangling, large scale debt still means little to so many of us.
The U.S. was one of the first countries in the world not to have a “debtor’s prison.” That means in this country you cannot go to jail because you owe someone else money. If things get really bad, you can simply pull the plug on your debt with this thing called bankruptcy. At least that is what the radio advertisements make it sound like. No responsibility. Maybe these have helped alleviate the burden that should be associated with the word “debt.”
I didn’t realize my lack of understanding until praying and worshiping last night. I started to tear up as I prayed for my wife and her search for employment, realizing that there is an unsaid burden we carry, and she has been taking on a huge share of it. Suddenly God gave me insight into this world of pain – one that says “we do not have enough” and “cut some more,” “give that up,” and, worst of all, “things will never change.” I was insulated from the debt world by my parents, who always seemed to have and provide more than enough (for which I am grateful). But my wife had lived through hard times and great sacrifice. And here she was carrying that same burden, feeling powerless in our own world to make a difference with what we had. We simply owed too much to be free from it for a long while. Things grew worse when we realized other people around us, close family and friends, were all in need – and we were once again powerless to help. There it was. Debt.
I cried. I agonized. I begged God to provide, for justice, for wholeness during the week. When I made it public in prayer last night, the feelings crashed upon me, the burden spilled over.
And then we went to worship God.
“My debt, is paid, there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love.”
It was a different kind of worship for me. I didn’t just hear and sing the words- I felt them. I know what debt is, now. It is a burden, a burden of powerlessness, of obligation to forces that seem outside of your control. Debt is and always has been the reality of the entire world. Whether through injustice or ignorance, humanity has come under bondage to our own wants and wills. We owe the world the fullness of what we were endowed with; of knowledge, of wisdom, of responsibility, of justice, of mercy, of grace. God made us to be caretakers. But we ignore our obligation and continue to owe.
Thankfully God is far greater and intervened. When humanity came to him, overwhelmed with the burdens of this world, his heart broke. He cancelled all the debts. Even more, he started to make deposits, investments of love and faith and peace and kindness and gentleness and self-control.
I prayed this morning – ‘Lord, please provide my wife a job, or give me a raise, or give us more money somehow.’ And I felt God asking, “why?”
Why God? Because then my wife would be happier and we could pay our debts and be free of the burden and go back to being happy just like we always have been …. I broke off. The real answer – I selfishly want my life to be easier and careless. So what if I don’t need to be dependent on God when I have everything? I’ll be comfortable and that is what is important. That is what a loving God would do.
Lies. It was like seeing myself in the mirror for the first time and realizing I am not as handsome as I think I am. In fact, I am really quite ugly. Oh Lord, forgive me.
Debt is hard.
God is ALWAYS good.
I have made obligations and I must pay for them.
But I am also free. Free to trust the great God of the universe and to let Jesus take on my burden. Free to receive an abundance of things more valuable than money.
May God richly bless all of us for the glory of His praise, for the testimony of His greatness alone.
And if debt is what it takes for me to lay my heart out before God, then so be it.