Last night we had a fire in the big terracotta flower pot by our front door, drank some sparkling wine as the fire burned, and had our son take some photos of our celebration. It is against the local bylaws to burn anything, unless it’s a fire for the purposes of cooking food. But it was only a teeny tiny fire, and out almost as quickly as it started. Please don’t tell!
So, we put matches to paper and burned away the remaining evidence of a long-term debt that is now paid off. What a feeling of relief and release. For the very first time our home really is our home.
I remember our first home, and the first time we got a mortgage statement in the mail, and how shocked I was at the small percentage of principal we had paid versus the large amount of interest. The reality of our debt hit hard. The years of payments ahead seemed endless at the time. Then, suddenly, we are free!
Being free of this particular debt now frees up funds for the next phase of our lives. Our kids are growing older, and years of University/College expenses loom just ahead. With finances freed up, our desire to be more philanthropic and ensure financial stability in our elder years now seems attainable.
I shared my new feelings of lightness and freedom with a dear friend whom I knew would celebrate with me. And she understood completely. Her thoughts around canceling her own long-term debt were that if something should happen to her husband, and they had the mortgage paid off, at least she’d have the family home for her and the kids… a solid place to land. She is such a good mom.
But what about the other debts we carry that weigh on us, like debts of action or inaction that have effected others in a negative way? My husband would call that guilt… and so it is. The debt of guilt. Now that’s another heavy thing that we don’t need to carry around with us, but we do. To live lightly, without guilt, requires a type of payment too. To pay this type of debt, you might need to take some action, forgive someone, or, alternately, you might need to ask someone’s forgiveness. Only then can you unload the guilt and start fresh. And being human means you, like me, probably have to do this A LOT!
And, what about the debt of sin? Maybe not a word you are comfortable with, but sin is something that I can’t ignore in my life. If you consider what the Bible says, and you believe it to be true, then it’s clear that there is no such thing as someone who is free of sin. The Bible says, “No not one”. So, if we aren’t free of it, what’s the outcome of that human condition? The Bible says, “The wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
Now, the wages of sin sound a lot like a debt to me? Let’s look at how another version called The Message says it, “Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” In this case, wages or pension is the natural outcome of where you’ve made your life investment. If it’s in sin, then the outcome is eternal separation from God. If you’ve invested in God, then the outcome is eternal life with God.
You might be thinking, I’m a good person. I try hard not to sin. I do my best to follow the 10 commandments and the golden rule. So do I. But it’s virtually impossible to do. We all fall short of a God who is Holy. No matter how hard we try, we fall short. Bible says our very best acts of righteousness are just like dirty rags before God. So, like that financial obligation (mortgage) that we worked and worked at, and paid only a tiny part of the principle for years, so this sin debt is not within our power to pay. And, if we desire to be with God, be one of his children, be made right and without sin, then that debt of sin, that obligation, needs to be canceled somehow.
So, here we are faced with the reality of having a huge debt to pay and no way to pay it. And God steps in and says, here, here is my Son. He will pay. Jesus will pay your entire debt and give you complete freedom from what you owe due to your inherent sin condition. And my Son will pay your debt with his life. He will die so you can live. Live forever, starting the moment you receive my gift of forgiveness and new life.
As we go through Lent, a time of preparation that leads us to the holy season of Easter, I can’t help but think about what Jesus paid FOR ME, and what he gave TO ME. Jesus gave me ultimate freedom and eternally canceled debt. In return I want to invest my life in him and his ways. That’s a mystery in itself, but one I’m willing to unpack day by day.
Today I’m celebrating freedom from financial and spiritual debt. And I feel light. I feel free.