Kimberly Eddy

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A Story About Debt, Self-Righteousness, Shame, and Grace

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Knowing my God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults
Knowing My God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults
Formats Available: Paperback
Knowing My God Guided Bible Study Journal for Teens and Adults

This post is just a little more insight into who I am and where I’m coming from. It took me a while to put it into words, and to pare it down so it wasn’t 20,000 words long. I know it’s still long. 

But this is my story, at least the parts where money, passion, mindset and faith intersect. 

Reflections and Wrong Turns

Throughout the year before our move to Georgia, I stayed behind and decluttered the entire house that we called home for 25 years, and went through all of the memories, emotions, and hard times we experienced while in that house. The person who moved into that house in 1998 was not the same person who moved out of it in 2023, suffice it to say.

And that’s not a bad thing. 

Learning, growing, maturing and always improving should be the hallmark of our lives, no?

The person I was when I moved into the house was pretty awful. She was well meaning, but she was not the best version of me, by a long shot. 

Having converted to Christianity in the early 1990s, I fell in with the wrong crowd so to speak, and allowed my insecurities and feelings of worthlessness that I’ve battled all my life to drive me towards the opposite extreme of legalism and fundamentalism. 

Basically, there’s following the Jesus you meet in the Bible and then there’s the Jesus of fundamentalism that has a long list of rules that you can follow and enforce to make yourself feel better than everyone else.  

After we had gotten married in the early 1990s, we set about to build our credit, per the counsel of many family members who kept urging us to get loans and cards all over town. Now I’ve since written about why your credit score is a good thing, and why we should build our credit. But at that moment in our lives, we were both young and dumb, lacking maturity and self control. So you know what happened, right?

Our families both advised us young and naïve newlyweds that the way to have stuff is to charge it, and that building your credit by buying “big purchase” things on credit is helpful for the future. I remember my dad insisting I should get a new sofa, and to look at the “no payments until next year” deal they are having. 

Truly the husband and I, despite being relatively smart people on the whole, had no clue what sort of trouble we were borrowing for ourselves by overextending in this way, and it took a few years to recover from this. 

Around this time, I became friends with a woman who seemed to have it all together in ways I did not, and she offered to help me learn and grow. She invited me to a seminar she was attending, certain I’d find it useful.  It felt spot on, because it fed into the inferiority complex I had at the time, and my need to figure out where I fit in church in general. Also, it worked within the framework I had where I felt the need to always work hard to earn love and approval. They encouraged me to buy a set of hardcover books on finances (ironically costing more than my weekly paycheck), and together she and I studied them.

If I had a time machine, I’d tell my younger self to stay away from that seminar, that mentor, and those books. 

As I mentioned, there were some other issues, under the surface, I was battling without knowing it. I grew up feeling like I always had to earn love and approval. Whether consciously or subconsciously, love and acceptance was withheld if I didn’t measure up.

So, a book full of rules to follow to make sure I earned God’s love and approval was right up my alley at the time. 

Now, I look back with horror at the stuff I absorbed from this very messed up teacher.

Among other things that were pushed on me around this time included encouraging me away from my profession in marketing and design. I went to art school, worked in graphic design in the marketing field. This apparently was “carnal” and not something I should want to do with my life. 

Despite my passion for art and design, I wanted to earn God’s love, so I gave it up “for Jesus”.

This teacher twisted Bible verses to put out a very legalistically unhealthy view of family life, faith, and money, and to demonstrate some “clearly” defined cause and effect regarding our lives and our money.

What do I mean?

He found all kinds of “principles” that showed many instances of  “if you do this, then this happens. If you don’t do this, then that happens.” 

The main problem was, this is how my brain works. I like stuff like that.

I like logic. I like it when A + B = C.

I don’t like nebulous promises. I don’t like it when I don’t know the short term outcome. I like it when someone can show me “If you do this, you’re guaranteed this will happen”. I like certainty. I like some semblance of control. I love having something to do to make things happen.

This kind of doctrine is flawed on many levels, not the least of which is the ways in which it negates grace and circumstances beyond your control. 

So, I now had before me a list of things to do (and not do) to be prospered by God! This teacher implied that if you didn’t give what you were supposed to give that week to God (to your church) then God would “collect’ it somehow, such as a car breaking down, to punish you.

So, when the car broke down, I thought, “It must be because I didn’t give enough in the offering plate or because I didn’t…….” It had nothing to do, of course, with me driving a clunker. 

Instead it was like Monopoly. “Pass go, collect $200” “Land on park place, pay your brother outrageous rent”.

The church we were attending got a new pastor who started to ease us all into deeper and deeper legalism too. I think if it was just a sudden change, I would have caught it and ran for the hills. But at the time, it seeped in like mold. 

One sermon that stands out in my mind from over 20 years ago was about a man who didn’t “pay his tithes” so God had hogs break into the house and eat all the groceries and he, the wife, and the kids went hungry that week. Crazy right?  But at the time, in my mind, I was like, “Yikes, I better pay God before He kneecaps me, mafia style.” 

Super messed up stuff. God isn’t the godfather of a mob, you guys.

Does this seem silly? It does to me now, but at the time I was dead serious.

I was trusting God for provision so long as I was doing my part.

In other words, my trust in God was based on my own good works. Let’s call a spade a spade. And ironically, all of that stuff about loving your neighbor or anything that sounded too liberal wasn’t part of the good works I was encouraged to embrace.

It wasn’t just like this with financial stuff though, but with every aspect of life. I was never completely all in on some crazy things going on around me amongst legalistic Christians I knew. My husband was not on board with most of this and kept trying to get me to see reason when he felt like I was going too far off the rails. In my mind though, I was constantly trying to prove I was worthy of God.  

Our Dream Home

We were living in a mobile home at the time, but saving towards buying a house, and we had nearly paid down all of our debt. Eventually we were able to do just that and get the house of our dreams. 

We found the perfect house – our dream house – which we fell in love with almost as soon as we saw it. We felt very proud of ourselves too. We had been pre-approved for three times as much as what this house cost, so clearly we were being very frugal in our purchase. The guy who wrote those fancy, legalistic hardbound books would definitely approve, though he’d say it would have been better to pay cash of course.

The new house was not too far from hubby’s new job, in a rural area, and everything was perfect.

Within a few years though, my husband came home from work very early. 

It turns out, the company was boarded up when he got there, permanently closed without warning their employees. And, to add insult to injury, the last two paychecks bounced. 

I think if the bossman stood in front of me at that moment, he would have incurred the wrath of a pregnant, hormonal and completely enraged Red Head. Hubby lovingly refers to this as a Ginger Snap. 

By this time, I had been out of the workforce for a while, raising kids, so it wasn’t like I could just return to work and have a job that could cover childcare. And the next job hubby could find, after a month of looking, came with a huge pay cut. We were in trouble.

This situation continued for nearly 15 years. 

Through it all, I got very good at being frugal. The garden in the backyard fed us 90%. Though we were not zoned to have chickens, I had chickens anyway. It used to frustrate me when people would help by buying us groceries because food was one thing I was absolutely good for, especially since we had so many food allergies in our family. Food banks weren’t really practical because of food allergies too, and I felt guilty when I couldn’t use most of it.

I also had a dozen side hustles, from selling ebooks to designing logos and websites. I wasn’t too successful at the time (I’ve come to realize poverty and desperation really affect your brain in bad ways), but I was thankful for every little bit I earned.

I liked to say I was learning to gather manna one day at a time and seeing provision in unexpected ways.

One day, in fact, while we were praying about a need we had that we weren’t sure how we were going to pay it in time (a small amount but impossible nonetheless), a woman knocked on my door. She told me she always admired my irises in front of the house and was wondering if she could buy some off of me. I told her of course, and I also said I wasn’t sure how much they were worth so whatever she deemed right would be good by me. She gave me the exact right amount we needed. 

I have hundreds of stories like that one that we experienced. 

An Undesired Choice

The breaking point was when the mortgage company had a computer glitch that accidentally took out multiple payments, then marked our mortgage as behind when they refunded the money. They did this five times, and it was showing us as being five months behind.

Dear husband came to me one day after talking to a lawyer about the mortgage glitch, and said, “We can’t keep doing this. We have to let the house go and file bankruptcy. The house is falling apart, I’m falling apart, you’re falling apart. Honey, we can’t keep doing this.”

Now, I knew from the expensive set of hardbound books that one of the most evil things on this planet was a Christian filing bankruptcy, so I said no. He needed my signature to make it happen, so I dug in my heels while seeking God.

Okay, let’s change that. I wasn’t seeking God. I was demanding that God do something so I wouldn’t have to give in to something that I thought was wrong. And to be honest, I still think it’s definitely not the ideal. When you create debts, you should ideally pay them. Sometimes, life happens and it becomes impossible. I didn’t fully see it at the time, but even in the Bible, there is a year of Jubilee, where all debts (even student loans! How liberal!), are forgiven. 

Grace, my friends. 

Instead of me embracing my Jubilee, we fought over this for a few years. He would periodically bring it up, and put pressure on me about it, and I’d dig in, and work even harder to fix the problem.

Since the time of the original pay cut, we had even more pay cuts, to the point where my husband was earning about 30% of what he was earning when we bought the house. And, to make matters worse, despite us putting a large down payment on the house, housing values had sunk in our area, our home repairs were often neglected, and our house was not worth what we owed on it after 15 years of paying on it. 

Instead of the circumstances changing, we were further and further behind and I was angrier and angrier with God and husband. Finally, I gave in.

On my birthday that year, we filed.

We didn’t actually completely file. It took over 7 months to come up with enough money to file. How do you know you’re broke? When you can’t afford to file bankruptcy! 😉

I felt nothing but contempt for my husband for it, which is silly given that this is a man who has been working 60-80 hours a week, driving 90 minutes each way to work, in spite of the incredible shrinking paycheck.

 “Good grief, Mrs. Eddy! How have you been surviving?” the legal team asked. Our grocery budget was also too low.

Too low? Shouldn’t someone on the verge of bankruptcy not be spending “enough” on groceries? Someone who has gotten themselves into this situation doesn’t deserve “enough”, I thought at the time. 

You guys, legalism and fundamentalism is UGLY. It’s just nasty stuff. 

It makes good people nasty. 

Legalism Rears Its Head

I didn’t realize it until a few months later, but this attitude…. whether it’s “I deserve better” or “I deserve to be punished”….comes from legalism and pride. It comes from believing that it’s all up to me. Or, in the case of a married couple, “it’s all up to us”.

Legalism always turns you into an angry person eventually (though you may not realize it at first), because you’re always relying on your performance for God’s favor. You don’t notice it until things go wrong in your life. When circumstances derail you from the “ideal”…watch out. That’s when it shows up.

And, if favor is based on performance, but circumstances make it humanly impossible to perform as you should (a recession making income go down and bills go unpaid), then you live in a state of perpetual frustration, where circumstances drive your moods.

In contrast, grace – trusting in a loving God who isn’t limited by circumstances to work things out in a way He knows is best not necessarily as we want them to work out– allows us to rise above those circumstances with God, no matter the outcome. The God who instituted Jubilee. The Jesus of the Bible who treated women with respect and hung out with those viewed as the dregs of society at the time isn’t waiting to smack me down. 

I was sitting there, in bankruptcy court, many months later, waiting my turn, full of condemnation, choking back the overwhelming urge to puke, and shaky from not eating for days, when all of this came to a head.  I was praying for the rapture or to be hit by a bus or something. I didn’t want to live to see this day arrive.

The trustee was a nice guy.

I was expecting what I felt like I deserved: a lecture telling me how evil I was for allowing this to happen. Being called a moron. Something. 

Maybe we just looked good to the trustee of the court because the guy in front of us corrected the trustee each time they said “boat” instead of “Catamaran”, as he argued why he needed to keep his Catamaran while having his debts wiped away.

Maybe we looked good because we pulled up at the same time as the trustee, without knowing it, and parked next to him. We were driving our “new” car: a 1980’s era ford fiesta we bought on craig’s list for $200, with a paint job courtesy of no-brand spray paint done by the teenager who owned it last. Yes, we bought a car from a teenager who was upgrading.

Very classy.

The trustee started asking me how it was that I fed seven people on the number I wrote down for groceries and toiletries. I told him I worked hard to be very frugal. “You need to hang out with my wife, ma’am!” He said with a laugh. A creditor sitting at the table for someone else agreed. The only creditor that showed up that worked for someone we owed said that he had no questions and no contest. He was mostly there for someone else. And he said to us something to the effect of, you probably should have been in here years ago.

“This is cut and dry. You guys can go home. No more questions.” said the Trustee.

What? That’s it? “Are you sure?” I asked. Snickers broke out in the room. I even got a chuckle out of the one creditor that worked for a company we owed. Everyone at the table looked at me with an amused look on their faces.

“You had debts you couldn’t possibly pay yourselves. You’ve actually paid your principal more than twice on a few of these debts. Go home. Have a nice evening, folks!”

I was actually a little irritated by this. How can he be that nice? How can anyone in that room stomach people showing up in their brand new SUV’s to file bankruptcy and ask to keep their catamaran’s with a straight face? Ugh, I wanted to smack the catamaran guy.

Grace Makes an Appearance

In the foyer, I went into the bathroom and puked again. I spent most of the time from my birthday when we originally filed paperwork until that day doing this.

I got out of the restroom, and my husband was on the cell phone with work. Out the door came our one creditor, an older guy in perhaps his 60s. He was whistling and had a spring in his step.

He looked at me sitting there looking like I was going to be sick again, and struck up a conversation.

Honestly and truly that was the last person on the planet I wanted to have a cheerful conversation with. If he were angry and wanted to yell at me, that would have been fine. I deserved that. I didn’t want to be talking a cheerful grandfatherly sort of fellow while walking out of bankruptcy court with a spring in his step.

“Can I ask you something?” He said, smiling at me.

“Uh, sure.”

“You’re a Christian aren’t you?”

“Uh, yes. I am. 20 years now.” I felt ashamed to admit to it given that I just committed what I felt to be an act of unspeakable evil.

“I don’t normally do this,” he said. “I don’t want you to think I’m a weirdo. The Lord is laying on my heart to tell you something. Is that okay?…”

Oh good, I thought, someone is finally going to yell at me today.

He sighed and smiled before speaking. I was trying not to make eye contact. I hate crying in front of people.

“God wants  you to know….this is grace. Grace is when you have a debt you created that you couldn’t possibly pay back on your own. Grace is when you’re sorry for your sin, and you’ve admitted you can’t pay the debt back by any possible human means…..”

Tears started rolling. Tears are rolling while I type this.

“But dear sister, pride and legalism is when we don’t want someone to forgive us. Pride and legalism happen when we want to be the ones to save ourselves. People like you work hard to get out of debt because you want to be able to say I did it! God wants you to know today, dear sister, that HE did it. You’ve asked God to let you be debt free right?”

I nodded.

“Honey, He just answered your prayer. Congratulations. You’re debt free.”

“BUT! That’s not how I wanted it. I wanted to–”

“Do it yourself?” he interrupted. “Work hard and get there on your own? I’ve seen your paperwork; you’ve worked hard. Most of this you’ve paid off the principle several times already.  But it would have never been enough. Y’all paid for that house twice, but still are underwater and losing it because the housing values in your area have sunk. Good grief, you should have at least bought your kids a Wii or something. God wanted you to know His love once more and to remind you of His grace through this object lesson.”

I realized suddenly that it wasn’t really some standard of holiness or a pure desire to do right that was frustrating me with this whole thing.

It really was my pride. It was my legalistic spirit. It was me wanting to get out of this frustrating situation on my own strength. It was a desire to work hard on my own to be debt free. It was a subconscious desire to take credit for it.

He told me “I like working the bankruptcy court circuit. All of these people are being shown grace, but so few appreciate it and fewer still really understand it…”

“It doesn’t seem fair,” I said.

“If  it makes you feel any better….’go and sin no more’.” He laughed and started for the door.

“Promise me something,”He said, turning around.


“Stop beating yourself up. Take the grace.”

The Surprising Gift

There’s an even more shocking PostScript to this story. 

After bankruptcy court, it was time to go home and wait to be thrown out of the house by the foreclosure people. We were saving up cash to buy one of the cheap, run down foreclosures that were being sold at auction for under $20,000 in our economically depressed area, but that was not going well either.

For over three years, we waited for notice that we needed to leave the house. 

Our lawyer advised that we not leave before they kick us out as we’re liable for any damage to the house if we leave (such as if squatters get in).

I think waiting was one of the worst parts of it.

One day, the mailman had certified mail for my husband and I. It was from the mortgage company.

Great. Here it comes.

Instead, I opened the envelope, dropped to my knees, and screamed. I couldn’t even speak. 

It turns out, our mortgage company stopped foreclosure and gave us our house, free and clear. I suppose that was the right thing to do, since we had paid for the house nearly 2.5 times over.

We have celebrated that day in our family as a holiday since then. This year was the first year since that day that I wasn’t in that house (having moved to Georgia for a better job – the first job in 25 years that paid more than the job he lost 25 years ago). It felt weird and full of mixed emotions, but thanks to that surprising gift, we were able to get on our feet and find ourselves here. 

I know that’s a long story. 

But it’s our story.

And I feel like it’s important for me to be vulnerable with you and share where I’m coming from when I’m talking about all of this stuff regarding going after your passion, growing personally, and overcoming mindset hurdles. 

It really starts with your heart and mind. 

The wrong mindset on yourself and on money or other parts of life can lead you down paths that only cripple you.

And sometimes circumstances can’t simply be changed in an instant. Things take time. 

But we do what we have to do, pressing forward, leaning on grace, being gentle with ourselves, and doing what is in our power to do when we can. 

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