Today, Brandon called me at work to remind me of something that happened shortly before we were married. He was listening to the radio in the car this afternoon and there was a story on about Panera Bread Company. It brought back a memory of us going to eat dinner one night when we were newly engaged. Looking back, it’s hilarious and really it just warms my heart to think of how far the Lord has brought us in our marriage, but at the time, it was so stressful!
Since we didn’t live together or live that close to one another, we continued to date all through our engagement. We had to get creative with how we spent our time. Most of our dates consisted of Taco Bell, but for Christmas, Brandon received a Panera gift card. Since we didn’t have much money, we saved gift cards for nice dates. We still do, in fact. So, we went to Panera for dinner one night. We figured out that soup in a bread bowl was the cheapest thing we could each get that would still suffice for dinner and be almost completely covered by the $10 gift card we had. Brandon ordered potato soup, and I ordered vegetable. Sadly, when our dinner arrived at the table, the broth from the vegetable soup had soaked into the bread rendering it inedible. I had about half the soup that Brandon received. He felt so sorry for me that he insisted on ordering me something else, but I said no because I knew we couldn’t afford it.
So, shortly after Brandon and I got together, we had a conversation about debt. We were already on a path toward marriage. We discussed getting married after a month. We were engaged in two months and 23 days. Sometime between discussing marriage and actually getting engaged, I asked Brandon a really uncomfortable question. I noticed that when we went out, he made a lot of charges on his American Express card. I come from a family that has struggled financially, and I had watched my parents use consumer credit in a negative way for many years. It didn’t sit well with me that he used his credit card so often unless he paid it off each month. So, I asked.
It was a really painful conversation. I wasn’t without fault; I also misused credit cards. However, Brandon really did not want to admit to me the level of consumer debt he had. It took a full 24 hours for the truth to come out and for both of us to admit how much credit card debt we had between the two of us. Together, we had accumulated around $30,000 in consumer debt prior to marriage. That’s why our tragic dinner date at Panera was so sad. We wanted to go on a date but we couldn’t afford anything fancy. We were being so careful to save gift cards for date nights and to use coupons when we could to save on dates (remember, we weren’t married yet), but watching me eat a half a soggy bread bowl full of mushy vegetables was more than Brandon could handle. He was wracked with guilt because I was still kind of hungry and because he had so much debt. Today, he reminded me of that dinner.
Looking back, I see so clearly how the Lord has worked in our marriage to bring us closer to one another. I told my Bible study group last week that when I look back on the first year of our marriage and how the Lord helped us pay off our consumer debt, the math doesn’t even make sense to me. Our fated date at Panera was sometime in February or March of 2008, just a few weeks after we got engaged. We got married in October. I lost my job in November and was unemployed for a month. But, by our first anniversary in October 2009, we had paid off all our debt. I’m still not sure how it happened and have no explanation for it other than Jesus. It was also around this time that we heard Matt Chandler preach a sermon from Luke 10 that included our verse, Luke 10:42. Again and again, the Lord reminded us that he is our good portion.
I guess I don’t have too much reflection on this topic. Just the sweetness of the memory. It’s sweet to me that we were so saddened by a lousy bowl of soup. That bowl of soup made us feel so poor, but it also gave us another small opportunity to lean into each other and into the Lord’s provision to care for us. It’s hilarious now that we were so sad about the soup and about the debt because of how far we’ve come and how much closer we are today than we were then.
If you have ever struggled with financial sin, you know it is not easy to fully rely on God to care for you. You begin to see security in the amount of money you have in your bank account. There is a fine line to walk between hoarding and being a good steward of the resources God has given you. We still walk that line, occasionally worrying about finances even though he has given us so much and helped us overcome our financial sin. It’s difficult to not take pride in the fact that we paid off all that debt or to find a sense of security in the bank account balance. God continues to remind us that HE is taking care of us rather than the other way around. If this is your issue, know that God is glorified when we are satisfied in his provision and care.
I am so grateful. Thanks be to God.