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Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I decided that Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday/Holiday was the best day to look at my pile of past due bills and other financial papers. Instead of ignoring them as I usually do because of my lack of funds, I chose to face them and sacrifice what little I have to pay my bills. I feel better knowing I no longer have to look at them. (sighs)
Then I opened up my undergraduate student loan invoice. I'm still in school, so usually these get filed away both literally and mentally. I read that my principal balance is over $13,000 and cringed a bit, knowing that I wouldn't be able to pay that off for awhile, but it was within my reach to eventually achieve once I have a Master's level job and the salary that comes with it, right?
I felt adventurous and decided to log into my Sallie-Mae account online to look into the details of my student loans. I was silently thinking to myself, "Wow! I got away with murder with these loans, because I'm pretty sure my degree cost me over $60,000 after scholarships and grants...I guess I got some freebies somewhere I didn't see before."
Boy, was I ever wrong. I opened up my account to find that I owe nearly $65,000 just for my undergraduate degree. I'm in graduate school and will have to add well over $75,000. That's over $140,000 for education alone; needless to say, I flipped out. I'm due to graduate at the end of this year. Sadly, both the economy and the job market look pretty bad for my field; even at my education level. It seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction; financially, anyway.
I tried to go to sleep later that night, but I had a series of weird, meaningless dreams that kept me up. I laid in my bed with thoughts of being in poverty the rest of my life with no hope of a way out. I made promises to myself that i would clean up my finances and put my life in order, but I began to weep in despair because I truly have no idea where to start and how to go about accomplishing such a heavy task.
Finally around 6 am I gave up all my restless thoughts and just cried to God for help; I felt much like the prodigal son from Christ's sermon found in Luke 15
"...And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
I prayed for mercy and asked that my heart would no longer be filled with darkness and despair. I prayed that my Father in Heaven would allow me back into His household, even as one of His servants, instead of His son. I knew there was no other way to live if I did not humble myself before my Father and seek away out from my darkness and famine.
"And [I] arose, and came to [my] Father. But when [I] was yet a great way off, my Father saw me, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on [my] neck, and kissed [me]. And [I] said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."
My eyes were filled with tears, but this time for joy because I knew my prayers had been heard. My Father in Heaven isn't going to fill up my bank account and pay off my debts, but He has and will fill up my spirit with love and peace. He will help me find ways to pay off my debt and live comfortably as I work hard to do what is right and live within my means.
As I prepared for my day, I opened up my scriptures for the first time in over a year and read where I had last left off. In Hebrews 10 and 11 it reads:
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions...Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise...Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
I smiled and realized that to receive God's blessings of comfort and security I would need faith and patience. It is not always easy to rely on the Lord's timing, but it is required for peace and happiness. I wondered how this might effect my day moving forward because I read that wonderful line that spoke to me gently saying now that you have received illumination you will endure a great fight of afflictions. At least it's not Monday, right?
I went on cleaning up my room and getting ready for work. I decided I needed some music to listen to because it was amazingly too silent for New York City at 7 am. A beautiful version of that stately hymn, Come, Come Ye Saints came on and the verse repeated the day's theme and lesson to be learned:
"Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so, all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward,
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take;
Our God will never us forsake."
Well it was time to get on with the day and I left the apartment with great optimism that I would have a wonderful winter's morning. Immediately outside of the apartment building began the list of things that would try and test my patience but also offer me a chance to see that it wasn't all that bad:
The light snow turned into icy rain; I didn't bring an umbrella and the sidewalks turned into a slippery, slushy mess. However; I didn't have very far to go to my train station and I was warm.
The dry cleaners wife doesn't speak English and doesn't know how to use a credit card. However; I don't have to pay until Thursday.
I got on a train that was stuck behind another train with a sick passenger. A 30 minute trip turned into an hour. However; I got to sit down.
A large woman squished into a tiny open spot on the subway bench making it very uncomfortable for me to sit down. However; I still didn't have to stand up the entire hour and constantly shift around as more passengers boarded.
A soaking wet woman and her soaking wet umbrella stood right next to me and began to drip all over the floor. However; I was not soaking wet and cold and she wasn't really getting me wet at all.
I had trouble getting around people and their gigantic umbrellas while slipping all over the sidewalks. However; I got a smoothie and oatmeal from Jamba Juice for under $4 (Usually it's like $8) to keep me happy.
People keep calling incessantly about very odd topics that have very little to do with my job. However; I get paid relatively a lot just to answer the phone. Also the Dean brought in some Dutch chocolates straight from her trip to Amsterdam; so that's not bad at all.
The point is that God loves me and it's easy for me to focus everyday on what is going wrong in my life, to lose hope and fall into despair, but truly there is a silver lining if I look for it.
"...He has poured out his Spirit upon [me], and has caused that [my] heart should be filled with joy, and has caused that [my] mouth should be stopped that [I] could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was [my] joy." Mosiah 4:20
You have been caught Jey Walking!