I have never shared this on my blog or in a public forum or anywhere ever before. For a long time, my husband was not comfortable telling people about the bad choice we had made. Then, when he finally told me I could confess it to you, I was uncertain.
I was afraid you would feel like I have been lying to you. Like I was no longer trustworthy. And you still might feel that way, but I feel prompted in my spirit to come clean and tell you about the biggest mistake we ever made… filing bankruptcy.
Reaching the decision to file bankruptcy
You know my financial story… how we were so poor and had no room in the budget for groceries and gasoline. How we were told that with our budget as it was, no judge would allow us to file for bankruptcy.
But what you don’t know, what I have never said, was that we rewrote our budget so that the judge would let the bankruptcy pass. And so, we applied for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
While we were waiting for the judge to decide, we had to hide our van behind our home, locking the gate, from fear that it would be repossessed. We had to ignore phone calls from bill collectors. We cried… sobbed over the mess we had made for ourselves. I have never felt so completely broken and abandoned by God.
Our day in court
On the day of our hearing, we put our young son in his car seat, leaving our oldest child with my parents, and headed downtown. I can still feel the knot in my stomach.
Upon seeing us with a baby, a court assistant had us move to the from of the courtroom, which was filled with at least a hundred others unfortunate souls, and placed us in the seat where… criminals await their trial. She spoke with the judge and had our file put on top.
When he called our names, my husband and I stood shakily and told him that we understood and agreed to the terms of the bankruptcy, we agreed to submit monthly payments to a trustee, and it was done. We committed the next portion of our life to working for a trustee. To being a slave to our debt.
Realizing our mistake
During the first three years of our bankruptcy, we struggled to make payments to the trustee. At the same time, we carried tremendous guilt and shame. Most of our family had no idea what we had done, and we wanted to keep it that way.
While under the bankruptcy, we were not allowed to have a savings account or to make charitable contributions. We could not even tithe to our church. But we are givers and struggled with the pain of not being able to give when asked. That is why we started carrying the homeless bags in our van and why I would grow my hair to donate to Locks of Love. We started giving to others from what we had in our closets because we wanted to meet their needs. We could not give to God any other way, so we gave from what we had available.
Bankruptcy did not give us the freedom from debt that we craved. If anything, we were imprisoned by our debt more than ever.
A way out of bankruptcy
Income tax time rolled around and one benefit of being poor was the healthy tax refund we received. With a large sum of money coming into our possession, we looked over the bankruptcy agreement. The time had come to be honest with ourselves, admit our mistake, and pay penance.
We contacted our trustee and asked to be removed from bankruptcy. Our attorney thought we were crazy and even went to the courts without our permission to have the bankruptcy reinstated. So, we ended up calling the trustee again to sever the agreement.
Our debt was still there. The trustee had only made small payments to each account. Only our van had been cleared with us having possession of the title. So we used our income tax refund to negotiate with the creditors, and after one year had paid everything off.
But for grace
The past twelve years have included such painful moments, and I am not proud of anything we have faced. Only by God’s grace are we here today with full bellies and a roof over our family and paid-for cars (even though they are falling to pieces)… but we caused all of those problems as a result of our sin… trying to live beyond our means.
Our goal in life now is simple… to bring glory to God our Father and to share our story with you so that you might avoid the mistakes we have made.
But the grace of God… how amazing He is… how forgiving! We learned so much through the struggle, and just as a butterfly must struggle against the cocoon in order to fly, we have now found our wings and strive to live a life that is honoring to God.
Resources you might helpful on the journey:
Personal Bankruptcy Laws For Dummies