Possibly the most egregious economic and marital error I committed happened two years prior to starting our debt-slaying journey. Burdened by fear, my fiscal mindset shifted and I approached Cherie with a program to tighten our belts and tackle our bills. In retrospect, it was more of an ambush than an approach. Without warning and with the gracefulness of a bull in a china shop, my authoritative pitch failed. My husbandly and financial failure was that my plan lacked any shred of love or empathy. Remember, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25).
Structurally, the plan I accosted Cherie with was sound. The delivery, on the other hand, doomed what was a great concept. I served filet mignon on a toilet seat.
Brian: Cherie, we’re going to totally redo our finances. I want to do this.
Cherie: (blank-faced, confused stare)
Brian begins to explain. Cherie begins to protest.
End scene in awkward silence.
The more nuanced mistake involved the misconception that the first step toward financial wellness is a plan. My hyperfocus on the methodology overrated the urgency for a strategy and neglected a critical element of financial change: a shared goal. By God’s grace we course-corrected together and two years later charged toward the debt dragon’s vanquish.
Paying off an insurmountable amount of debt did not begin with a plan, a budget, or even an agreement. Instead, our journey to financial freedom began with a shared dream. Rattled and disoriented by self-inflicted oppression in the form of ever-increasing payments, dreaming together catalyzed our resolve and oriented our trajectory. While floundering in financial strain, letting life happen to you is easy but treacherous. When you live based on consumption, your marriage gets consumed by a never-ending pursuit of buying without purpose.
Dreaming together imagines a marriage where your Christ-centered connection dictates your future. Cherie and I dreamed about what our finances would look like if we didn’t owe anyone any money. What could we do? We talked about which individuals and which organizations we could give more money. Who would we bless? We hoped for a method to manage our money in a way that impacted the kingdom of God. How would God show up? We envisioned providing a college education and a future for our kids. We dreamed about retiring early. We planned potential family vacations and getaways for just the two of us. We imagined a future where we weren’t constantly stressed out about our lack of money or worrying if we could make ends meet. Would our world change? Our dreaming and God’s faithfulness led to our deliverance.
Yes, a plan followed. But first, there was a dream.
Too often we zone in on the steps required to clean up our mess. We want a program or a process or a magic mathematical formula when what we really need is a shared dream. Absent a compelling reason for improvement, money misfires persist and consumerism creeps back into the picture. Align your hearts and resources around a unified Christ-centered purpose. Yes, you will need a plan, but a flow chart won’t encourage you through difficult times the same way a clear dream will. Your plans, your budgets, and your short-term steps are designed around and because of your shared dreams. The dream always comes first. And a shared dream centered around Jesus eviscerates consumerism.
Adopting shared dreams feels unnatural at first. Asking each other these probing questions facilitates an honest discussion.
- What does a brighter financial future look like?
- What goals for our marriage, our family, and our community resonate with you?
- If our future selves wrote us a letter, what would our future selves ask us to do?
- What breaks your heart?
- What makes your heart sing?
- What are we doing now that will help us realize our shared dreams?
- What do we need to stop doing to help us realize our shared dreams?
- Do our shared dreams align with God’s will for our lives?
Growing up in the 80s, it seemed like every TV show or movie we watched featured at least one scene where a character got caught in quicksand. If you were a kid in this era, you anticipated finding quicksand on a vacation to the beach or simply in your own backyard. Adulthood revealed much less physical quicksand in our lives, but probably more metaphorical quicksand than we ever anticipated.
Consumerism sneaks in like quicksand. Before we know it, we’re up to our necks in debt, wildly grasping for something to pull us out of a hole of our own making. It’s easy to pull down someone else into the same mess or be pulled in as a casualty ourselves. As married couples we need to be on the watch for the traps of consumerism.
The remedy to consumerism is love, specifically the sacrificial love of Jesus. Serving in love and dying to ourselves reflects Jesus. Love and laying down our desires causes freedom to grow. We don’t have to be locked away in the prison of consumerism. We can have great marriages centered on Christ’s love.
How can the dreams we have for our future fuel the plan we make for our money together?
- Centering your marriage on Christ requires death to self. Where have you seen culture depict a happy marriage – commercials, sitcoms, movies, books? How is this different from or similar to a Christ-centered marriage?
Taken from Your Money, Your Marriage by Cherie and Brian Lowe. Copyright © 2018 by Cherie and Brian Lowe. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.
Cherie & Brian Lowe live to encourage couples to manage their finances well – together. Their remarkable story of paying off debt has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Redbook, NBC News, Focus on the Family, and more. The Lowes live in Indiana with their daughters, Anna and Zoe.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Gavin Penor