What 16 Cents Taught Me About God

The light was finally at the end of an eight-year tunnel. We had whittled away at this student loan for years, sometimes only paying the minimum, but often paying more. At last we were finally at a point where we could make one last push, put our savings account to a slightly uncomfortable level for me, and get this thing out of our hair once and for all. I went online and paid the remaining amount on the loan. After 4pm. On a Thursday. And it takes more than 24 hours for the thing to process. Interest adds daily.

Always read the fine print.

By the end of the day on Friday the payment had finally posted. Then I looked at the “amount due” line, fully expecting see $0.00 and ready to let out an excited scream. Instead, I read our new balance of $.16.

Sixteen cents. Eight years and thousands of dollars and it comes down to this?

And so I went digging for information on how to properly pay off this pesky loan. I recommend doing this step first. I learned that the payoff amount should be mailed in, with the extra days of interest figured in for the time it would be in the mail. Good to know. Oh, and all this information could best be found BEFORE logging into your account on the website. Helpful.

By this point I was a little more than frustrated. And when you’re frustrated (and have a slightly sarcastic sense of humor) you make less-than-helpful suggestions to your poor husband. Once we decided that mailing a 16 cent check or a collection of pennies and nickels wouldn’t be too smart, we landed on just trying to pay the remaining amount and see what would happen. I reasoned that the lender probably wouldn’t care how they get their money, as long as they get it. Jeff even suggested I over pay to compensate for whatever we would be charged while we waited for it to process (which was a great idea, if the lender would let you pay more than the total amount owed – which they don’t). Sigh.

I think I checked that account about 50 times in the next 24ish hours waiting to see what would happen. I also think I held my breath every time. How many more payments of 16 cents would we need to make? Is this my life now? Why do loans have to be so complicated? Why does out-of-state private college tuition have to be so expensive? But finally, there it was, those three lovely little numbers next to my “balance due”… $0.00.

Jeff suggested we give it a week and keep checking back, just in case. Every time I checked my confidence grew that the payment took and we were done with this loan. I nearly forgot all about it until the other day when I got an email from the lender. Great. I held my breath, expecting the worst but trying to hope for the best as I clicked through to my account to read the correspondence they left for me:

"Congratulations! Your student loan is paid off!"

I let out the breath I’d been holding in. Finally, it’s done! And it got me thinking that God really does provide – and not just financially. This whole experience paying off debt has given me a deeper understanding of how Jesus paid my debt – and how much of a sacrifice that really was. And it showed me more about who God is in relationship to the debt I owed Him. And it made me incredibly happy that God didn’t deal with humanity’s debt the way money lenders do.

There’s no fine print with God. Unless your Bible is in a really tiny font. But seriously, God didn’t handle the debt our sin created with a bunch of hoops to jump through. God’s instructions for salvation and for living life as His child are so clearly set up in the Bible. He is extremely clear about the fact that we can’t pay off our own debt. He’s also crystal clear on the fact that only Jesus can.

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

There are clear rules for paying off our debt. Because if you don’t know the way the debt is paid, how will it get done? My lender apparently didn’t really care how they got their money – online, check, or whatever. God cares deeply that we’re restored to Himself, and He cares deeply about how that happens. Anyone or anything that tells you there’s another way to God other than Jesus is wrong. And trying to pay this debt the wrong way won’t work.

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12

One payment was all it took. It took me eight years to pay off one loan. I still have another student loan I’m still working on, too. Sure, God’s timing in sending a Savior took a while in human terms, but when it came to the act of salvation by Jesus’ dying on the cross, one payment was all it took to clear the debt for all of humanity for all time.

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” Romans 6:9-10

Once the payment was made, it’s done. For good. We don’t have to hold our breath wondering if Jesus’ sacrifice was enough. We don’t have to try to pay God back for what He’s done for us. We can’t do enough or be enough or try enough to get ourselves right with God again. Jesus already did everything that needs to be done. His payment – His life – was enough. There’s nothing more we need to do. There’s nothing more we can do.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Paid in full is a wonderful thing. 

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