13 March 2014

A Miracle for Lent

Nothing scares me more than money. I make enough to pay all my bills and I'm able to do most of the things I want to do, but I still live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. This makes unexpected bills especially terrifying. I received one recently from a collections agency for nearly $100 for medical treatment I received and was billed for three years ago. I paid that bill three years ago, but somehow it was decided sometime in November 2013 that I owed more. I get very anxious when it comes to matters of money that I don't understand (taxes, medical bills, insurance premiums) and that feeling is extremely exacerbated by the fact that calling my daddy and asking his advice isn't possible anymore. I wrote a letter to the collections agency saying this charge was crazy and I wouldn't pay it (but in a grown-up sounding way). A few weeks later I received another bill and, because anxiety had gotten the best of me, I ignored it.

Monday morning as I was walking to work, a number I didn't recognize called my phone and I answered it. Predictably, it was a woman from the collections agency. I immediately felt my face turn bright red and my heart started to pound. I took a deep breath and in my best big-girl voice told the woman why I hadn't and didn't feel I should pay the bill. She told me that she could lower it to $75 if I paid right then, or she could "close" the matter and I would get a 60-point hit on my (not bad, but not awesome) credit score. Since money scares me, you better believe bad credit scares me. I felt my fear and anger rising. I kept asking her why I was being billed so long after I had paid the original bill and she didn't have an answer. She just kept telling me that I had two options: pay now or deal with bad credit later. I was getting increasingly frustrated and loud. Sometimes I would catch myself and apologize and tell her I knew she was just doing her job; other times I would just snap at her. She began to warn me that they only have a limited amount of time for each call and if we didn't "resolve" this (if I didn't just pay) we would get cut off and she would be forced to "close the account" (kill my credit). I yelled at her that she wasn't giving me a choice and this wasn't fair and I just wanted to understand what this bill was for and I didn't know what to do. "Ma'am, you can either pay now or I can close the account." Defeated, I pulled out my wallet and told her I would pay. She took down my card number and the payment went through. As we were about to hang up, something I did not expect happened. I thanked her for remaining calm with me and being patient. I told her I knew none of this was her fault and apologized for getting angry. More surprising than my apology, though, was that she told me that it was okay. That I was only human and I needed to vent. She told me she understood how frustrating this was and that if she had more understanding bosses she would have liked to do more for me. I thanked her again, this time through tears, and we wished each other a good day.

When she first called, we weren't humans. She was a Collections Agent and I was a Debtor. We filled our roles and committed what we both considered to be necessary violence toward one another. My violence was my anger; her's was bullying me into giving the collections agency money. Neither of us as humans desired to do violence, but we were trapped in our roles by an unfair system. She felt forced to be a bully; I felt forced to be a bitch.

But once we both stepped out of our roles, we found our humanity. I recognized that I was speaking to a woman who probably hated that this was what she had to do to make a living. She recognized that she was speaking to a scared little girl. I hope that she encountered God when I validated the difficulty of her work. I know I encountered God when she affirmed that it was okay for me to be scared.

Lent is a time for us to focus on creating space to encounter God. But I think God also takes advantage of this time by getting into everything. Squeezing through every crack and showing up in every shadow. God wiggled into my conversation with a collections agent of all places!

I'm sure God loves the big, booming miracles like parting a sea or raising the dead, but I'd bet that God's favorite miracles are the little ones. Lent is a season abounding with little miracles. From every bulb that waited patiently all winter to sprout to each time we take a moment to embrace each other's humanity. I don't know if my Lenten miracle was me apologizing or her forgiving me, but I do know that it was a miracle. And I think she felt it to.

My other Lenten miracle this week: blooming snow drops.

1 comment:

  1. Love this, Brooke! I totally know that panicky feeling of an unexpected bill coming up that pushes your tight calculations out-of-whack...but so great how you were able to experience God amidst a scary and frustrating situation. I like the analogy of God pushing into all of the "cracks," the places where we make space in our lives...