Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Was Afraid to Hope...

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. ~Corrie Ten Boom

This is probably an odd post to have at Christmas time, but my life has not been typical for...well, I am not sure it ever has been, but there are times I at least feel we are sailing along with a good wind. Then there are the times when the sea is not exactly what was forecasted and like an over-optimistic weather man, every now and then someone tells me just what I want to hear, what I want to hope, what I fear to hope. I find my mind struggling, "No, that would be impossible, but then I have a God Who has done, can do, what seems to be impossible. Do I dare hope?"

Like most homeowners, we have a mortgage. Like most people who have a mortgage and were out of work and finally found a new job, we have a mortgage based on what my husband used to make and we are at nearly half of that now. Just before the recession chewed up the real estate market, we lived in one of the ten fastest growing counties in the nation. It seems the faster you climb to the top, the greater and faster the drop: statistics a few months ago were that one in 192 homes were in foreclosure.

Suddenly you hear terms that were never applied to real estate in your lifetime...things like "upside-down" and "negative equity." You are looking at that overbearing monthly payment thinking of how far you have paid your principle down in the last few years and maybe....just maybe...the bank will consider refinancing to make your monthly budget something that could withstand a surprise, like fixing your vehicle, or the oven not working, or your dishwasher needing a part for it to work properly again—basically all those things that have been happening to us.

So, even though it was a long shot, at best, my husband talked to our bank and asked if refinancing would be at all possible. To our surprise, we were told it looked possible. We were told that the foreclosures could be taken out of the equation. We were told what we hoped to hear. We did not know how they could or would do those things, but we started the process based on what we were told. Since that day I have been living in fear of hoping...just the hoping.

After weeks of waiting, our house has been appraised for less than half of what we paid for it in 1997. I cried for an entire evening. That was far less of what it needed to be to get the refinancing and confirmed that we had a negative equity situation. Our monthly payments have been too high for our income and even though we already owe the bank for the amount we wish to refinance, we cannot qualify for refinancing even though that would lower our monthly payments and make us less vulnerable for any payment problems. Apparently, they used foreclosure properties to appraise our home. No appraiser actually came to our home, it was all paperwork for the sum of $400, which they charged us. Of course, we could have an appraiser come to our house to properly appraise it for just another $400. (How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.) At this point I am thinking of disputing the first $400!

Now, the thing the paperwork is not showing is that those foreclosure homes around us had to have ten of thousands of dollars poured into them before they could be occupied. New appliances, doors, roofs, landscaping, light fixtures, repairs to walls, painting inside and out, and windows replaced. Many cannot be resold to cover the costs of fixing them up, because of the high number of foreclosures, so many are being rented, mostly by people who lost their homes or otherwise cannot qualify for a loan.

Here is an example of how the banks are doing business these days in my area. I have a friend who lost her home last year. Her husband had been out of work for a year and finally he was able to find a job in another state. They begged their bank to approve a short sale because they had a buyer offering less than what they owed on their mortgage. The bank turned them down. They decided to move to the job regardless. They left their house in excellent shape still on the market hoping something would change and it would sell. They tried to make mortgage payments and rent an apartment, but the house they left eventually went into foreclosure. So, in the end, the bank received about half of what it would have if they have taken the short sale deal.

It is this kind of paper logic that is beyond my understanding. I suppose we should wonder why more banks have not gone belly up.

My point is two fold. I should say that I usually am rather distrustful of banks, which is why I try to pay with cash for everything. I really would rather be debt free and never be seen in a bank except to withdraw my husband's paycheck. So, when the financial experts tell you that refinancing may be possible, right now, in this market...well, remember to consider the source. I am pretty sure in some way that banks will be the facilitator of the mark of the beast. I should be happy that we really are no worse off than we have been, except for the waste of $400 for a useless appraisal. That is the first part of my point.

The second is the tougher one for me: fearing to hope. Why did I fear it? Hope is just...hope. Well, the trouble with hope is that there is often an expectation tangle up in it and it is only our unfulfilled expectations that cause us disappointment and pain. I was afraid to hope because I knew I would put an expectation...on God. That is dangerous territory. How many people have turned their backs on God because He did not meet an expectation they had of the All Mighty.

Hope is the desire to have something happen in the way you would like against the likelihood that it will not and, for the Christian, there is the struggle with knowing God can do it...but the question is will He? Many things are racing though my mind right now: all those promises God makes in the Bible. No, I know God is not Santa Claus, and yet did James not say, you do not have because you do not ask? Did I not ask, pray, fast, beg? Was it not quite enough? The oddest thing is that I have not been struggling with having faith in God. I believe in Him and I believe He is truly all powerful, that His Will shall be done. But, there is the rub for me right now...in all honesty, I am struggling with trusting Him. I am afraid to put my hope on Him. I am afraid He is going to disappoint me, even when I know I should be more concerned about how I am disappointing Him, how I am not meeting His hopes.

Then I wonder why should He give me anything as I am obviously unworthy. I mean, why would He give me anything when I fear trusting Him? Oh, how the mighty has fallen! Was it not just a few months ago He called me to fast and I tried to do all else I was called to do? I was certain of my purpose and I was trusting of my Lord and I had hope. What happened to all that?

One more twist: I tend to reserve my expectations for those I trust the most, so I must trust God and yet I fear to trust Him.

~ My Lord, help me to trust You without fear and to be worthy of Your trust. ~

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.