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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Husband Paid All My Student Loans, and Accepting Grace

I graduated college with a degree in Education, a crisp teaching license, over fifty thousand dollars of debt, and absolutely no job prospects.

Yep. Laying it all out there today. 

I started paying off my loans early- a little bit at a time- all throughout college, and was dedicated to making payments every month, even if it was only $50 towards the huge principle balance.

But really, despite my diligence, my Ramen-noodle-and-apples diet, and only getting haircuts from a friend in the dorm, it was only a drop in the bucket.

Zeke knew all about my loans. I mean, how could he not? I did whine about writing checks toward 'em. He got to hear all about it every month.

I grew up in a family that did not talk about money unless it was to tell us girls that no, we couldn't have an American Girl doll because we couldn't afford it. I believe that my parents did the best they could, but as I got older, it became clear that my folks had made some bad financial decisions; ones that were affecting our family still.

So I went the opposite way. I was extremely cautious with money. I started working (fast food, but still) when I was fifteen, and quickly learned that the more I worked, the more money I could squirrel away. I worked around thirty hours a week all throughout high school, with babysitting jobs and odd jobs here and there thrown in for good measure. I didn't make much money, but I worked a ton, and the money I did make was saved and carefully guarded. My checking account never went below $100. Ever.

My habits followed me to college. I decided to attend a private school, which was expensive, but I truly loved the school, so I made sacrifices. I took a job on campus, and worked a lot- even doing double overnight shifts for a semester (and it was then that I acquired my coffee habit!), and the money I made was budgeted meticulously.

Even with all the work and all the caution and all the obsessive number crunching, I knew that I'd leave college with debt. And I hated that. But I told myself that I was better off than many of my friends- I'd started paying it off!

A year after graduation, still religiously paying those bills, I got married.

Zeke had worked all through high school and college as well, but he worked more skilled jobs, more physically demanding jobs, and he got paid a lot more. And he also saved and scrimped, and went to a community college for a few years before a state school to get his degree (and paid out of pocket for it all). And as quick as "I Do," his bank account, which had much larger numbers than mine, was now suddenly our account.

And one day, about a week after our wedding, Zeke sat me down and asked to see the loan information. I pulled out my detailed files with payment dates and plans and interest rate calculations and notes.

And then, he got out the checkbook and together, we paid them all.

As those envelopes were sealed and stamped, I felt a pit deep in my stomach.

Because I didn't make that money, but I had made that debt.

I have trouble accepting grace. Lots of trouble with it. Somehow it doesn't feel right to be given something that I didn't work for. That I didn't earn. Whether it's my husband paying off my student loans, or Jesus dying in my place, I don't accept it well.

It took me a while to be okay with Zeke's sacrifice for me. We're one person now, with one budget and one goal and one life. I know that not beginning our lives together in debt is good for both of us, that we don't have to pay thousands of dollars in interest. I know... but still- it was my debt, from my education. An education that gained me a teaching license... which I'm not using.

I did not expect him to pay my loans. But he did.

Who would have thought that Jesus would pay for our sins with his own life? It seems just far too good to be true.

All I know is that my husband gave me a very real picture that afternoon, sitting on the couch with a checkbook in hand. First, he taught me that, well, I still need to work at accepting grace. But he showed me something else, too. He gave me a small picture of what it is to redeemed.

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