Prayer, Worry, Trust, Service

Jordan H. B. Rebholz ’18 M.Div.

I take a deep breath and say a little prayer at the beginning of every semester when they swipe my credit card in the bookstore, hoping that I calculated correctly and there is enough money in my account for all the required texts for the term. I have had to work the entire time I’ve been enrolled at Yale Divinity School just to make ends meet, and I let out a sigh of relief at the end of every semester, not because I’ve turned in all of my papers and taken my exams, but because I know I will have a little time before I must take out the next batch of loans.

Before I even arrived, I had already accrued student debt because it took me almost eight years to make my way through my undergraduate studies. I am at peace with that journey, but it was difficult to take on even more debt to be here. At this moment, I have over $80,000 in student loan debt, while my husband has over $60,000, and we both know that mine is only going to increase over the next academic year. This affects our hopes for the future and our everyday choices.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was serve others and be the person God wants me to be in the world, but I must admit that there are moments when I feel I’ve made a mistake answering my call. Despite these struggles, I choose to stay because I believe in people.

My story is not unusual. As vice president of YDS Student Council, I have been awarded a special look into the lives of other students. Like the feeding of the 5,000, I have seen students share textbooks to save money. I have seen students scrambling at the end of the semester to purchase food in the refectory, then gratefully discovering that the person ahead of them in line paid for their meal. We make it work in the best way we know how: by loving one another as we love ourselves. The act of trying to bring about the Kingdom of God is alive and well at Yale Divinity School.

What breaks my heart the most is knowing that the financial struggles of many of us will continue after we graduate. Yes, we will leave this place filled with knowledge, experience, and memories, but we will also take with us a debt that almost seems too large to repay. Some of us may have to take jobs we don’t want upon leaving, because the loan repayment bills will be arriving shortly. I worry about my friends. We have been taught by the Scriptures that we shouldn’t worry: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). I am trying to trust this message and live into my calling to serve others every day.

I am here, and I choose to stay, because I trust in God. Even in my times of prayer and worry, I truly believe that we are all here for a specific reason. I pray that in the future, students at this institution and countless others won’t have to worry about how they will pay or repay for their time of learning. I pray that the world and churches will step up and assist these incredible people. I pray that someday our debts will be repaid, to our schools and our God.