Saying “I do” to Debt

Daniel Joyner Miller

A year before I stood across from Kendra over that bowl of potato salad, I was finishing up my senior year in Classics at Bucknell University, a typically if not gratuitously expensive private college. Many of my friends there went into finance, engineering, or law, pursuing degrees that come with high earning potential. Attempting to make light of my curious decision to accumulate debt in order to study Latin, I would joke that while others had interviews at startups and investment firms I hoped to secure work at the large and powerful Classics corporations that dot Manhattan.

It was a bad joke then, and even less funny now. To any armchair psychologist it would seem to have less to do with humor than with my insecurity about not earning enough, saving enough, and paying down my student debt quickly enough.

In the years that followed my B.A. in Classics I gained a Yale M.Div. and an extra year of formation and education at a Lutheran seminary. As each year passed, the amount of money I owe to debt-collecting agencies grew. Yet I’ve added much more to my life than a debt burden. Kendra and I married. Moved to Illinois. Served churches large and small. Learned to love whole communities of people. Prayed together. Recited poetry before bed. Laughed a lot, and cried a little too. Made friends for life. Adopted a rescue dog. Read voraciously. Planned vacations. Visited family. Refinanced our debt to bring down the interest. Some of it’s glamorous; most of it’s not. But it’s all part of our life as a young married clergy couple with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt who are trying to love God and each other and serve the church.

The Rev. Daniel Joyner Miller ’14 M.Div. is an associate minister at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL.