Before Branden and Ashley Stathes were even married, they sat down to talk about finances. Besides committing to each other, the couple was committed to God, and they wanted to be wise with their money.
When Ashley told Branden she had $62,000 in student debt, his response was a very slow, “Oh ….” And some very real thoughts started running through his head. “How are we gonna live with that payment? I probably should change jobs.”
But the couple made a commitment. They would go after the debt and do everything they could to pay it down. Ashley believes she was made to be a mom and wanted to start a family as soon as possible once they were married. But “We both came to the conclusion that it was probably not the wisest thing for us to bring a baby into our situation,” Branden says.
“It would be wiser for us to try and tackle this thing and then think and pray about starting a family and raising children.”
So, the couple made a commitment to get out of debt before having kids. They saw it as a kind of gift to their future children. “We wanted to live out something that, one day, we want to teach our kids. it’s not good to be a slave to the lender, so before you were born, we tried to slay it.”
Nothing will be impossible with God. – Luke 1:37
Over time, all of their friends became aware of their plan. They were living on Branden’s Young Life salary alone, using every penny of Ashley’s salary to pay off the loans.
Then God intervened.
Unbeknownst to the couple, their friends had been watching their commitment with deep respect and compassion. They were moved to do something for the couple. After a few weeks, their community of friends in Austin had raised enough money to pay off the whole debt.
Friends and famiy threw a surprise party, but in the end, Branden and Ashley had a surprise to share too.
“It was almost like God wasn’t concerned with the number the entire time,” Branden says. He has all the resources in the world.” But God used the time of buckling down and doing the right thing to expand their trust in him.
“It was a growing time for our hearts, for our trust in him, for us to hold things loosely,” Branden says. “And that was the more significant thing. God drew us to himself and said, ‘I’m gonna teach you something, and I’m gonna totally change your heart and its perspective of me….’ Our view of money now is much different.”
Now, Ashley says, God has prepared their marriage with a strong foundation. She says God showed her, “’One, I’m trustworthy; two I know your needs; and three, dream big.’ Now we ask for great things, things that are impossible to ask for, but we ask because he’s taught us that the impossible can happen.”