An older couple sit three rows away from me. They are church regulars. He gallantly hands her into the pew each Sunday. I envy them. A woman attends the later service with her daughter and two granddaughters. Three generations of Episcopalians together in their Sunday dresses. I envy them. A young couple, both choir members, kiss before the procession. I envy them.
Am I a confirmed malcontent, fixated on the sixth deadly sin? If only it were that easy. I am married to a non-believer. I go to church alone. Have always done so, will be alone in my pew until I can go no more. The hour or so that I spend at church each Sunday is the happiest of my week. The words of Scripture feed me. The prayers lift me up. Communion transforms me. I return to my very happy home and that’s the end of it.
To be fair to us, we had been friends for several years and felt comfortable enough with each other to marry without a lot of discussion or planning. And, in even more fairness, our marriage has lasted 37 years and has been generally peaceful. We do not “fight” about religion. He acknowledges that I will go to church every Sunday though he cannot understand why. I accept that he will make fun of religious practices and beliefs and I mostly refrain from countering these remarks.
It’s more than a truce. It’s a mutual understanding of our different needs and positions. He resents (just a bit) the time I spend at church and church activities. I am stung by his smugness. I can understand his unbelief but wish it would change into belief. He thinks my belief is merely a need for “socializing.” We have a 37 year long stalemate.
You will advise me to pray for him and I do. I pray that he will find some sort of faith in his lifetime, not because I think he will suffer eternal punishment for his unbelief, but because I love him and want him to feel the love of God as I do. How can the most important thing in my life be something I can’t share?
Would I change anything? Yes, I’m sorry to say that I would.
If I had it to do over again, I’m afraid I might have waited for someone who could have shared my faith, someone who would have served on the Vestry, led a youth group, helped saw down the trees damaged from a summer storm. I would love to be able to talk about the homily, giggle at Mrs. Paulsen's new hat, share concern for an elderly parishioner who is more and more frail each week.
Yet, this is the life I am living and I know that God is with me every day. I know that whatever reason there is that I can’t share my faith with my husband, it’s a good reason and I have to play my part in the story that I am writing of my life.
I don’t believe in predetermination. For me, there are many paths and partners that anyone might choose in life. Some things are best undone and some are best left to flourish in their own way and for their own reasons. If you are considering a relationship with someone who is far outside your beliefs, I’d advise you to think long and hard about it. After you do, however, know that there is really no comprehending the loving purposes of God and no grasping the possibilities of even our imperfect human love.