For the past six months, I’ve been a relationship with the wonderful M. I could give you the whole mushy spiel about how we connect, etc. but let’s not. I will tell you though that it’s pretty amazing to reach a point in your relationship where no words need to be spoken, just one look, a simple action (hug!) and you can feel the enormous love behind that one moment/action. But the biggest wedge in our relationship is my faith and his non-faith. Although raised in church, M has no interest in the message of Christianity. Although not raised in the church, my life line inextricably entwined with the message of Christianity. M is grounded in science and physical proof and reasoning; it’s not to say that faith and science cannot coexist in my opinion but M believes that these two things are exclusive to one another and have no overlap/opportunity to coexist. However, despite his non-belief, he understands how important my faith is to me. That faith in my life is beyond the physical motions associated with organized religion; it is a state of being, a way of life. It saved my life and molded me into the woman he loves so dearly. It molds my perspective of the past, my present and my future. He told me before that I was the happiest person he had ever met. He wasn’t talking about the happy response that comes with favorable external circumstances but an internal, underlying happiness. He knows that this foundational contentment comes from my faith. He has been supportive and sometimes, even proactive, to ensure that my faith continues to be nurtured and grows in my life. He has come to some events associated with the church to support me. However, he remains uninterested in exploring faith himself.
In our relatively short relationship, we have nearly broken up twice because of this issue. There were tears, hard blows and hearts breaking. Ultimately we decided to remain together to try and make it work, but what does that really mean? Since that time, we have learnt a bit more about each other and I think, grown to love and respect each other even more but we have been very hesitant to approach this part of our relationship because it is contentious. I sometimes wonder if I should say anything on certain topics because it is religious (though M does encourage me to speak unhindered) and I hesitate on asking him to pray with me (though he has agreed to sit with me if/when the occasion arises). Yes…I realize that these prefaces seem like justifications but they are what they are: the truth. Yet we also know that we cannot ignore it and cannot exclude it from our relationship. My faith is all encompassing. It cannot be put into a glass box and forgotten; it touches every part of my life and all the decisions I make in my life, including the decision of remaining in this relationship. Everyday, I pray that he will know God but I also know that regardless of what I want, the decision belongs to him and God and that I don’t have any control over it. All I can do is live my life as God has asked of and planned for me, to deepen my relationship with Him. I believe that God overflows the limited shells that we are and will overflow even more as we deepen in our faith. The breadth of His reach those this sodden vessel remains solely in His hands. God also calls us to know the people in the our lives better so that when the opportunities arise, you can essentially speak their language, that you know where they’re coming from. In my job, a lot of it is about word smithing, so you would like think that I would be able to apply this in my personal life (eh…difficult in practice but doable!). M has had a very blessed life. He’s smart, good looking, incredibly athletic. He’s successful in career and has a group of close friends from high school. His family loves each other and are very close as well. In many ways, he has not experienced the need that many others have. I don’t fault him for this; how could I? But when we do not know need, if everything is provided in our lives and we are supported, how could we ever know that we actually do need God? All this I know and I trust the faithfulness of God but it doesn’t stop the ache. It doesn’t stop the questions that plague my mind. It doesn’t stop the sharp pain every time I think about this difference. Like my daily prayer for him, every day this hits me like a blow to the face. Everyday, the thought of ‘hey maybe breaking up would hurt less’ comes and stabs me in the chest.
The purpose this post isn’t to say whether or not it is right or wrong to date a non-Christian as a man/woman of faith. Rather, it is an inside look of what it’s like to be part of such a relationship. With regards to these relationships, many quote 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”. Fair enough. God provided us with His written word so that we may have a solid reference guide to the fullest life. Yet we are imperfect and it is extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ever achieve the perfect life outlined in the amazing book. We are fallen but by the grace of God we are saved. So in response to this particular verse, I would very much agree with it not so much along the lines of ‘that’s wrong!’ and that’s it; rather, it’s because it’s so hard, so difficult and I think part of this verse is that God wanted to spare us from heart ache. It is absolutely heart wrenching to know that someone you love so deeply and someone who loves so deeply in return has yet to experience the immeasurable love of God. And yes, it is also difficult on a relational basis that you may not pray together, read the word together, sing worship songs together, attend church together. If someone was to ask me what I thought about dating a non-Christian, I would probably warn them against it because it’s so hard. Yes, I have choice in this of course. I had not considered remaining in a relationship with a non-believer before meeting M. And yet, somehow we did come together. If M and I are to continue in our relationship, I will have to decide whether or not I can live with this sadness until he knows God. And if he doesn’t, would I be okay with it? If you find yourself encroaching upon or in a similar situation, that is a question you have to ask yourself. I think that you would also need to ponder the question of whether or not you are/would still growing in your relationship with God and if your partner is and will always be supportive of this growth. Let me tell you though, the little things, little moments between M and I, even if he just says good morning every day when he goes into the office, is inexplicable. It’s like a warmth that fills your body and takes your breathe away, a smile that never fades.