We got married when we were young, only 23 and 24 respectively. We were fresh out of college and our whole lives were ahead of us. Both of us had grown up in the church, and both of us were heavily involved in ministry at a popular mega church in our city. It was the kind of church that you wanted to be a part of. God was certainly at work there, and on top of that, everything about it was intriguing. The lights, the music, the art, the people….I had never been to a church that rode the line of hip and Truth so well. But they did.
When we got married, we had pre-marital counseling and talked with marriage mentors, but the one thing that we didn’t discuss was theological issues.
Because wasn’t it enough that we went to the same church?
Isn’t it the same thing as long as we believe in Jesus?
Won’t we always have the same faith and ideas ten years down the road as we do at the alter?
Because we were so young, marriage for us has been a place that we are growing up together. Our bags are packed together, as they say, and for better or worse, most of the major theological thoughts, conversations and decisions that we have been through have taken place within the context of our marriage.
Partly our own faults for not digging in and do the heavy lifting that discipleship requires, and partly the faults of the church environment we had been exposed to until that moment, neither of us really went into marriage majoring in any of the minors. We had a set of theological doctrines that we believed in, and we stuck to those. But the outlying issues, the ones that can drive people apart, can cause strife, break up churches and relationships; we didn’t have a firm grasp on those yet.
When we got married, we had only been exposed to one brand of Christianity and it all basically preached the same thing. It was a great and solid foundation, but it didn’t address the deeper theological conflicts and beauty that come as one lives life. And this was ok for us. We were young and hadn’t lived a lot of life yet, we hadn’t come to a place where we needed to dissect things we had always believed in, nor could we see it coming.
Letting it Sit
Therefore, we took our journey of agreeing and disagreeing as it came at us. My life in seminary was a catalyst in this endeavor. For the first time in my life I was being asked questions about my faith that went beyond the carefully curated theological box I had set up for myself. And I brought these home and talked about them to Cy. They were so over our heads that it was hard to often have a conversation about them. My own insecurities and worries contributed to this miscommunication as I have been a people pleaser and God pleaser (in an awful way) for as long as I can remember. I found it hard to ask questions and bring doubts because I was terrified of being smited into hell, or worse, thought of as a heretic or someone who didn’t believe the “right” things by my other Christian friends.
Our conversations were not conversations. They were me, reading a book and then blurting out in the middle of a sentence what I was thinking/feeling/wrestling with and Cy was lost in what I was discussing. I gave him no background information on the issue, nor time to process. I felt like I was under a deadline and needed to have it all worked out and figured out by the time I took my final at the end of my quarter.
It always ended up with me being in tears, and extremely anxious that we weren’t “equally yoked” or that we couldn’t communicate about these issues. It was my own anxiety and inability to communicate these fears to Cy that left me feeling alone and afraid.
But something unexpected happened in the middle of that storm: Cy sat quietly. He listened intentionally, and he asked questions. He did his own reading and praying and listening, but did so with the ambition of someone who was actually enjoying themselves. He had the ability to have a conversation and then actually continue on with life in a normal way. I saw in him a curiosity and a desire to learn that was lead by faith and security, unlike my behavior which resembled a frantic Christ follower whose questions were riddled with fear and acted like Grace wasn’t a thing.
And to this day his posture remains the same: He is ok with not having it figured out, not knowing the answers, and is committed to allowing the Spirit to work as he reads and studies and listens. He understands that questions of the faith have as much to do with reading as they do with life experience and when the study comes first, he lets it sit in his being until his life experience catches up.
Those that Persevere
Instead of deciding a firm stance on a certain issue, I would say our journey together in matters of faith have been marked by how loud we are going to be about certain issues.
What do we want our lives to be about?
What lens are we reading Scripture with?
What are the hills that we are going to die on?
These have become the issues where we get to participate in ministry together. These are things that we advocate for together, that we partner on and that define the way that we love one another, the way we parent our children, and how we posture ourselves in the world.
There are a slew of issues that we haven’t tackled yet, and some that we don’t necessarily stand together on. And a few more that we aren’t sure of. But neither of us are afraid to bring up these doubts, questions, and new ideas. Why? Because for us, being married is a continual chance to choose respect, listening and challenging as part of our process. We are ok if we land differently on certain issues, because we know that God is at a continuous work in our hearts. Neither of us think we have the right answers to all the questions, and we know enough to know that humility is key.
Over the years we have learned that some issues can rest in the category of “unknown”, and be fine just there. The Spirit will prompt us when one of these needs more attention, and the heavy lifting that must happen in order to form a conviction. But we have also learned that there are a few issues that one of us may get wind of, and start to change the way we look at things. When this happens, the other knows to stop, listen, ask questions, respect the other and support one another along the way. Sometimes, we start out on separate pages and we end up on the same.
Marriage isn’t about agreeing on every issue, and Christian marriage most certainly shouldn’t be. In fact, I would argue that the healthiest marriages, the ones that look the most like Christ are those that have struggled and persevered, that have gone to the books and kneeled in prayer, and waited with respect, love and patience for the Spirit to move. The strongest and healthiest marriages I have seen are two different minds and hearts coming together to create something new and beautiful. They are those that are free enough to be vulnerable and bold yet humble enough to be molded and shaped.