Guest Post: Pray Together or Stay Together

 “So you were a Christian when you married him, and now you’re not sure?”
We were sitting outside our classroom, chatting during our break. My new friend had been asking me for marriage advice, and now things were going suddenly wrong. I shrugged off her accusatory tone and pressed on.
“Yes” I replied, “It’s been hard, but it’s also been a growing experience.
We’ve learned a lot about each other and about…”
She interrupted me.
“So you basically pretended to be a Christian for just long enough to get a good guy
and then immediately gave up your faith?”
I think I should have gotten angry, but instead I just felt sick.
“Of course not! I would never have chosen to add so much pain to my life.”
“How can you support him as a Godly man if you refuse to be a Godly woman?”
“Oh my gosh, I would never do that. Sorry if this is forward,
but I honestly just think you’re a really selfish person.”

She grilled me with more questions, made sure I knew how disgusted she was, and eventually just got up and left. I sat through the last hour of class clenching my fists to keep my hands from shaking. By the time the teacher let us go I was a wreck.

My husband and I had been married for less than a year when my faith began to fall apart. My doubts started with emotional pain, and slowly turned into insurmountable questions. At first, my husband didn’t understand what was happening. He would get frustrated and combative with me when we talked about religion, or he would get sad and shut down. But my husband and I are absolutely committed to good communication, so it wasn’t long before we learned how to navigate our new differences. He learned to be gentler in the way he expressed his opinions, and I learned not to project my frustration with the Church onto him.

Just like any marriage, mine has ups and downs, struggles and victories.

And yet, people continue to assume that my marriage is falling apart at the seams, because I am no longer a professing Christian. I used to feel that way too. I was taught that having common beliefs was absolutely fundamental to a healthy marriage. “The family that prays together stays together!” If someone’s marriage “failed” it was because one or both of them weren’t Christian enough. I was scared at first, afraid that my questions were slowly but surely pulling us apart and ruining our beautiful relationship. But it’s been well over a year now, and we are only getting closer and stronger. I have learned that I’ve always loved him, not for praying before dinner, but for helping me clean the kitchen afterwards. I’ve loved him, not for Sunday morning church, but for Saturday morning cartoons, in our pajamas, eating captain crunch. I’ve loved him, not for his unshakable faith, but for his sincerity and passion.

Our marriage gets stronger every day. Not because we are committed to God, but because we are committed to each other. No matter how religious you are, marriage is not easy. My husband’s faith gives him peace and strength, but it doesn’t grant him superpowers, it doesn’t replace commitment and effort. Marriage still requires us both to make sacrifices, to stay up late and talk out the problem, to be painfully honest and vulnerable. All the hard work and communication pays off. Last night as I drifted off to sleep I marveled at how incredibly connected my husband and I are. We know each other’s hearts on a deeper level than ever before. Our strengths far outweigh our weaknesses and our joys outweigh our troubles. If we continue to communicate and grow like this, there is nothing that could come between us, nothing that could shake us enough for our marriage to “fail.”

So am I a selfish person? Am I giving up on my marriage by questioning my faith? I don’t think so, and my husband doesn’t either. I suppose I could have forced myself to participate in my husband’s faith. I could have caved to my fears and chose to ignore the pain and confusion in my heart.
But I would have been lying.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather share my honest but inconvenient heart with my spouse than an insincere but convenient faith.
This guest post is written by my sister Sarah, who formerly blogged at Enigma: My Journey of Self-Discovery. You can find her on facebook to keep up with her blogging in the future.

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