06 Jul

I Married an Atheist…and its OK!

My apologies that it has again been awhile since I’ve posted. It’s all part of that “set back” thing! Add to that – my mate is on vacation for 2 weeks-with a short work schedule too. Once you’ve read todays article, you’ll know more about the “why” behind my lack of consistency 

This is something I’ve wanted to share for a long time. So, to kick off my return, this might be the perfect place to start!

Over the years I’ve had a number of sisters share their trials because of “mixed marriages” . Additionally, some sisters feel torn because their husband doesn’t share the same denomination, doctrine or faith. Thankfully Scripture has provided ways to deal with this!

First, let me share a bit of my history…
I met and started dating my beloved unbeliever during a time when I was not walking with the Lord. I knew Him, believed, but didn’t attend church, pray or even read/study Scripture. Think “prodigal daughter”!

We were in a long-distance relationship for a few years, then I moved east to live with him. At that time in my life, I didn’t want to make a marriage commitment. Truthfully, I was leery as my first husband was very abusive and my second marriage, I became widowed after 10 years. After about four years of sharing our lives and ups and downs-he asked and I said “Yes”. We were married in Las Vegas seven months later in May of 1998.

After the events of 9/11 and maybe even a little before then, I re-dedicated myself… got involved in a local church for awhile but was still trying hard to overcome a number of health and emotional issues. A few years later I got involved with Life.Church and Church Online. I was, and still am involved in this awesome online ministry… check it out? http://live.life.church Right now we’re in the last message of a series on marriage called “The Vow” 

During these years of service I’ve been fairly open about my beloved’s atheism. I’ve even been told I’m not saved because I married an unbeliever in disobedience to Paul’s admonition to not be “unequally yoked” ( 2 Cor. 6:14). I’ve also been comforted by his words found in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 which essentially says that if one finds themselves in this situation and the mate accepts this… stay! I do want to say that in this passage, Paul was referring to those who were already married and one or the other spouse became a believer during the marriage!

In both the Old and New Testament, it is plain the God didn’t approve of mixed marriages, whether by race and culture as found in the Old Testament, or religion-specifically Jesus followers in the NT. It is plain that I went contrary to scripture…and yes, violated a tenet of these teachings. Right before our marriage, I prayed a lot about this. I scrambled around looking for a way around this command. I definitely didn’t find it. All that being said, I love my husband (even after 20 + years!) even more today than I did when I had stars in my eyes and hearts and flowers were the order of the day. Our ceremony was both Jewish and Christian – sorta. A former pastor of mine performed it, fully aware of my husbands unbelief in God etc, but also aware of the importance of his Jewish traditions. While I didn’t notice it at the time, he also mentioned Jesus’ first miracle and that it took place at a wedding. Years later my honey mentioned it and how bothered he was by it. I think it was because so many of his friends and family members in attendance were Jewish…and we DID break the glass afterward : ).

In the many years since then, I’ve struggled with this disobedience, sought God’s grace and forgiveness and believe with all my heart that He has blessed our marriage greatly! Yes, we have some loud discussions at times! Evolution vs creation, science in general, and being a “Christian nation” just to name a few. Gay marriage and abortion are in there also. Overall his biggest issues is the whole “legislating morality” thing where politics and religion collide. These are all issues that I’ve personally wrestled with as well and it’s ok! Above the fray is our willingness to accept each others differences in such matters when they exist. For myself, I’ve come to the wonderful conclusion that my personal relationship with God and following Jesus guides my choices day by day… and compromise in our marriage can surmount any difficulties.

In my service at Life.Church I often encounter believers who are in relationships with unbelievers, whether married or not. My personal experience with this situation has proven invaluable in praying with others seeking practical guidance as well as biblical. So, I’m going to share a few of the things I’ve learned …

1. Continue to pray for your unbeliever! It’s something I do daily. My hope is in our Lord that someday my mate will see and believe!

2. Don’t constantly spout scripture as a means to justify anything! In other words-DON’T PREACH AT YOUR SPOUSE!!! I can’t emphasize this one enough. This action is more likely to make him/her even less interested. Check out 1 Peter 3:1–6 for some wise advice!

3. Don’t be so involved with church, Bible study etc that your mate feels ignored or otherwise isolated from you. Some time ago, I decided to give up ALL television for Lent. After a few days my beloved told me that our usual evening TV time, to him, was one of the ways we shared each others’ company and not having this time together made him sad. So, after apologizing I adjusted my “fast” to not watch ONLY when he wasn’t home. Being willing to compromise on these things matters not just to the marriage but also to God.

4. In line with the above, I also generally pray, study and participate in church activities when he’s not home. Keep in mind that his work often entails some LONG hours so I already have an abundance of time for these important things. When he’s on vacation or we’re away from home-I get up earlier, before he does, for my quiet time.

These are just a few things to consider if you find yourself in this situation. We still have some pretty boisterous talks about faith vs atheism-and it too is OK! Over the years there are times when I’ve been able to share what I believe and the teachings of my Christian faith. I’ve also learned a phrase that, at one time, was not in my vocabulary… I DON’T KNOW!

He is cognizant of how important my faith is…and that he’s my “#2”.  I think he also knows that so much of what he loves about me is a result of my Christian faith.  I’d like to add that my husband, while not a believer, often is more like JESUS than some I’ve seen in church! I’d like to think that the Lord’s guidance has encouraged me to encourage him!

There are a number of books out there about those who are “unequally yoked” … a few Facebook groups as well. Let me know if you’d like some recommendations and feel free to share your own experiences and how you deal with it!