Tuesday, October 05, 2010

30 Stories in 30 Days

Rachelle Mee-Chapman is doing a great series this month of answering questions posed to her by her friends and readers - a series of 30 stories in 30 days. I posed a question to her about faith and marriage - and this is the beautiful and brilliant and thought-provoking answer that she provided.

Thank you so much for all your words of encouragement and support as I navigate my journey of faith, Rachelle. And thank you for your words of wisdom and compassion and compromise today. 



How does faith, your faith walk, fit in to your marriage? Does it? What would you say to someone who is on a radically different faith walk than her husband? 
Paul and I have always had similar faith walks, in that we are both grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. We both consider ourselves disciples of Jesus, though we no longer participate in traditional forms of church. In spite of this common connection, we’ve always had very different ways of practicing our faith. Paul likes formal, high church rituals and theological debate. I like more grounded everyday rituals and value orthopraxis (what one does) over orthodoxy (what one believes.) Paul is more orthodox in his beliefs. I tend to practice a more blended faith. 
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years during our own evolving spiritual journey, and from other couples who have far more diversity between them.
Express what you need. Do you really need your spouse to be on the same page as you spiritually? Or do you just need them to listen to you as explain your experiences or ideas? A lot of times mixed-faith couples start out thinking they need to have matching practices, but what they really need is mutual understanding and respect. 
Focus on the Commonalities. The core truths of many religious have large areas of overlap. For instance, The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” is found in one form or another in Confucianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism. It is possible to practice different faiths and still celebrate the same core values. 
Create Blended Practices. No one said you can't mix up traditions. Plenty of families celebrate Hanukah and Christmas, or have two officiants at the wedding. In our house we celebrate Christmas and Winter Solstice, Easter and Passover.  These mixed practices can deepen you faith and broaden your understanding of the global community in which we live. 
Practice Trust. This is the most important part! Partners with different spiritual or religious practices need to trust that the other is following a path that is true to who they are. No one can thrive in a religion they are forced into. And doubting that your partner is “right” or is making a “good choice” only damages your relationship. You trust each other in other major areas of your life. Practice that same trust in the area of faith. 
What about you? Are you in a relationship with someone who has a different faith/religion/spirituality than you? How do you manage (or even celebrate!) the differences? Share your inspiring story with us in the comments. We need your insight. “There ain’t nowhere to go but together.”

Rachelle Mee-Chapman, specializes in customized soulcare for spiritual misfits. She works with clients at Magpie Girl to help them find a spirituality that fits; and hosts Flock, an online soulcare community. You can learn more about her creative approach in her free ecourse, Magpie Speak: a new vocabulary for soulcare.  Friend :: Follow :: Presents!


jessicaschafer said...

I really enjoyed this post! Dan and I have a "mixed-faith" marriage as well. We also both come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, but while I find myself at home in the contemplative traditions and in poetry, Dan is currently as close to atheist as you can get, but will probably end up Catholic one of these days. In the first year of marriage it really bothered me, mostly because of all the language around "the closer you grow to God the closer you grow together" that various chapel speakers and Christian books on marriage throw out. But we learned very early on that we didn't need to believe the same things, like you pointed out, we just needed the other to trust us and listen to our thoughts and experiences. I think it has actually forced me to be intentional about my spirituality in way that having someone who believes the same things wouldn't. And I think it has also enabled me to be way more open to people of different faiths and spiritual practices in general.

Great question Gail!

GailNHB said...

Jessica, thanks so much for your comment, for sharing your story. This faith and marriage thing isn't easy, is it? But there is much learning to do, much growing, and much to be said about faith, not only in God, but also in my husband to learn and grow in his own way.

My husband and I both grew up in "Christian" homes - he grew up in the Catholic church and I grew up in the Baptist church. As a married couple, we have always attended church regularly - mostly because I insisted and because we are a homeschooling family so church was a great place for them to socialize with people who believed what we believed. A few in-depth discussions with other folks from church and even things said from the pulpit made it clear to us that, in fact, we were not among people who believed what we believe - at all - and it was time to make a change.

So this past summer, I decided after much debate and internal strife, that I needed to take a break from church. My husband had made that decision gradually over a couple of years, and I admit that I worried about "his faith journey" and whether or not he was _______ - "living up to my standards of what his faith life needed to look like" is what it really came down to.

Since stepping down and away from church, I have never felt happier or more at peace in my relationship with God and His Word. I have felt a lightness and freedom that I didn't expect - at all. I still maintain contact with church friends and attend once a month or so, but not with any desire or yearning to be there on a regular basis. I am part of a fantastic group of women who get together every two weeks to talk and pray and read through a book that is challenging us to be more like God. I'm not at all sure what the future holds in terms of church membership, but I don't miss the "Sunday morning go to meeting" thing very much at all.

Nowadays, I am able to see and sense how thoroughly indoctrinated I was in church rules and regulations. I keep hearing the voices of stern pastors who warn me of heresy and the danger of not being a regular church attendee, of "going it alone." (I am soooooo not alone. I feel more connected and surrounded to people of faith and even those outside our church now than ever.) I keep worrying about what "they" must think when they look up and don't see me there. Whoever "they" are...and "they" may not even notice. My husband keeps saying, "Who cares what they think?" (In truth, when I talk to church people about our choice, many of them wish they could step down and out for a while. Many complain about their churches far more than I ever did, but cannot imagine living any other way. I understand completely - but I also began to imagine a new way. And it feels fantastic - at least for now.)

My husband and I talk more about faith and church and God now than we ever did when we were going to church. I had no idea he felt so strongly about so many of these issues - or that he had such wisdom and insight. Go figure... It's great to get to know him on a spiritual level in this new, non-regimented way.

Thanks, Rachelle, for your wise words and encouragement to give each other space and trust each other to walk our faith journeys separately but equally and together.