If you have not already read the story of Lola and Dayo, then definitely check it out before proceeding in order to get the context and background story.
Dear Lola Akindele,
First off let me say a big, huge congratulations. I am actually really jealous covetous happy that you have found someone with whom you can share your life. Afua sent me a message about a 93-year-old man who wrote the most beautiful love song to his recently deceased wife of 75 years and I hope that I too can one day experience the joy of meeting my ride-or-die lover-roomie-friend. After reading your letter, I was at first challenged in my faith. I know that I too believe that God can do outstanding things in various areas of my life and I definitely believe that it is in His power to bring me a tall dark handsome Lecrae-esque Obama character who will engage me in freestyle battles and discussions about DuBois and Foucalt God fearing man. Nevertheless, as someone who has dated an actual atheisty- agnosticy person, I found it very interesting that your partner was originally Muslim. Not because those two things are alike, but because in my super conservative, Pentecostal Ghanaian upbringing, to date someone who is not Christian, is essentially a banishment to the deepest depths of hell.
Everyone I have ever known in all of my life has always said that we should never make it our mission to change our partners’ beliefs. I mean we can change our partner in so many other ways but in this one area, we should essentially just ‘not be unequally yoked’. Yet, after reading your story the second time, I am now burdened with a myriad of questions about religion and relationships. When I consider my own parents, I know that my father was not a believer when he married my mother (a woman who was like—literally—3 sneezes away from becoming a nun) but that he eventually came into the faith and after she passed, his faith has only deepened. Yet, even he will advise me that it is in my best interest to just ‘get it right the first time’. What’s interesting is that I love my dad. I baaaasically want my husband to be a 30 year old version of his 60 year old self (I know— talk about impossible standards). My dad wasn’t a ‘bad’ person when he wasn’t going to church with us or making us listen to Elder Mireku jams during long family trips. And I loved him then as I love him now, but I do notice how his countenance has changed. And I wish I could ask my mother the questions that I am now coming to ask you. So here goes… three essential questions about faith, fidelity and family that I want to know about your Saul-to Paul fairytale wedding…
Ok… so I completely understand that God told you he was going to become a Christian. But I do not get why you were dating before that actually happened. Why couldn’t the two of you have just been bff’s (since that’s all you were given the whole ‘no sex before marriage’— ‘no marriage before you get saved’ thing)? Why did he have to pledge his fidelity to you so early in the game? If I were him, I would be thinking, ‘Hmmmm… welt… since you know without a shadow of doubt I will come to Jesus… let me philander and/ or see what else is out there and if I come back to you a saved man… we just walk down the aisle the next day.’ And if it was his decision to date you in spite of yourself, what would compel a man to do this… especially one who may not understand all of your visions, dreams, signs and wonders? For me… I believe in a God born of a virgin who resurrected after being crucified. I recognize how ridiculous this is (foolish things confound the wise… its true) and I am therefore able to believe the other supernatural utterances of the faith— I mean really anything after that is possible. BUT for someone who has a completely different faith base, how do you convince him to stick around? And how does he not get weirded out by your uber spirituality? In my experience, I have found these things met with smirks, eye-rolling, face-slapping and general derision… so I want to know how that all panned out.
Now it seems your family was super involved in this plan for his soul. And that’s great… because we all know what they say about families that pray together. But then… what about his family? Because we also know that when you marry someone, you marry their family and from your letter it is not clear that anyone else changed their beliefs. How do they feel about the fact that their grandbabies and nephews won’t be called Ismael and Jamal? How do they feel about the influence of your prayers on their son? How will that affect your relationship with them going forward? I guess this means you won’t be coming around for the Eid celebrations then, eh? And what about the kids… I mean, a whole side of their family is Muslim— are there any implications for how you will raise them? I mean, my mothers father was Muslim and so a number of people on her side still practice the faith. It did not really have much an effect on me, but then we were separated by time, space and water, and I am assuming his family will be a bit closer. Any thoughts?
Alrighty… soooo a soul is won for the kingdom. We rejoice! My question is… how will his infant faith and your adult faith come together in your home? Can he really be the head of household and the spiritual leader of the home if his faith is literally the size of a mustard seed while yours seems to be a mustard orchard of sorts? I know that the measure of faith isn’t necessarily time… but then if he has been Muslim his whole life there are a lot of things that he will have to change in his thinking to grow in his faith. Chief among those is the value of faith for salvation as opposed to ‘works’ for salvation— and even we Christians don’t get that right. And I am not sure when you plan on having kids but will he be able to admonish them in the faith? Is that important to you?
There are a number of very interesting nuances that come to bear when we talk relationships and religion. I, for one, do not have any the answers. After all my talk from my Pentecostal days about only dating ‘a man after God’s heart’… I ended up with someone who actually said, and I quote, ‘I, like Biggie, would rather go to hell than be stuck in heaven praising God’ end quote. To his credit, he was very disciplined about reminding me about living out my faith (without being all ‘… are Christians supposed to do thaaaat?’) and a lot of my maturity happened because of my experiences with him. Nevertheless, while I learned a lot from being with him, especially about what I believe and what I value in my faith… I wish I could have been able to pray with him and not at him…
… and make jokes about the Israelites in the old testament stories with him (Golden calf?? Really?!?! After you see a whole Red Sea parted… REALLLLLYY?! Ha!)
… and to encourage him through scripture and (co)prayer
… and to talk about hearing from God or the move of the Spirit without him rolling his eyes and/or smirking
I think it’s awesome that these are things you will enjoy with someone who is in your faith and yet, as you can see, I still have questions and concerns. I would have really loved to get Dayo’s perspective because it would have helped a lot with some of my quandaries. I have been talking to Afua a lot about this whole ‘marrying outside of your faith’ bit, and I am certain things are easier better when you are both strengthening each other with the same foundational faith. I see this in my parents’ relationships and some of my friends who have married recently. I also know that Christian marriages falter at about the same rate as secular marriages and actually more than those of other religions like Islam. I think a lot of that is more a testament of our own walk and commitment to God when we make our vows, but I think I will save that diatribe for another day. I am genuinely interested in understanding this, and though I have included my usual sarcasm and wit, I do in all sincerity have these concerns. We will be awaiting your response in our inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. Afua? I know you got something to say girl… because you know it seems we Christians are the only ones up in arms about this whole inter-religion relationship thing. I went to a Muslim wedding in Tamale where I met loads of guys who said they could marry outside of their faith with no hesitation (don’t know if the same is true of women in the faith)— but that struck me as very interesting. In fact, most of the guys I know (Christian or otherwise) would be fine marrying outside of their faith. So is it just a thing us ladies are obsessed with? And if its gendered, why is that? And if its just our religion, why is that? Sheesh… all these questions!
CHECK OUT AFUA’S RESPONSE in Part II HERE!