WHOA. I don’t know what to say, but THANK YOU. I’m not one to be very outwardly emotional (y’all know this), so you can probably imagine the inner struggle I had writing and actually posting my last blog, but your response has only confirmed that it was the right thing to do. After posting ‘Knowing Before You Know‘, I received so much love through calls, emails, whatsapp messages, informal discussions- thanking me for being so
blunt open, it was kinda crazy weird. Not to mention the fact that y’all really shared the post – it was the highest single day viewed post in the history of this blog, by more than double… ya, crazy times.
So without getting too emo on you again, I wanted to say thanks for the encouragement and support…and the sharing of the post! It’s great to know people relate to and appreciate what we’re writing.
On a last note, I want to clear up that that post wasn’t about bashing the guy or men in general; there are great guys out there, and I actually think he’s one of them. Judging from the way he treats his family and friends, I know he’s going to be a great husband to his wife one day; my post was about the fact that ‘she’ wasn’t me… and I should have been more attentive to the signs so I could have bowed out of the game much earlier and been on a path to find the person who was for me.
Anyhoo on to my actual post, which is a response to Amma’s piece on Faith, Fidelity and Family.
– – –
If I’m honest, I’ve often wondered
if when this subject would come up. In fact, it’s such a dicey topic that it’s taken me over three months to pull a response together. Amma and I have had several too many conversations to count on this topic, because it’s a little too close to home for us. Like Amma, I also grew up in a strong faith-based home. Although not quite the Pentecostal hooting and hollering-type, it was definitely the grounded in faith, grounded in The Word and church-type. And like Amma, I also fell in love with someone who didn’t share in my faith was basically atheisty- agnosticy, and I had to grapple with how I wanted to proceed. Following the relationship, I still have to say that my feelings toward being with someone outside of my faith aren’t hellbent on ‘no’. Too much has happened since then for me to know that life is complicated, and sometimes love is complicated too. So as much as I would love to be with someone who shares my same beliefs, I can’t guarantee that if put in the exact same situation again, I wouldn’t continue on with the relationship… And that’s just real talk.
The topic of inter-faith or faith/no-faith relationships has reared it’s head several times in the last few months, not only with the referenced letter in Amma’s post, but also with an intriguing conversation that I had with some new friends of mine here in Accra. And because you know I love to retell a good story… let’s begin:
The setting is the apartment of a young married couple in Accra. I’m having a friendly discussion with the man of the house about everything and nothing in particular. The conversation slowly steers towards the standard, “how is life in Accra treating you as a ‘returnee’ ‘half-outsider’?” Armed and loaded with my ‘young returnee answer tool kit’, I respond politely that things are fine and uneventful.
“And dating in Accra?”>> ‘bold, much?’ I think to myself, ‘this usually doesn’t come up till further into these types of conversations…’ But still, I present my neatly packaged response: “uneventful.”
“Are your standards too high?” Was the subsequent question. Which for now I’ve come to expect when I give anyone a less than stellar response to the “Are you seeing anyone?”-type question. Unfortunately for me, the one word response of ‘No’ is never believed by whomever I’m speaking to, and spending time explaining how their assessment of me is incorrect is always a very conscious decision because it means getting into an exhausting
argument exchange that I’m so over before it begins. However, as life would have it I found this gentleman mildly worthy to continue engaging with me on this topic, so I gave him a half truth in response, ‘I’m not picky, but I do think wanting someone that loves Jesus in a genuine- genuine meaning not illogical fanatic way**- is hard to come by these days (read here how some studies brand Christians less intelligent than atheists).
“My wife is religious, and I’m not in the least.”
From here, he proceeds to tell me their story and how things work for them in a faith/no faith relationship. For some context: this is a young, well educated, well traveled couple with no kids. However, this isn’t the end of the story- his wife walks in and he invites her to join in on the discussion, which puts an interesting spin on things. I won’t waste too much time on the details of the rest of the exchange, but my two takeaways from the conversation were these:
1. It can work- Inter-faith and faith/ no-faith relationships. However, the can is a very big can. And that work, is very real work; and,
2. It is not ideal for the party that is Christian (particularly if this is the woman).
Obviously, I don’t know the ins and outs of Mr No Faith and Mrs Faith’s marriage, but as it pertains to #1, what I mean is that heaven doesn’t rain down fire and the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt (like some Christians would like to believe). However, undoubtedly sacrifices have to be made: Mr. No Faith mentioned he accompanies his wife to church on occasion because he knows ‘it’s important to her’, and Mrs. Faith mentioned that she doesn’t share with her husband her ‘God experiences’ knowing he wouldn’t appreciate them (I believe her actual words were, “he’d probably laugh”). In regards to #2, I say this isn’t ideal for the Christian spouse because marriage for Christians is supposed to have a deeper purpose of being one of the most important ways God uses to demonstrate His Nature -how He loves, how He commits, how He sacrifices, and how He forgives- to non-believers (and believers) on earth. Thus fundamentally, this is supposed to guide how a couple spends their time, money, and how they raise their children, etc. Particularly for the Christian wife, an ‘unequally yoked’ relationship isn’t ideal because men are looked to, in most people’s minds, as the (spiritual) leader of the home. Amma pointed out that this seems to be something women ‘obsess over’ more than men, and I think it’s because there is no substitute influence over a woman’s life and her children’s than the leadership of her man on all matters spiritual and none. With the number of ‘single’ women I see at church, children in tow, I often wonder what the dynamics are at home (for example, what is their continual response to their children when they ask, ‘How come daddy doesn’t have to go to church?’). [If you want to read more on this, here’s a good article on whether interfaith marriage is always wrong, from a Christian perspective].
I think similar to Amma’s dad, Mrs. Faith having crossed over the hurdle of nuptials has the luxury of saying things like, ‘you should try to find someone you’re spiritually compatible with from the get go’- which is indeed something she said during our conversation. Because both she and Amma’s dad successfully found someone they actually connected with enough to marry (even if it was only on a physical and emotional level), hindsight is now 20/20… especially when you’re rendering advice to single young women like me and Amma. But for us who haven’t been fortunate enough to have found our
ride-or-die, lover, roomie, best friend person to share our lives with yet, we recognize that it’s quite a tall order these days to find someone who you connect with – mind, body, AND soul. And things become more complicated when you add in the fact that the difference between some Christians and non Christians is inconsequential, for the most part now. It also doesn’t work in your favor when you’re smitten by a particular type of guy- the highly educated, highly analytical, highly opinionated critical thinker who is not drawn to fables about an intangible God up in heaven looking out for us (and dictating how we have to live our lives), much less His incompetent followers gouging money from poor unsuspecting gullible people *side eye*- yes, Amma and I dated iterations of the.same.guy. Although these men were supportive of our individual relationships with Christ (and have a lot to do with why we have individually matured in our faith/beliefs even now), I know our relationships with them would have been richer if we could have been able to-
…pray with them and not at them…
… go to church with them
… make jokes about the Israelites in the old testament stories with them (really, Amma?)
… encourage them through scripture and (co)prayer
… and talk about hearing from God or experiencing a move of the Spirit without them rolling their eyes and/or smirking, just like Amma said.
However, I also know being a Christian doesn’t guarantee connection/compatibility (nor fidelity, honesty, good communication and all that other great stuff), so I can empathize with Lola that she was captivated by her husband by something other than his spirituality. I am happy that she found that special someone, and I recognize that people do change (note that it’s generally accepted that men take a longer time to ‘find religion/spirituality’ than women), but I also know that it’s not my job to change anyone, it’s God’s. So while not making any judgments on Lola’s situation, if I were to end up being with someone not of my faith, rather than placing stipulations on what their spirituality has to become ultimately, I would make peace with who I was marrying… as he was. And I would certainly make peace with the fact that I may be forever trucking to church solo, children-in tow, answering questions like ‘why doesn’t daddy have to go to church?’
**What I mean by this is you actually know why you believe what you believe, and how it translates to practical living, rather than blindly following any hooting and hollering pastor of the day, or just going to church because that’s what your parents did.