Saturday, 24 August 2013

All the Other Shades of Grey

No, I'm not referencing the bafflingly popular book series, instead I figured it was time to have a discussion about all those other shades of grey questions that bounce around the world of faith (to whatever degree or affiliation) minded singles.

It seems every time I sit down with my single friends (faith and non faith minded) the question seems to find its way to the issue of where do we place faith in our relationships. Is it the glue that makes marriages their best or is it something more? I am sure there would be those who argue that mutual faith is one of the determining factors to the success of a healthy relationship. However Christian divorce rates are the same as non-Christian rates. Even if faith had no factor in those divorces, what happens when a person goes through a period, season or years (whatever term makes you happy) of questioning, doubt and even silence within their relationship with God. Do they in turn silence their partner, if God is the centre and one no longer feels God's presence what happens? I realize it is more complicated than that and that is why I think there are so many shades of grey, especially in a culture where it seems many can place themselves with some degree of assurance on all sorts of other complex issues like gay marriage, abortion and even social policies, immigration and the environment.

Why is this one the murkiest of them all it seems?

I started this journey/blog for many reasons but namely because of this one issue. How is it that I still believe I need to share a common faith with my partner and yet to date the most successful relationships I have had have been with men who would label themselves some form of lapsed Catholic/agnostic or spiritual person. Is my decision being solely driven by the belief that in the hard moments I need someone to pray with - do I believe that I will be without other community in those times? Or is my decision being driven by the fear that some future ordination committee is going to reject me because I didn't fall in line with expectations? (If you're wondering that was one of the questions discussed when this issue most recently arose)

My frustrations are not unique which I am aware should be comforting and yet I feel only adds to the confusion. I have heard too many stories about Christian men with bizarre ideas of who their wife should be and the spiritually and emotionally aggressive lengths they go to (and I am fully aware that this phenomena can go the other way, sometimes I do wonder if the state of affairs in the Church is not in some way still being fuel by bizarre fantasies women have of their husband who leads the family in faith in all circumstances like a mini-Jesus or Paul). This does not mean that an agnostic partner would be less abusive or that there will be less turmoil. Nor should the decision be laid solely on these experiences or even my past experience. The question is:

When all else is great, even amazing is faith a deal breaker?

Yes, but no, but yes. Maybe oddly it has been but at the other extreme, for the last few months the extremes of evangelical faith have been a deal breaker, but in theory it should not be, I should be excited to see all these men professing the only books they have read are their Bible and Wild At Heart and yet I just feel lost, stuck in this land of grey that wants to believe that love is enough and a part of me that really just doesn't know.

So what do you think?

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  1. I must admit that I am really wrestling with this issue. As I reflected on it, it struck me that perhaps the problem is rooted in our culture. Western culture is characterized by a rampant individualistic ideal. This unfettered ego-centrism seems to contraindicate a satisfying intimate relationship, based on mutual regard, as a means to allaying our sense of social isolation – to satisfy our yearning for connection. But it dawned on me that if this is true, why has your experience of relationship with men of faith been less satisfying than that with men who hold to little or no faith commitments? After all, do we not find a prescription for marriage in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (5.21-33)? Granted, this is not the only guidance offered for marriage in the bible. Yet, for me, it is significant that Paul’s instruction begins with the admonition, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5.21, NIV). Even with the various ways the subsequent verses have been interpreted, Paul’s initial prescription ought to be considered as a firm proscription against seeking to have one partner's needs met at the expense of the other.
    Where does this leave me? Unless I have not been true to the spirit of (or Spirit behind) Paul’s instruction for marriage, perhaps others – who have a prominent voice – have.