Unequally Yoked

This post was originally published at A Deeper Story.

photo credit: Mike Kniec via photopin cc
photo credit: Mike Kniec via photopin cc

My high school boyfriend always said he wanted to marry a WOG.

It was his special acronym for Woman of God – the compliment to any good MOG (not to be confused with the Pogthat schoolyard game/fad of the early-mid nineties).

He was the most on fire person I had ever known. He radiated with it. He led the morning Bible study at his high school and the youth group study at our church. He got up when it was still dark to pray.

That summer, he’d spent two months on other side of the world preaching the Gospel, and he came back with a shaved head and all kinds of God-sized dreams for his future.

When we sat side-by-side in the old church pews, I noticed him glance towards the underlined words in my Bible, and in his eyes, there was the faint glow of approval.

I think it was why he chose me, asked me out, asked me to be his girl. It was my newly reignited freshman faith, wild and insatiable, that he really loved. And, if we’re honest, it might have been what I loved most about him too – the passion, the zeal, the force of his devotion to God that drew me forward like a magnet.

We were a disaster waiting to happen, and when it fell apart, I felt like it was because my faith was not strong enough.  And when it all fell apart, the whole thing shattered like glass.

*

There is this thing they say in the Christian world when you’re in high school or college or in the Singles group at church. When you’re dating. When you’re looking for The One. 

“Don’t be unequally yoked,” they say, and they’re talking about that verse in 2 Corinthians that says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

The verse is vague, and Biblical commentaries have different views on what it means to be “yoked” with unbelievers – what parameters Paul is trying to create here. But in the world I lived in, this verse was about romance and love…about dating or marrying someone who did not share your faith.

It was a scene in my favorite Christian teen romance series. In youth group one night, the main character’s best friend acts out the role of “Katie Christian” dating “Peter Pagan” for a timely lesson on dating relationships.

“Katie Christian” is asked to stand on a chair and hold hands with “Peter Pagan.” When she tries to pull him up to her faith, she is unsuccessful, but all it takes is one swift tug for him to pull her down to his level.

One. Swift. Tug.

*

I met my husband the first week at our Christian College, and as much as I didn’t want to be that girl, it couldn’t be helped. We got married less than two years later in a wedding full of pink tulle and spiritual imagery, and when they sang Be Thou My Vision, we were teary-eyed through it all. We were in love with each other, in love with God, “equally yoked” in every way.

At 19 and 21 we didn’t know yet that faith is such a changeable thing. God is unchanging, steady, forever. But faith ebbs and flows. It shatters and is reassembled. You are on fire for God and then the fire burns out and you are left angry and ashen and cold.

It’s a road. It’s a journey. It’s a pit. It’s a paradise.

And the thing about marriage – any marriage – is that you are two different people, and there will be times when your faith feels like it’s gone dark and his has not. Or when he is full of doubt and you are lit up with a new grasp of grace.

No one told me that it is possible to feel a little unequally yoked even if you started out with a shared faith. Even if you’re both Christians. Even if you begin the whole thing with a united picture of God.

When the Mad Season came for me, and I started to feel myself pull away from God, we didn’t know what to do. The church that was life-giving for him was breaking me in half, and we were separated by a chasm we couldn’t navigate.

His faith was growing stronger, mine was shriveling. I was drinking and we were fighting, nights turned away from each other breathing angry toward the wall. We were unequally yoked.

It was the first of many times, and we’ve had to learn the feel of it as we go along. We’ve had to learn to prop each other up, to give each other space, the let our faith be what it is. We pulled each other up and down and then up again. We went to marriage counseling, and in the intentionality of that work we learned that we could still move forward, slowly, even though every step felt heavy.

And in the end, you don’t marry a WOG or a MOG. You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.

You are, both of you, Beloved of God, but you won’t always feel it. And you won’t always feel it at the same time.

And it’s okay. It’s just part of it.

Stay here, in this place where nothing feels equal or easy. Stay here in this love, with your jagged faith. Stay when the chasm seems too big to cross and when you’re afraid you’ll never be on the same page again. Balance each other out, or rage together in the darkness. But stay if you can.

You are equally loved, equally held, tied here together for reasons you won’t always remember.

Keep moving forward, together, into the future He is planning, has planned. It is wild and beautiful and worth every heavy, uneven step.

4 thoughts on “Unequally Yoked

  1. This is fantastic. I am not married yet and have never considered this. I know that my faith looks different from day to day. Sometimes I’m so certain, sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I feel like God is near, sometimes he seems incredibly far away. If you marry a MOG or WOG (love those acronyms by the way) their faith will also be shifting. Glad you presented this idea. I feel like it’s important for people to consider.

  2. Its been a while, Addie, and I miss your heart expressions! Life has been crazy! And this subject is a part of that. Here’s a thought that might get me in trouble:
    When Paul said, “…don’t be unequally yoked…” he meant it proverbially.
    Most of us familiar with biblical literature know that different genres of Scripture are to be understood according to their forms. The Proverbs are less “promises” and more “wisdom principles.” That is, if you do this, you can pretty much count on this as a consequence.” Many Christians have taken, for example, the “Raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” as a divine promise, almost a formulaic guarantee that my kids will follow the faith if I do everything right! Not only does practicality bear out different results in real life, but scriptural integrity demands that we see this as a point of wisdom that will usually bear out.
    So, “do not be unequally yoked” when taken along with its subsequent warning, is a proverbial statement, perhaps equal to, “if you marry a person with significantly opposing values, in faith and other heart-level matters, you are asking for a kind of trouble in an already complicated and vulnerable relationship, that you just don’t want to deal with. It will be confusing and distressing and maybe even downright destructive for your heart, not to mention the hearts of any offspring you may have down the road.”
    Proverbial. Not so much an issue of abject disobedience, but just asking for trouble. What do you think?

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