St. Paul says, “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He doesn’t remind us to give thanks only for the things that constantly make us happy. Our challenges can bring triumph when we allow them to transform us. To do this we must be malleable in the hands of God who wants nothing but pure joy for us.
It’s 2016 and we live in an age where people don’t typically marry within their faith anymore. My husband and I promised God and our family and friends that we would raise our children in the faith together on the day we married in the Church nearly five years ago. We didn’t fully understand what we were promising … really what I was promising was that my faith was important to me, and what my husband was promising was that I was important to him. This is not enough. Five years later in the throws of marriage and family life, it’s safe to say we finally ‘get it’ … and it’s hard.
Every time it feels hard, I choose to allow God to transform me with the given challenge. It’s a balancing act … growing in faith, and growing in marriage, when those two most important aspects of your life seem to differ from one another. But really, they don’t. Marriage is a sacramental bond between husband and wife, a sacrament rooted in faith. When I remember this I see my husband as the child of God I was meant to marry and share my faith with as fully as possible.
At a Catholic mom’s group not too long ago, some of my friends exclaimed, ‘how do you do it!? … you are doing all these things to grow in your faith and your husband isn’t Catholic … ?’ This comment really made me reflect on my interfaith marriage in a new way. I’ll admit I had felt the occasional pang of resentment towards my husband when he would stay home with his coffee in our warm house while I would cart our toddler to Mass alone. I haven’t missed Mass once since having our little guy … keeping this commitment alive and strong singlehandedly has not been easy. It has included making Mass a top priority for myself and toddler while traveling, camping, and in the midst of illness, miscarriage, and multiple job and housing transitions. No easy feat.
But more than this, I had allowed myself to dwell under a looming cloud of doubt and despair that was unproductive. I once read a statistic that most young boys will leave the Church by age 11 or soon thereafter if they don’t see their fathers practicing. Those that know me know I pour all my energy and resources into raising my children in this faith. Why? Because I know it is the only thing that will protect them in this terrifying world. In their best interest, I want them to grow up knowing God and their faith. So knowing that my husband’s lack of commitment to Catholicism might instantaneously unravel the garment of faith I’ve so painstakenly woven for my children, caused me to feel immense despair.
When asked the above question of ‘how do you do it?’ though, my perspective began to change. I really thought about the answer, and here it is:
By being a part of an interfaith marriage, I have had more quality conversations about my Catholic faith than ever before. My husband asks a lot of questions. And I need to know the answers. I have become more educated and knowledgable in my faith because of his genuine curiosity. I have learned to say, “I don’t know the answer to that … let me look into it and get back to you.” And thus I have learned to seek answers for questions I don’t know, by reading, researching, praying and having even more enlightening conversation with others who know more than I about our faith.
I have learned to be respectful of our differences. I have had to remind myself time and time again of what it felt like for me before I made this deep personal commitment to my faith… when I was talking the talk, but not walking the walk. It has humbled me and constantly reminded me of the two biggest enemies of spiritual growth … pride and ego. I have deepened my trust in God and His will for my husband. He knows each and every one of us intimately even if we don’t yet know Him. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5).
When my husband comes to Mass with us my heart burns with an indescribable joy that consumes my whole being. I wonder if my friends whose husbands are Catholic have felt this sensation, or if – by no fault of their own, but by the nature of habit, tend to take these experiences for granted.
My newfound trust in God for my husband and my marriage has lifted my cloud of doubt, and resolved me in my steadfast effort to model the goodness of my faith for my family. Would I give thanks to God if I had a Catholic husband? You bet. But I don’t have one of those. Nonetheless I have one that is just right for me, and I know this because I trust that God sent him to me without a shadow of a doubt that he was the one for me.
So when I say ‘thank God my husband isn’t Catholic’, I mean, ‘Thank you all-knowing God for giving me a life partner who is encouraging me to grow even more deeply and genuinely in my faith and trust in you. Thank you for giving me challenges that make me truly appreciative and grateful for the grace you are infusing into my marriage. Thank you for giving me a husband who is willing to take this journey with me even though he doesn’t seek you the way I do. I give thanks to you in ALL circumstances, especially the ones that challenge me most of all. You are a good and gracious God. Thank you for the wonderful gift of my husband. You know all things… you would have never given him to me by mistake. For this I am eternally grateful.’ And just like that my cloud of doubt turns into a cloud of hope. For when we truly trust in God, all things are possible, and all things can bring us the joy and gratitude that God hopes for us to carry in our hearts.