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How To Stay Together When Faith Takes You Down Different Roads ~ Marriage Letters

Dear Scott,

Used to be that when I heard the phrase “equally yoked,” I didn’t hear any patience undertones. I do now, and I’m not just thinking of all the time you spend waiting for me to finish in the bathroom. We’re approaching 14 years of marriage, and we’ve both discovered just how much work it takes to remain side by side, headed in the same direction, pulling together.

We’ve already written about many of the ways we’re well matched. It is a good thing to celebrate those things and bask in that harmony we have. We need that when we bump up against the hard days.

Our marriage isn’t perfect. Our faith journeys have diverged, and it isn’t comfortable or easy or pleasant. We’re still walking it out on unfamiliar terrain without a map.

This place we’re in needs waiting. It takes every ounce of patience we can muster and more. My prayers are filled with pleas for help, direction, and patience. Will we find our way closer together again or will we stay akimbo? How long til we know? What do we do in the waiting? What if our paths remain apart?

You’ve shared your frustration and discouragement with me, and your questions and fears for the future. I am no different. The waiting, the uncertainty, the sense of spiritual homelessness… it is miserable.

I think our instinct not to force anything is right. Me pushing you or you pushing me would lead to drawing lines in sand, violated consciences, soul wounds, and that marriage-murdering poison called bitterness.

In the meantime, we both find ourselves stuck, unable to do what we’re used to doing, and unable to see a way forward…yet. But I could never ask you to violate your conscience, and I cannot violate mine either. So we wait. We talk long and lean into the discomfort. We love each other as hard as we can. We find and celebrate and bask in the places where our paths converge.

Spiritual journeys take time. All change takes time. I remind myself of that often, especially on days like today when the strain begins to wear on us. I hope you know that I am your biggest fan, no matter what.

While our feet find different footing, we stumble and trip and wobble, trying to learn new steps to stay together. No-one talks about how to agree to disagree with the person you love most, when both of you believe so strongly but so differently.

I know I can be cynical, but today I choose hope. I believe that we’ll find a way through. I believe that a path forward lies just ahead if we’re patient and keep looking. When we find it, maybe we can write a book together. We do write together well.

I love you. That I do know. Wait for me, ok? I’ll be right here.




On Mondays, Scott (don’t miss his letter this week) and I join Seth and Amber as they fight the good fight for their marriage where we can all see. They call this weekly series “Marriage Letters” and pray that it encourages each of us in our own hard work of marriage. This week our topic is patience. You can join us any time with your own letter to your spouse, whether you both write or blog or not. Amber hosts a link-up on her blog, so we hope you’ll share your letter there!

How have you had to practice patience in your marriage?

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  1. Many a time in our nearly 28 years of marriage have we disagreed and funnily enough the way I usually deal with it is through letter writing. We have rarely argued in our marriage, but we have often sulked and that is not good either – pent up rage really. Eventually though in an effort to resolve the situation I have written down my frustrations in a letter to my husband, I then throw that version away – to full of bitterness and hurt. The next letter I write is a more balanced one, where I write about the issue from my perspective and then leave it for my husband to read. I always had a sense of leaving it there then. I didn’t have to push my point any further, my point was made and that was usually the end of it. Not sure if we ever resolved anything exactly but I felt heard and I could then leave whatever needed dealing with in the hands of my husband, the ball was in his court so to speak. Most often though we talk through most things, it is just those more difficult issues where I resorted to a letter. The letter writing has decreased though and I think it is partly because we have both learnt patience or maybe more able to communicate or even more comfortable with those places where we are not running at the same speed. We have certainly learnt to laugh more at our problems – that helps a lot.

  2. Beautiful, Joy. We’ve been in similar places a few times in our marriage. It’s a gift, to allow each other to change.

  3. oh yes. We have been there this season. I am just now feeling the growth through it. Keep holding strong, and give plenty of room for growth.

  4. Honesty is always compelling, and this is no exception. I am encouraged by this gorgeous glimpse into your love and faith journey. Thank you.

  5. Beautiful letter. It is filled with love and grace and hope, even in the midst of tension.

    It made me think of my own journey. I went to seminary, and my husband did not. I remember being really concerned about how that would affect our marriage. Ways I would be stretched and challenged. How I would learn and grow. I started to put confines up in my own heart, worried about how it would separate us.

    One day as I was praying, I felt the nudge of God. I heard Him remind me that He loved my husband more than I did. That his journey was not up to me. And that I needed to trust every piece of him, including His spiritual life, to God. It was scary and freeing all at once.

  6. So thankful for your honesty. It gives me permission too.

  7. loved your honesty here, Joy. such wisdom – to know that sometimes there is only the waiting.

  8. just yes, sister. We say so much of the same things sometimes. I definitely sense the 2 extra years you have on us, and I appreciate it so much.

  9. Wow… this is just beautiful. Tender, loving, longing – you brought a lump to my throat.
    As to how we’ve had to practise patience? Well, I’m an exploder and he’s a sulker, so that takes a bit of working through. Then there’s the last few years of him being mildly depressed and getting angrier and grumpier and refusing to admit that anything was different or wrong until I finally put my foot down a few months ago and said enough was enough and if he wouldn’t get any help for himself, he was going to get some for our marriage, me and our kids. And he did! And he’s feeling better… and I almost recognise the man I married again 🙂
    He’s had to be patient through all my hormonal-ness of having 4 babies, mild PND after the second one, extreme sleep-deprivation after the third one and general ‘Thank God you’re home, here are the kids I’m going for a walk right now!’ stages. Lol!

  10. It is hope that fuels that patience so necessary in marriage. I love the line, wait for me. Sometimes it is him waiting, sometimes it is I. Either way our future together is so worth the wait!

  11. Beautifully written Joy. I think almost everyone who lives through earthshaking trauma together in their marriages are changed by it in some ways. When my husband became seriously ill our lives flipped upside down and changed forever. We both had to get our footing again and learn how to care for each other in the midst of different circumstances. That tender patience that says “I’ll give you time, please give me time too” is such an expression of grace. In the midst of our struggle I’ve learned more about the nature of real love and God’s mercy than I did through anything else. It can be incredibly painful sometimes too. I recently wrote a blog post about things that I learned from my husband, remembering our journey together.

  12. Thank you for this; my sweetheart and I (we’ve been together for three years, but aren’t married… yet?) have very different spiritual paths; I come from a Christian background and have a call to ministry, he grew up in a secular home and is only beginning to discover his own spiritual life. We work hard to communicate and support each other on our different paths, and to give each other space to be where we are on the journey, and we frankly don’t have a lot of examples of people doing it well. I don’t know all the details of your struggle together, but we could really use the mentorship of a couple staying together through divergent paths. How can we give each other the grace to discover God on our own terms without compromising our own journeys? How can we pray together when the language we use is so different? We love each other very much and have a real desire to be partners together for God’s kingdom (ok, my language not his there) but frankly, should we get out while we can? I would love any stories or advice or wisdom from you and Scott, and also from anyone reading this who has experience. I know that every story will be different, but we are trying to gather wisdom from as many sources as possible. You can e-mail me at b(dot)ringdal@gmail.com. Blessings on your journey!

    • Bethany,
      It is such a challenge — I feel like we step on each other’s toes often. But we were advised early on to be open with each other and to give each other permission to react to that openness in our own way. If I say something that really upsets my husband, I need to let him find that upsetting and give him time and space to be upset for awhile, maybe vent or at least think out loud, etc. I need to know what his fears and concerns are. Then we talk about it, sometimes that day, sometimes later when we’ve had a chance to think and calm down. Those conversations aren’t necessarily about convincing or persuading, they are our attempts to understand each other better, learn how we think and see the world, and grasp each other’s priorities. When we understand one another, we’re able to respect each other’s different choices more.

      We have children, and this is a whole separate layer. It’s a tricky thing to show disagreement to children. It isn’t bad, but you have to do it carefully and as appropriate for their age. I want my children to expect smart decent people to disagree on things, and know how to handle it. So my husband and I have the opportunity to demonstrate how. The hardest part is knowing when to express that we see things differently. Iis the issue something they can understand? Can we talk about it without undermining the other? Can we talk about it without making our kids feel like they have to pick sides?

      I too would be interested in the advice of others, if anyone cares to share!

  13. It’s hard – I have a few friends in that situation where there faith has taken them different places in the marriage and it’s hard on them and their kids. I don’t think it’s ideal, but I have seen too much and can only believe that God is still working. We can’t tie our faith up in a neat little bundle, as much as that would be more comfortable.

    • Joy and Jennie-
      thank you so much; I can’t tell you what it means to not feel so alone in this wonderful and sticky struggle. Jennie, I think you’re right–that neither faith nor relationships are EVER going to be neat or tidy. We need to leave room for mystery in both, and I’m trying to leave room for the mystery of my partner’s blooming and beautiful, though very very different, relationship with the divine. What’s really scary is that all of the couples we know with serious faith differences have handled it by making their faith less important. This was our inadvertent strategy for a while– the ‘lets just not talk about God-stuff in a serious way together’ plan. I can tell you that, at least for us, that DOESN’T work. Since we’re such an important part of each others lives, censoring our experiences of faith from each other meant censoring them from ourselves. We were both studying religion in school at the time, so our conversations about faith became purely academic, detached from our own experiences and confusions. It’s taken a good deal of work to get to a place where we CAN speak openly, without fear of being judged by the other. We pray together as a practice in vulnerability; I want to be able to let him see me loving God without pretense or intellection getting in the way. We’re finding some ways to adopt each others’ language about the divine–him with Christian words and me with meditative breathing. We try to come to God together as often as we can. Now I try hard to find wonder and beauty in his new learnings and he in mine. The challenge is to see the beauty of another human groping imperfectly towards their own understanding of God without letting go of the central-ness of your own way; to be radically open, willing to let God move through this other person without losing your grasp on the language and traditions and truths in your own journey. Yeah, it’s messy, and we’re a long way from having it figured out.

  14. So glad I stumbled upon this post of yours today, dear Joy. I wanted to cry when I read it, if that’s any inclination about how much it hits home. Thanks for the wise example you are. Seems you are always mentoring me in the ways of marriage.


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