I am a Presbyterian and, before my now ex, I had only ever seriously dated another Presbyterian. My only other long-term relationship was in high school, which today I do not really count, and he was happy to attend church where I wanted and because I wanted him to. Having the practice of faith be my way in relationships worked really well for me, until I found myself in a two-year serious relationship with a Fundamentalist. Though the relationship ultimately ended in an explosion of distaste for my denominational practices, upbringing, and horror over my not-fast-enough conversion to his way of thinking, I learned a lot about my faith, his faith, and how a mutual acceptance of Jesus Christ really is all that matters.
The sudden, cold, unfixable end came when I let him know that I had been nominated to be a Deacon in my church. Sitting on his couch, I was crying while sharing how humbled I felt to be called by God to the service of his church, especially because this call was something I had always avoided out of childhood fear. I am the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor and, having grown up in the church, I have witnessed unbelievable cruelty by congregants. I became wary of church service while growing up and resolved to always attend church, but to avoid serving in it. Being called by God now, after years of belief that I would not work in the church, was very emotional. Knowing that apart from my fears of service, service in and of itself would be a struggle for my relationship with him doctrinally not believing in women leaders. I decided that for our relationship I needed to discuss the nomination with my boyfriend before accepting or rejecting the call.
We started out having the conversation I had wanted to have – him explaining the various roles of men and women in the church, but before I even knew what had happened, I had been dumped for Jesus.
On our first date, I invited him to church. He was new to town and talking about how important his faith was and how one of the first things he wanted to do was find a church, so I invited him to mine. (I had left the Presbyterian church in the hopes of meeting people my age and had started attending a contemporary service at a church that was his same denomination). As our relationship progressed, we went to this church together until I expressed that I was not spiritually fulfilled at this service and would like for us to find a different church. He said that he had been harboring the same feelings, but had not brought it up because he thought I was happy there. I found a more traditional service at another church in town that was still in his denomination and started bringing us there. At his request, we later switched to only attending the more bible study evening service because he wanted to stay up late on Saturday night drinking. Being in his 20s, I did not fault him for this and complied. As time went on, though, I yearned to be connected to God at the traditional Sunday morning service. I tried to express this, but he was unwilling to give up his late Saturday nights and I continued on filling unfulfilled.
It was at this point that I started returning for morning service at my Presbyterian church. I only went back because that was where I was comfortable going alone, and every evening I continued to attend church with him. Telling him I was back for morning service there did not go over well and led to what was probably the worst fight of our relationship. After a discussion of our faith and coming to an understanding of how I needed to actively practice mine, he let the matter drop, acknowledging my willingness to raise our family in his denomination when we one day moved for his career and got married. I thought we had worked through this different denominational background issue together, but sitting on his couch that day and realizing I was being dumped for Jesus I saw that it had and would always be held against me.
“I realize I messed up then,” he told me. “When I wanted to stay up and drink instead of taking you to morning service.”
Translation: I was losing my relationship because I went to two churches while dating
a drunk him, instead of going to his church alone.
There was no turning back after this. He had made up his mind – we were “too different” and he was not willing to hear how I wanted to raise my family in his church. All that mattered was that after two years of dating the preacher’s daughter had not fully left her denominational background.
- Were we “unequally yoked?”
No. Unequally yoked is for a believer and a non-believer, and I can understand why that is not an ideal Christian pairing. As a Christian, the person you marry is supposed to influence your faith journey, bringing you closer to God. We were both believers. We both accepted Jesus. Different practices are common, and what a typical Christian couple compromises on to establish how to go about raising their family. I was willing to compromise, but he was not.
- Did he bring me closer to God? Did I bring him closer to God?
Yes, he brought me closer to God. He challenged me to think about my faith and practices in a way I had never had to. I learned from him. I learned how another denomination thinks and I began to value aspects of that denomination. I valued the person his denomination made him.
No, I did not bring him closer to God. In our relationship, he openly rejected my practices and failed to ever develop appreciation for them. My faith was not valued. I was not the right kind of Christian. I needed to be changed. He gave up on us when he realized I would never fully think his way.
- Are we going to work it out?
I would imagine not. He rejected me and my denomination. I was always willing to bring his practices into my life, but he was unwilling to do the same. No compromise! I do not foresee that method of thinking changing after he dumped me. It is too Hollywood to believe that he would have some grand awakening that maybe I wasn’t so bad. He believes he took a stand for Jesus, and that he protected his faith. I bet he could write his own blog post on how he had to let go of a girl he loved because she was tempting him away from what was right! God is fully capable of working whatever miracles he needs to in order to establish his plan, but maybe the miracle is that I was not supposed to marry him and he was not supposed to marry me.
- How do you think alcohol played into this?
I think it is unfair to say that this was not a concern that had been weighing on his mind, but alcohol made the decision to dump me for Jesus come at an improper moment (when I was talking about my faith). It was also very rash. I do not believe that he had fully come to terms yet with breaking up with me. Further, when you are dumping someone for Jesus you probably should not be drunk while taking that stand.
- Did you feel like God was speaking to you in this breakup?
I would really classify it more as SHOUTING at me! We broke up on a Saturday night (yes, he was drunk when he dumped me for Jesus) and I forced myself to church on Sunday morning where the sermon was about God saving someone from walking off a cliff and how it is time to turn your life in a new direction. The sermon also touched on how the Pharisees thought they were the right kind of Christian and how it was everyone else that needed to change. In the next few days, my Bible kept opening to very direct passages – Jeremiah 17 (“Heal me Lord and I will be healed,” and “blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord;” various passages on Jesus healing; James 1 (considering it joy when your faith is tested); etc.
- What did I do after the breakup?
I became a Deacon in my church. I blocked his number, Facebook, and e-mail to make things easier on the both of us. I started putting him in the past and I started hanging out with my nondenominational, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc. friends who see and value my faith. I sought council from my pastor, and I turned to God’s word and teaching. Then, I wrote this blog post so that maybe my story can help another couple who is similarly struggling because you can and should be together if you seek understanding and compromise.
I also prayed for him, and I took comfort in knowing that he will probably never try to date another Presbyterian!