April 6, 2011 by Nicole
Eyebrows go up, jaw drops open, and the head cocks slightly to the left (or the right, depending.). “You’re a what married to a who?!” is then followed by “How does that work?” or sometimes “Wow!” That’s the reaction you get when you tell people you are a Catholic (Like a go-to-mass-on-a-pretty-regular-basis, Rosary praying Catholic) who is married to a Baptist–wait for it–pastor.
I felt compelled to address this topic because it seems to come up from time to time, and right now, it’s a question highly relevant to my husband’s future career as a pastor as he looks for a full-time position. It was asked of my husband out of curiousity how our marriage works. How do we deal with this issue in our day to day lives? Well, I am going to try to explain, at least from my own perspective, the answer to that question.
The short answer is that our marriage works because we’re both Christians, we both love each other, and also that our marriage will work because we made a promise to God back in 2001 that for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, we would stay married.
The longer answer is more complicated. Do we disagree on things? Yes, we do. Is it that big a deal? No, it’s not. I suppose that if I had the theological expertise and education that my husband had, that would make things a little more difficult. I jokingly tell people that the reason our marriage works on “religious” level is because my husband is a very open-minded man who values the importance of ecumenism, and I don’t know enough to cause any real trouble. 🙂
Being married to a Baptist has done some very good things for me; in fact, it has inspired and enriched my faith. Because of my husband, I have read the whole Bible cover to cover, I hear and think about the Scriptures in a deeper, more literal way (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Catholic homily, and the Paulist Fathers at my church have yet to deliver anything but an inspirational and thought-provoking message.), and I find myself seeking God with more passion and commitment. He has gained a better understanding of what it means to be “Catholic,” and while I know that there are some doctrinal matters over which we don’t agree, he has said many times that he knows that the Church is doing God’s work. He is also the only Baptist pastor I know who is also a Catholic choir boy.
And, as I have said in the past, I don’t claim to be a theologian, but what I do know is that God transcends religious division. As a Baptist, it is important to him that I accept Christ as my savior, and I do. To me as a Catholic, it is important to me that my husband loves God and expresses that love through his Faith and the kindness and compassion he shows to others, and he does. We both share the same fundamental belief about what it means to be a Christian. At times, I think that is one of the purposes God had in mind for our marriage–that two Christians with two different ways of seeking God can be, to quote the parable of salt and light from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount referenced most famously by John Winthrop’s Modell of Christian Charity, we are “the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
I also firmly believe that the problems and denominational issues that divide us as Christians are tools that Satan uses to distract and further splinter God’s church. It occurs to me that all of the hatred, the exclusion, and accusations that different denominations of Christians impart upon each other are creations of humans and perversions of God’s divine purpose for us and brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s covenant through his Son was meant to save everyone. Jesus wanted all of us to have a close and loving relationship with his Dad (I believe “dad” is a close translation of Jesus’ word for his father–or so I read. 🙂 ). That should be enough to keep us focused on the big picture.
So, how does my marriage work? Well, it’s because it’s a marraige of three: me, my husband, and most importantly, God.