Updated: Oct 31, 2019
A woman and her young daughter walked into church and sat in front of my husband and me. Right before the service began in walked her husband and son. The young son sat down right away, but the husband stood at the end of the row. He looked back searching for open seats in the back. He scowled. Sorry guy, church was full. Hesitantly he sat down.
His body language was stiff. We stood to sing and he put his hands in his pockets. Stood rigid and didn't open his mouth. He looked miserable. He looked like he had been dragged to church.
I looked around. You could tell the people who were into the church service with joy on their faces and the few who didn't want to be there. The few who had been dragged there.
I watched as the woman sang swaying with the contemporary music and at one point slightly raised her open left hand to her shoulder in praise. Her children stood there with their arms crossed not singing. Perhaps they had been dragged to church too. Or perhaps they were awkward middle schoolers not wanting to appear uncool. But it was her husband who obviously for whatever reason didn't want to be in church. Anywhere but there. He was not a happy camper.
In the middle of the sermon he left the church for about 5 minutes and then returned. At the end of church he bolted out of there - not waiting for his family. That's what dragged people do. They don't want to hang around chit-chatting with people. They want to get the heck out of Dodge.
All through church my heart was sad. After church I couldn't stop thinking about this family.
What makes one person get it and another not?
Back up years to when you first met your spouse. You dated and fell in love and perhaps you were on the same page when it came to spiritual matters. Perhaps you didn't even think about it. You assumed because they were raised in a church that they were Christian. Oh, but how many people there are who walk around thinking they are Christian because their parents were. They say they were dragged to church every Sunday. They say they are hearing nothing new in church. They think they know it all. Christians by heritage aren't Christians. You are only Christian by faith.
Or perhaps it didn't really matter to you at the time if you weren't on the same spiritual page. You were in love. Your spouse may not even be the same religion as you. They may say when you have kids that you can raise them in your religion. Or your spouse may be from a different denomination. Or perhaps you were Catholic and they were Protestant and they converted so you could get married in the church. There is no difference, right? Wrong.
You begin your marriage with it just not being a big deal. Years pass.
But then somehow it becomes a big deal. A really big deal.
Perhaps one goes through a rough time and turns back to their faith for comfort. Perhaps one decides the children need some religious education. For whatever reason, their faith becomes important for one of them. And the other one is left with "This isn't what I signed up for!"
It becomes disagreements between not only going to church or mass or synagogue or mosque to mocking of the person's faith to full blown arguments on how much money you are giving to church or how much time you are spending at church or how to raise the children. It starts out as a disagreement. Before long a war erupts in your marriage. The lines are drawn. Both sides dig in.
The kids ask you why doesn't Daddy (or Mommy - this isn't a gender thing) have to go to church?
At tax time when you get the statement from the church, the spouse snaps at you, "Do you see how much money you gave to the church?"
You insist on praying before a meal and your spouse gets ticked off.
You want to live your faith.
Your spouse finds the whole thing awkward and bothersome.
The loneliest place for a believer is to be in a marriage with someone who does not share your faith. You are tired of your spouse looking at you like an alien. You're envious of your Christian friends whose spouses want to go to church with them to praise God and who want to pray with them.
You wonder how did I get here? Our marriage didn't start out this way. You are clueless.
This happens waaaayyyy more than you think. Look around this coming Sunday. Notice the angry and sullen who obviously don't want to be there. Notice their spouses. Look.
What makes one person get it and the other not get it? No one knows.
Realize first that God loves your spouse more than you ever could. He wants your spouse to know Him. He is drawing your spouse to Him. But this happens in God's timing. Not yours. Years could go by. You will get discouraged because it seems like it is taking way too long for your spouse to join you.
Pray for your spouse. Be persistent in prayer. God has assured us He hears our prayers and answers them. You have no idea how God is working in this situation. Just know that He is. Trust Him with it.
Do you drag your spouse to church where maybe they might hear something which would change their heart? I don't know. I don't think dragging works very well. Perhaps occasionally invite them to come with you instead? Leave the choice up to them.
It is your responsibility to share your faith with your children. You can do that when your spouse isn't around. In the car as you are driving them to soccer practice. Bedtime prayers. On the drive home from church. On the way to school. It's not ideal, but it keeps peace in your home.
It isn't our job to save people. This is between God and your spouse. You can't force your spouse to change. You don't have that kind of power. Stop trying to force it. Let God do His thing. Pray for patience on your part.
Do the best you can at living out your faith at home, but be respectful of your spouse's beliefs. Don't mock them. Don't be judgmental. Watch your tone. If they mock you, try to have a heart to heart discussion with them asking for mutual respect.
Know that you are not alone. Far from it! Don't be embarrassed of your spouse. It's their deal. Their lack of belief is not your fault. Each much choose belief for themselves.
I'm sure it must hurt not being able to share something as important as your faith with your spouse. God sees your pain and your tears. He hears your prayers. Lean into Him. Let Him comfort you. Trust Him and He will honor your faithfulness.
Faith in a God who is mighty to save. It is what we profess. Believe it.