Culture

April 03 2013
121

unequally yoked
My high school boyfriend always said he wanted to marry a WOG.

It was his special acronym for Woman of God – the compliment to any good MOG (not to be confused with the Pog, that schoolyard game/fad of the early-mid nineties).

He was the most on fire person I had ever known. He radiated with it. He led the morning Bible study at his high school and the youth group study at our church. He got up when it was still dark to pray.

That summer, he’d spent two months on other side of the world preaching the Gospel, and he came back with a shaved head and all kinds of God-sized dreams for his future.

When we sat side-by-side in the old church pews, I noticed him glance towards the underlined words in my Bible, and in his eyes, there was the faint glow of approval.

I think it was why he chose me, asked me out, asked me to be his girl. It was my newly reignited freshman faith, wild and insatiable, that he really loved. And, if we’re honest, it might have been what I loved most about him too – the passion, the zeal, the force of his devotion to God that drew me forward like a magnet.

We were a disaster waiting to happen, and when it fell apart, I felt like it was because my faith was not strong enough.  And when it all fell apart, the whole thing shattered like glass.

*

There is this thing they say in the Christian world when you’re in high school or college or in the Singles group at church. When you’re dating. When you’re looking for The One.

“Don’t be unequally yoked,” they say, and they’re talking about that verse in 2 Corinthians that says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

The verse is vague, and Biblical commentaries have different views on what it means to be “yoked” with unbelievers – what parameters Paul is trying to create here. But in the world I lived in, this verse was about romance and love…about dating or marrying someone who did not share your faith.

It was a scene in my favorite Christian teen romance series. In youth group one night, the main character’s best friend acts out the role of “Katie Christian” dating “Peter Pagan” for a timely lesson on dating relationships.

“Katie Christian” is asked to stand on a chair and hold hands with “Peter Pagan.” When she tries to pull him up to her faith, she is unsuccessful, but all it takes is one swift tug for him to pull her down to his level.

One. Swift. Tug.

*

I met my husband the first week at our Christian College, and as much as I didn’t want to be that girl, it couldn’t be helped. We got married less than two years later in a wedding full of pink tulle and spiritual imagery, and when they sang Be Thou My Vision, we were teary-eyed through it all. We were in love with each other, in love with God, “equally yoked” in every way.

At 19 and 21 we didn’t know yet that faith is such a changeable thing. God is unchanging, steady, forever. But faith ebbs and flows. It shatters and is reassembled. You are on fire for God and then the fire burns out and you are left angry and ashen and cold.

It’s a road. It’s a journey. It’s a pit. It’s a paradise.

And the thing about marriage – any marriage – is that you are two different people, and there will be times when your faith feels like it’s gone dark and his has not. Or when he is full of doubt and you are lit up with a new grasp of grace.

No one told me that it is possible to feel a little unequally yoked even if you started out with a shared faith. Even if you’re both Christians. Even if you begin the whole thing with a united picture of God.

When the Mad Season came for me, and I started to feel myself pull away from God, we didn’t know what to do. The church that was life-giving for him was breaking me in half, and we were separated by a chasm we couldn’t navigate.

His faith was growing stronger, mine was shriveling. I was drinking and we were fighting, nights turned away from each other breathing angry toward the wall. We were unequally yoked.

It was the first of many times, and we’ve had to learn the feel of it as we go along. We’ve had to learn to prop each other up, to give each other space, the let our faith be what it is. We pulled each other up and down and then up again. We went to marriage counseling, and in the intentionality of that work we learned that we could still move forward, slowly, even though every step felt heavy.

And in the end, you don’t marry a WOG or a MOG. You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.

You are, both of you, Beloved of God, but you won’t always feel it. And you won’t always feel it at the same time.

And it’s okay. It’s just part of it.

Stay here, in this place where nothing feels equal or easy. Stay here in this love, with your jagged faith. Stay when the chasm seems too big to cross and when you’re afraid you’ll never be on the same page again. Balance each other out, or rage together in the darkness. But stay if you can.

You are equally loved, equally held, tied here together for reasons you won’t always remember.

Keep moving forward, together, into the future He is planning, has planned. It is wild and beautiful and worth every heavy, uneven step.

121 comments

  1. “And in the end, you don’t marry a WOG or a MOG. You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.”

    Hear, hear! Working through personal doubt is scary enough, but feeling like your marriage hinges on your faith puts everything teetering on the edge of disaster. And you’re absolutely right that even though none of us would consciously want our spouse to stay exactly the same forever (right!?), the pressure is on in Christian circles to pick someone “perfect” at the outset instead of preparing to love an imperfect spouse through a lifetime of change.

    Like you, I’m not sure the “unequally yoked” verse was ever meant to be applied to marriage, but I can certainly attest to the benefits of marrying someone who’s going the same direction in life as you are, who shares your core values. At the same time, those inevitable periods of unevenness don’t need to spell doom for a relationship; those times can allow grace to shine the most brightly. Thank you for your honest and hopeful post!

    Reply
    • Kim

      “Working through personal doubt is scary enough, but feeling like your marriage hinges on your faith puts everything teetering on the edge of disaster” – YES! You articulated the danger so well here, Bethany.

      Reply
    • Addie

      Great comment, Bethany. That line that Kim highlighted below was perfect. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. What a beautiful post! Through ups and downs God can keep marriages together, He does, and I am thankful. My dear husband and I had 43 years together, our love for each other and God grew even deeper through his 4 month illness before he went home to be with Jesus, in Dec. 2012. I love him more each day now and miss him terribly.

    God’s love, mercy and grace, His strength and peace are what keeps us going in marriage and in singleness. I look forward to seeing my husband again whenever that may be.

    Thank you again for this post. It really touched my heart. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    FlowerLady

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much for your kind comment Lorraine. I got a little teary-eyed when I read about you and your husband. Praying grace and peace as you wait for things to be made whole again.

      Reply
  3. Barb K

    Some good vow writing material here! Blessed for the 24 years I’ve had with my husband walking the journey of life: change, hardship, joy, sorrow… So good! Thanks for writing!

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much, Barb!

      Reply
  4. So I get this, I really do. But as a mom who is parenting a 21 year old who deeply loves God but is dating and deeply loves a great guy with no interest or expression of faith I do have what I feel are valid concerns. I have never used the unequally yoked verse on her – and I never will – but what I do tell her is this: Life throws some pretty dangerous curve balls, marriage brings in stuff that you never signed up for, and knowing we both had a foundation of believing we were deeply loved by God and that our marriage mattered to him is the only thing that kept us together. Everything – society, friends,crises – said to us “Give up” the only thing that kept us is a stubborn belief that we mattered to God, that our marriage mattered to God. So there’s a bit of the other side….

    Reply
    • Betsy Ways

      AMEN, Marilyn!!!! AMEN!!! Everyone before this post, thank you for sharing the honest challenges that we all face but hardly ever hear about. Keep on keeping on, trusting Him to accomplish WAAAAAAAY beyond what we could ever imagine or think. Hang in there everyone. It’s great Marilyn,that you told your 21 yr old about the things we never signed up for. It’s like the clause in my job description about the scope of my duties/responsibilities: “…and anything else your director deems appropriate.” Well, we certainly have the BEST Director of all and He will see us through any & every thing.

      Reply
    • Addie

      I do agree, Marilyn. Over on my blog link to this, I wrote, “Andrew and I will have been married 10 years this summer (!!!), and I’m all-the-time thankful that he loves God. Faith has always been a foundational element in our marriage, and there are things I’m not sure we would have made it through if that hadn’t been the case.”

      Still, I wasn’t prepared for how hard it can be STILL even if you do share all of those things. Like you said, curve balls come, and it is possible for faith to be shattered even if it was strong when it started.

      In the end, all I know is that I’m so glad that God is steady when our faith is not. Glory.

      Reply
      • meme

        I Eddie. I really like you post. I do often pray to stumble upon a story in relation to mine. I’m a born again Christian based in Africa. 7 years ago I met my Mexican, a father of to teenagers and I a mom of to . my own kids under 10 then. upon meeting him I hadnth given my heart yet but grew up In a Christian home. his catholic, doesn’t go to church, often tries to prove Jesus existence by trying to convince me that the bible scriptures has been altered over the decades. ..leaving him angry evertime he finds me reading it. to cut a long story short. we belongs to the underworld and uses his supply for the past 25years. I eventually fell into using and hated everything about whom I can to get to know on a deeper level. I hate his source of income always did but I believed my ministering to him will drew him closer to God. yet it never did. I rather drew further from God once I became a hardcore addict. my life with him is the hardest, darkest and fearful place I’d ever been at. I repented 3 years ago and his still the same.I believe we bound to using drugs as it’s what we sow but he just laughs. I mention us as I’m his wife and even though I prayed about his source of income, fought about it etc it’s still the same. I refuse to stand behind him whilst he harms our neighbors, I gave up a year ago and moved out. I don’t have much knowledge on being equally unyoke, I just assume so because he idolizes his lifestyle and I want to serve God in working with addicts. are we equally unyoke or should I just go back and wait on God. ..please answer me.I need help.I never get a reply…maybe I’m just the unlucky one

        Reply
        • Jennifer

          Hello Meme,

          If you or your children are in danger, I suggest you leave. Now, I know that advice might not be popular with a lot of Christians, because everyone wants to believe that God will do a miracle and transform your husband’s life. God can. God might. But if God chooses the begin that redemptive work, you need to know that it’s GOD’S work. It’s not yours. You are not responsible for your husband’s lack of faith. Please, know that the Bible does not give you the responsibility to “save” your husband. You should pray for him constantly. You should speak love, compassion, and God’s truth to him. But as a mother, you have a responsibility to your children.

          Reply
    • Monika

      How to explain the lower divorce rate of secular people? As a secular humanist, I get so tired of the Christian view that religion makes marriage stronger. The Barna survey, by an evangelical Christian, no less, does not support this view. A deep, strong, unselfish love, mutual respect, honest communication, *realistic* expectations, tolerance of imperfection, *shared* goals, joys, and burdens, that’s what makes marriages endure. I see a lot of that in Addie’s wonderful post.

      Religion % have been divorced
      Jews 30%
      Born-again Christians 27%
      Other Christians 24%
      Atheists, Agnostics 21%

      That said, a shared philosophy or religion is a tremendous help, and very diverse ones can be a huge challenge. I would caution the secular boy against dating the Christian girl for that reason (and vice versa).

      Reply
  5. Still not sure men are allowed to comment here (that’s a joke…), nor whether my incessant praise of Addie’s writing needs a little tempering, because she just keeps getting better and better, but anyway, thanks, Addie. So true.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks Bernard.

      Reply
  6. Toni

    This post really touched my soul. I married a man I love / absolutely adore he is not what they say he “should be” for a ” Christian girl”, but he loves me our kids and is a wonderful man. Things fall into place and God helps us along.

    Reply
    • Addie

      I love this Toni. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
    • Vii

      Hi Toni,

      So you’re a Christian girl married to an unbeliever? How is it working out? How long have you been married.
      I’m a believer in a relationship with an unbeliever and Addie’s post really resonated with me. I honestly believe God loves me and this man and that working a marriage out is a matter of the will but that having the favour of God on my life is a huge advantage. Nonetheless I really don’t want to be foolish and ignorant. That’s why I’d like to hear how, Toni, you’re working it out.

      Again, Addie, that was absolutely awesome and encouraging what you wrote.

      Reply
  7. I must admit that I was REALLY uneasy going into this piece. How I grew up, it was always emphasized that being unequally yoked meant not to be good friends with/marry outside of our denomination, let alone an unbeliever (and in some cases it was like an unbeliever would be a better fit than a non-Plymouth Brethren believer). So I came into this with quite a bit of guardedness.

    And now I just want to hug you and say thank you, because this has been somewhat similar to my marriage experience as well. “And in the end, you don’t marry a WOG or a MOG. You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.” This is exactly it. Both of us have gone through (and are going through) lots of faith changes. It’s just…part of life. And it’s okay. It’s okay.

    Thank you, Addie.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much Dani. Sorry the title put you on edge!

      Reply
  8. Tanya Marlow

    Love this – on marriage and what it is, and faith and how it changes. So good.

    Reply
  9. What really struck me in this post is the reality that we don’t stop growing up when we get married. Life is hard. We are changed by the challenges. Sometimes our faith is rocked. Sometimes we ask questions we haven’t asked before. In marriage, my husband and I are committed to each other and really do love doing life together, but there have been times when the growing pains were a bit too intense and we needed space to rest and breathe. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Addie

      Yes, Cindy. Exactly. Thank you.

      Reply
  10. I also grew up believing I would only ever consider a good Christian boy to date: that was my number one criteria. Never would I have guessed that I would find my soul mate in someone who was giving up on faith. Nor would I have thought it would be actually GOOD for me. Having a partner who is a non-believer has given me a new perspective on God’s love and his creation. It tests and informs my theology. And now when I think about being partnered with a passionate believer, I realize I’d rather have what I have. Because his lack of investment in a particular brand of belief gives me the freedom to change, question, and doubt without outside pressure. He respects my faith and I respect his skepticism. We listen and share but don’t condemn. That’s more than I can say for some of my Christian friends who will argue to the death over theological issues.

    Reply
    • Addie

      That’s so cool, Lynn. I have come to believe that God is bigger than my decisions, that his picture is so much bigger and more complex. Who knows what he will do? I love the peace I see in this comment — the recognition that God has been present in this marriage in a way he might not have been able to be in a more “Christian” one. Thanks so much for sharing.

      Reply
    • Vii

      Lynn, wow, as per my earlier comment to Toni, I’d love to hear how you’re doing it :)

      With all these posts, and Addie’s replies, I just wish there was a “like” button :)

      Addie you’re totally rocking :)

      Reply
  11. That’ll preach, Addie. Well done.

    Reply
    • Addie

      *mwah*

      Reply
  12. Lee Eclov

    This is excellent, and I’m the pastor who married Addie and Andrew. This is the kind of thing I can use in premarital counseling. I always tell couples, you won’t be married to the same person in 10 years. That includes the place where we each are with the Lord.

    Reply
    • Oh how I wish someone would have told us that. I’m COMPLETELY different than I was when we married(my husband has changed too, but not as dramatically), and it caused lots of friction until we were able to communicate and find our bearings again. SO important for people to know going in, I think.

      Reply
      • Addie

        Agreed, Anna. I think it was sort of in-one-ear-out-the-other when we heard it. Maybe true for other couples, but certainly not for us! #facepalm

        Reply
  13. jodie

    this is so beautifully written. i’ve been married almost 11 years and i felt like i was reading my own marriage on paper. you drew out the truth of it so well… the struggle, the beauty, the disappointment, the anger, the illusion… about marriage and about faith. well done, and thank you. i shared it on Facebook. more people need to see this – especially young people just entering in… but even us “older gals” who’ve been around the mountain a few times. thank you again, sincerely.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much Jodie.

      Reply
  14. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this point brought out and addressed so well…that while you may appear to be ‘equal’ when you get married…life is so fluid…you will *not* always be ‘on the same page’…and then what? Wonderful post Addie!!

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much Jessi. Sooo fluid. Yes.

      Reply
  15. Amen.

    Reply
  16. Coral Rose

    This is spot on. Amen and amen.

    Reply
  17. Addie, so lovely and a true glimpse of marriage and faith – which becomes at times a tandem exercise. I know my husband and I were both quite conservative and charismatic in our early marital years.. and there have been shifts. Mine have been more pronounced, in part because I’ve been more vocal, more ‘triggered’ by certain environments – and he’s found ways to walk with me forward. We both have arrived and traveled and set out again across new terrain in our faith over our 11 years. Heavy and uneven as you say, yet somehow always together. Lovely post, Addy.

    Reply
    • Addie

      I think that’s the same with us too. We’ve both changed a lot, but I’m a exactly like you — more vocal and more ‘triggered’ — yes.

      Reply
  18. Music to this engaged girl’s ears

    Reply
  19. Kimberly Walker

    Goodness, how wonderful your perspective is my friend. I love how you manage to see the world and point out an new insight on why things get turned the wrong way and why the story gets so frayed.

    ‘No one told me that it is possible to feel a little unequally yoked even if you started out with a shared faith.’

    So very true. Didn’t find THAT in Concentric Circles in Christian Discipleship, now did we?!

    Reply
    • Addie

      Ha! Love it. (And thank you, friend.)

      Reply
  20. Chills…this was SO GOOD and such an important reminder!

    Reply
  21. Hmm…I think we should define what a man or woman “of God” is before we say we don’t marry that. I mean, I’ve never looked at that phrase and thought it to indicate a girl’s level of faith, but rather than she confesses Christ as Lord and Savior and trusts Him with her life, knowing that bad times hit us all, but the house built on that rock will still stand after the storm.

    Yeah, if you’re trying to marry someone with a particular level of faith, then you’ll be disappointed later down the line (and it might just be God’s grace toward you to allow you to press into Him that way), but I would think that being intentional on marrying someone who loves and trusts Christ should be the goal, if not essential.

    Reply
    • Nina

      That’s an excellent point. And I’ll add something further…

      There was an expectation when I was in college that you married young (girls went to college to get their MRS degree). That marriage was “legalized sex” and if you just.can’t.wait.any.longer, pick a “good Christian guy” and get married so you can have all the sex you want because it was “better to marry than burn”. That was the overarching message being given in young adult Bible studies and the general consensus.

      What I’ve come to realize in the intervening years is:

      1. Marriage ain’t about sex. Life throws you curveballs and you don’t know what is going to happen. You could end up disabled (I did) and that part of married life can be… difficult.

      2. I didn’t marry my husband *because* he was Christian. Was it a factor? Yes, a **very** small one. But the reason I married him was because we fit together. To borrow a total cliche, he completes me.

      3. Marrying in your late teens/very early 20s isn’t necessarily a good thing. BTDT, ended disastrously (see “legalized sex” above). It’s better to get some maturity and life experience under your belt before making a lifelong, permanent commitment. Which is why at almost 40 I *still* don’t have a tattoo. ;-)

      4. Counseling is a *very* good thing. When you are having a rough patch, a counselor can help you navigate it without being emotionally invested.

      Unequally yoked doesn’t only apply to believer/unbeliever. It can also apply to people who are discerning the ministry. I’ve seen more than one case where marriages broke up or were nearly destroyed because one partner was “called” into a certain ministry and the other was **not**.

      I’ve also seen marriages where one partner was Christian and the other was not (think Buddhist/Atheist/Muslim/Etc) and they managed to live in peace and harmony and respect each other’s beliefs. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not as much a factor of “Is this person a Christian?”, but more a factor of “is this person a decent human being?”. Christians can be jerks sometimes. But decent human beings are decent human beings.

      Reply
      • Nina, you offer some wisdom, much of which is needed.

        The only concern I have is the last paragraph. I’m well aware of the abuses and misrepresentations of this text (2 Cor. 6:14), but we can’t stray from the fact that it does say “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”

        The quality of person may be important, but Paul’s reason for this is that righteousness does not have partnership – communion – with lawlessness. And that light has no fellowship with darkness.

        He continues saying that the temple of God has no agreement with idols.

        We may try to extend that text to apply wisdom in choosing a spouse when it comes to ministry callings, travel vs local, etc. but it does at least mean a believer should not marry an unbeliever, even if they get along well.

        Reply
        • Monika

          The above is an excellent example of why I caution the secular to not marry the religious. You can be very compassionate, highly ethical, honest, responsible, law-abiding, just all around good, and you may still be derisively labeled “lawless” and “dark” and “unrighteous”, by your own spouse, their family, their friends, their church. A marriage without respect is doomed to fail. A marriage with vastly different foundations of right and wrong, of the meaning and purpose of life, is going to be very challenging, at best. Trying to raise children to think critically, rather than accept things on blind faith, to be good based on empathy, not the supernatural, can also be something between challenge and nightmare when married to a religious spouse. It’s not enough to love someone with all your heart, when you’re divided by things that are non-negotiable, not subject to compromise, and those are at the very core of who you are.

          Reply
      • Beth

        Thank you for this post. I am a Christian in a relationship with a Buddhist. He is a wonderful man! My christian friends and sisters are not happy with my choice. I am feeling a bit pressured because he is not of the same faith.

        Reply
    • Addie

      I guess when I think of the “Woman of God!” and “Man of God!” language that the old high school boyfriend used, I think of this sort of evident, “walkin’-the-walk” spirituality — the “on fire”-ness, the “Jesus Freak” persona. I think of certain ways your faith manifests itself at certain times of your life.

      I’m very grateful that I am married to a person who loves God, but it hasn’t always been as simple as all that…for either of us. Sometimes that relationship with Christ feels really fractured and broken, and it’s still THERE, but it’s a mess. Our identity in Christ doesn’t change at those times, but it sure FEELS different, particularly to your spouse.

      I guess that’s what I’m trying to validate here. I’m not saying that you *shoudln’t* marry a Christian. I’m just saying that even when you do, it’s hard.

      Reply
      • Yeah, I can definitely see that. I think that’s why Paul only limits us by saying we should only refrain from marrying non-believers, instead of it being something as subjective as manifested faith. To keep us grounded in the fact that we DO believe, even when it’s hard and looks like a mess.

        Reply
  22. What a needed word for so many. There have been times in my 35 years of marriage when I so needed this. I married a man of faith; we ended every date with prayer. Now he doesn’t pray, he doesn’t go to church and he is angry somewhat at God because we had hard times. Because we had difficult things happened to us and he thinks God should have protected us from it all. It happens, I think more often than we know. I am the strong one, and I am the one who has made a positive difference in how our children were raised in the faith. I have ask myself through the years, what if he would have married someone who wasn’t as strong? What would the environment be that their children would be raised in? It is a mystery why we are with someone, but perhaps it is because the Lord does know they will struggle. Maybe even this is the will of God. Perhaps we should simply embrace what is…

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks for sharing your story, Gayle. Yes, we all react to God differently when hard things come. So good to give one another the space and grace to feel how we feel so that we can move forward.

      Reply
    • Vii

      Sho Gayle, that’s encouraging.
      Thanks

      Reply
  23. i get this in more ways than i’d like to admit.
    {thank you} for offering hope and perspective to me today, Addie.
    i needed it.

    Reply
    • Addie

      So glad it was meaningful for you, Kelli. Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  24. Thank you for this post. It sheds some simple light on a topic that is so befuddled in Christian culture.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks Jessie.

      Reply
  25. cassie k

    Thank you for writing this. I was just talking to a friend last week about the ‘equally yoked’ verse and what it really means. As a counselor and mentor I hear couples disillusioned about what they thought an ‘equally yoked’ marriage was going to look like in the long run.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Yes. Different for every couple, I imagine. But hard…marriage is always a little hard sometimes because life is just hard. Thanks for sharing, Cassie.

      Reply
  26. SO on target, Addie. Yes, we all shift, change, grow over the years. And husband and wives do not do it at the same time, or the same pace. The point is making space for the other to become who they are, isn’t it? We’re all on the road to that kind of transformation. God’s grace calls us to be more of who we were designed to be and that takes a lifetime and a whole lot of changes.

    Reply
    • Addie

      “The point is making space for the other to become who they are, isn’t it?” – yes. Well put.

      Reply
  27. chipiwa maziva

    This is a beautiful piece of writing, with so much truth, which however is overlooked by so many people who intend to marry/ are married.
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much.

      Reply
  28. Amen. Marriage, and faith, are so much messier and more complicated than those neat youth-group phrases. Thanks for this, Addie.

    Reply
  29. Here’s a thought that might get me in trouble:
    When Paul said, “…don’t be unequally yoked…” he meant it proverbially.
    Most of us familiar with biblical literature know that different genres of Scripture are to be understood according to their forms. The Proverbs are less “promises” and more “wisdom principles.” That is, if you do this, you can pretty much count on this as a consequence.” Many Christians have taken, for example, the “Raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” as a divine promise, almost a formulaic guarantee that my kids will follow the faith if I do everything right! Not only does practicality bear out different results in real life, but scriptural integrity demands that we see this as a point of wisdom that will usually bear out.
    So, “do not be unequally yoked” when taken along with its subsequent warning, is a proverbial statement, perhaps equal to, “if you marry a person with significantly opposing values, in faith and other heart-level matters, you are asking for a kind of trouble in an already complicated and vulnerable relationship, that you just don’t want to deal with. It will be confusing and distressing and maybe even downright destructive for your heart, not to mention the hearts of any offspring you may have down the road.”
    Proverbial. Not so much an issue of abject disobedience, but just asking for trouble. What do you think?

    Reply
    • Addie

      This makes sense to me, Neal. It seems like a more proverbial verse to me too. As I said over on my blog, I’m so grateful that the person I married loves God. There are things that I’m not sure we would have made it through if that hadn’t been the case. But our Christian faith also doesn’t mean that we’re immune to hard things or changes or devastating faith failures. But it gives us a common ground — a home base — to go back to, and I’m thankful for that.

      Reply
  30. I mean, this is like my own story – with a few minor variances. We would surely enjoy a cuppa something and a long chat around days and ideas gone by/bye.

    (The most uncanny similarities were how I also got married at 19 and “be Thou My Vision was played during our wedding.)

    Love,
    Erika

    Reply
    • Addie

      One of these days, we will have to have that cup of coffee and conversation…as apparently we are almost the same person. ;-)

      Reply
  31. Oh Addie, so the reminder I needed today. Read this just after it posted and just couldn’t respond.
    You are equally loved, equally held, tied here together for reasons you won’t always remember.

    “Keep moving forward, together, into the future He is planning, has planned. It is wild and beautiful and worth every heavy, uneven step.”

    These words. Especially. Even after 31 years we lose our perspective. Thank you for being His voice for me today.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Thanks so much Carol. So glad it was what you needed for the day. Love when God does that.

      Reply
  32. This advice is not only for marriage but all alliances where we work together as a closely knit team. If we keep this in mind, we can make the world see what we stand for.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Yes. Good point Wesley. Thank you.

      Reply
  33. This is beautiful.
    Thank you for this:
    “You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.”

    Reply
  34. JL

    sorry to be on a …slightly different topic than most commenters but “WOG” is a rather unfortunate abbreviation, given that “wog” is an old racial slur.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Oh man. I really had no idea. Would never have written it here if I’d known! I apologize.

      Reply
  35. I really appreciate this post. Which young Christian couple expects to have to deal with unequal yoke issues in their marriage? We got married later and so we’d been already disillusioned from the “Christain happily ever after”. Which has served us well, I think. “Non-Violent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg doesn’t hurt either. ;)

    Reply
    • Addie

      Yes. At 19 you pretty much think it’s going to be lots of sparkledust and perfection. At least I did. Thanks Robyn. :)

      Reply
  36. Love. This.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  37. God, you’re good.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Aw. Thanks Renee.

      Reply
  38. Oh, yes. This is my story, too.

    Reply
  39. Ed

    Fantastic post Addie. We can certainly relate to your story. Even with an equal “faith” we end up with unequal experiences and find life in different places.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Absolutely, Ed. Thank you.

      Reply
  40. RT

    That’s why Paul said, ‘if you marry, you will have trouble.’ Don’t say we weren’t warned. Sorry, not to be pessimistic, but wished we would have known that in 10 years, we’d both be different people. Just gotta trust God that He will make things right (eventually). Thanks for the article.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Yes. Although, it’s not just isolated to marriage, really. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Right? Life is just hard. It’s hard if you marry and if you don’t. It’s hard if you marry another Christian. Hard if you don’t. We are made for another world. Our broken hearts ache for it.

      Reply
  41. Just yes. What a great word.

    Reply
  42. PL

    “Keep moving forward, together, into the future He is planning, has planned. It is wild and beautiful and worth every heavy, uneven step.” Thank you. I needed to hear that.

    Reply
  43. Amy

    The biggest thing with being unequally yoked as defined by the scripture is that when both people have the Holy Spirit, He brings conviction to them, and God is growing them more like Him. But if one does not have the Holy Spirit, the power to change and grow is not there. Yes, we are all people, all marrying someone at a different faith level then us–and I appreciate that this is what the author of this article is saying. But not to allow that to be an excuse for marrying an unbeliever. In that the way will be much more difficult.

    Reply
    • Addie

      A good point, Amy. Thanks. Though I believe that God is still going after all of us. That his love for us does not give up. That he will always search for the lost lamb. In that way, just because a person is not a Christian when you marry them does not mean “game over.” Certainly, as you said, it will be difficult in different and significant ways. But not hopeless.

      Reply
      • Vii

        Sigh, can I hug you?!! :)

        Reply
  44. Thank you for your insightful approach to this scripture and how it impacts marriage. It was very encouraging to me because there was a time where I felt we were so very unequally yoked, to the point where I started to wonder if my husband was even saved. No, not in a self-righteous kind of way but the magnitude of the difference in him when a big storm hit in his life was so overwhelming and confusing to me that I had no idea how to reconcile it with his fiery faith in the first two years of our marriage. Then my spiritual sister/mentor said to me that each partner goes through seasons of faith and grace-as in one may be low in their faith due to a difficult season and the other has to be high in their grace in order for them to survive the storm; and then there will be a time where it’s vice versa. Yes there may be *days* where we’re on the same level but typically it’s an alternate process, especially in the early years where individuals are still figuring out everything else that goes with trying to become one with someone completely different than you. And I think this goes perfectly with that verse because the context of the verse is relating to cattle; one bull (I think it’s a bull) being stronger than other and having to “yoke” itself to the weaker one through some kind of wood piece so it can carry it along until it has enough strength to walk on his own. I wonder if that’s why Paul said it would be very difficult, because the “stronger” one in the faith would have to do the hard job of carrying the “weaker” one until they were ready to walk on their own?

    Anyway, thanks again; this really gave me perspective in my marriage during what has been a very long, difficult season. Love and blessings.

    Reply
  45. ashley

    I love seeing women be open about marriage and its truths. Thank you. I married a man of God, came from a pastors family, we were in covenant with Him as the author and rock. When he started processing some trauma in his life it ripped him apart. He didn’t feel God or anything. As wives we carry our husbands burdens and through the pain life eroded. It became a cancer that riddled through. My yearns and altar of tears for healing was my lifeline even though it was so dark- I became unknowing depressed and the process was a trauma for me. His drinking was life, and I clung on in hope God would stir my husbands soul and heal. In the end, he chose to leave the marriage. The layers of pain– the greatest was seeing him become hollow in God and looking in his eyes and not seeing the Lord there anymore…. his choices reflected that. The before and after picture, is the soul break. I still pray that my prayers for his whole heart to be Gods again were not in vain. But your post was honest, and its not said enough. It was not something I knew was possible- marry yoked, and for it to perish. Unyoked, those life trials that a couple must war in together– can’t be won if not are both living to honor God. THank you for posting like I said I don’t think newlyweds get that it can happen.

    Reply
  46. Nadine

    Addie, this post is wonderfully written.

    I was one of those girls, sitting in a youth group, when my youth pastor blasted the “unequally yoked” sermon at me. I was a young, naive 19 year old. After my perfect-in-the-eyes-of-my-church boyfriend broke up with me, I started feeling like I wasn’t good enough for the “good Christian” type. So I started branching out. I got hurt. I went through some crazy stuff. But it all led me to my husband, a pastor’s son, who struggles with his faith on a daily basis. He makes me feel human. Just like you said, “And the thing about marriage – any marriage – is that you are two different people, and there will be times when your faith feels like it’s gone dark and his has not. Or when he is full of doubt and you are lit up with a new grasp of grace.” This is us. We go through times, more frequent than I ever though possible, where we are both on separate ends of our faith.

    Thank you for this post. Thank you for making me feel normal.

    Reply
  47. Saskia

    I married a non-Christian and in some ways I feel that this has made life easier for us (not that we’ve had that long together – we’re coming up on just three years). But whereas other Christian friends who have married Christians get all worked up over communication issues and little differences, I went into marriage going “we have a massive divide in the way we view life and this is going to be really really hard”. And because I thought that, it made it easier.

    I’ll probably have to eat my words on that soon though, knowing life :P

    Reply
    • Vii

      yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening with me…but i’m not yet married lol! :)

      Reply
  48. SARAH

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS, ADDIE! I’M UNMARRIED ACTUALLY, BUT I LOVE THE HUMANITY OF YOUR STORY, AND THE OBVIOUS “HUMANITY” OF OUR LORD WHICH WAS WHAT HOLD US ON TO HIM THROUGH ALL OUR TRIALS AND MISSTEPS. TRULY OUR HIGH PRIEST IS WAY MORE “HUMAN” THAN WE REALISE. YOUR STORY HELPS ME, EVEN THOUGH I’M UNMARRIED, BECAUSE I WENT THROUGH A CRISIS YRS AGO THAT FELT LIKE A SEVERE DIVORCE AFTER AN “UNEQUALLY YOKED” SITUATION. HENCE, THIS STORY RESONATES AT SOME DEEP LEVEL. THE COMMON THREAD I SEE HERE IS OUR FAITHFUL BRIDEGROOM WHO STICKS WITH US THROUGH THICK AND THIN, THROUGH UNBELIEVABLE PITS AND MOUNTAIN HEIGHTS.I FIND MYSELF IN YOUR ACCOUNT AS WELL AS SOME OF THE OTHERS WHO’D COMMENTED HERE. I THINK WE’RE ALL REFLECTIONS OF THE DIAMOND-FACETED BEAUTY OF OUR LORD, HONED THROUGH THE TRIALS OF OUR LIVES. IT WILL BE A GLAD SURPRISE ONE DAY, I THINK, WHEN IT’S ALL OVER AND WE’RE WITH HIM FOREVER, WHEN WE’LL KNOW FULLY AS WE’RE FULLY KNOWN. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INSIGHTS.

    Reply
  49. Totally. I’d quote the same line a lot of others have, about marrying a man or a woman, not a faith.

    I waited until I was 29 to get married, and during most of that time, kept thinking I needed to find someone who was my equal in matters of faith.

    The longer I lived, however, the more I realized not only was that impossible (not because I’m some measure of spiritual perfection–HA!–but because how can one possibly quantify something so abstract in order to measure it? Crazy.), but that it wasn’t necessary–and possibly even a detrimental myth, as you’ve so aptly described!

    So when my husband and I married, we acknowledged (as much as we could) our differences, but–as we still do–worked to focus on what actually unites us. That bottom line sense of God is God and I am not, and even when I’m in a dark place (or my partner is), He’s still God. We’ll get through. It’s amazing how often it happens that one of us is up while the other’s down, and we help each other limp along when we need to.

    I think what helped us was being old enough when we met and married to have spent some serious time observing and inquiring into the marriages of our parents–seeing their stories, how they’ve evolved together over the decades, watching the effect it’s had on them individually and as a couple. Thankfully we both have fairly open parents who have been willing to share their stories (including some mistakes along with victories) for our benefit. And we see clearly that their marriages–even after 35 or 40 years–are still evolving.

    Not that couples who marry younger can’t have these same insights; for us it just worked out that our waiting really has meant a stronger foundation, via perhaps more realistic expectations.

    Sharing this post–my husband shared it with me!

    Reply
  50. Loved this. I can definitely relate. Thanks for your honesty and willingness to share!

    Reply
  51. Beth

    I am in a relationship with a wonderful man that has a huge heart, kind, loving, and is a Buddhist. I am receiving lots of warnings from my friends and sisters in Christ about how I should not be involved with him. He embodies all the teachings of Jesus. we are both 50 years old and in love and want to be together, but I am feeling a lot of pressure from my church family. This article has helped me a lot.

    Reply
  52. I came across this post today as I was studying my Bible in preparation for a group study about relationships and dating. In my search, I’ve found myself dancing around trying to figure out exactly what it means to be “unequally yoked”, and I’m so glad I found your post because it summed up some of my feelings towards dating and marriage. I never quite believed the “gotta find a husband that is a Christian” mentality because exactly of what you hit on here: “And in the end, you don’t marry a WOG or a MOG. You don’t marry a faith. You marry a woman. A man. You marry imperfections and beauty and changes that you don’t see coming.” I really appreciate your honest reflection, because I sometimes feel my faith change and it scares me to think that a faithful man won’t be able to look past my humanness to actually SEE my faith.

    It was unexpected for me to find this post, but I’m glad I did. Thank you for sharing.
    Adia
    adiasinead.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Addie

      So glad it helped! Thanks Adia!

      Reply
  53. Brittany

    My husband of 2 1/2 just recently had a life changing experience–a renewed passion for God and a renewed passion to reach the lost. While I’m super excited for him, and feel like this is an answer to my prayer too (I feel called to missions), I feel awkwardly left behind.

    The past few days have centered around nothing but the amazing things God is doing in his life. The amazing opportunities he’s taken hold of, and reached out to those around him with the gospel.

    And while I’m so excited to see what he’s doing for God’s Kingdom, I feel like I’m stuck. I feel like I’ll be the one to bring him down, because for months now I’ve been in such an apathetic state. I’m on cruise control. And with that creeps in the “can he just shut up about it already?”

    The one thing that should bring us closer together (God), I feel like I’m letting Him come between my husband and I because I feel like the one who got the short end of the stick.

    So I’m praying for understanding, for patience, for seeking God fully, and for my husband to teach me something during all of this. But honestly I just feel like I’m stumbling through this, and in the mean time feeling super unsupportive.

    Reply
    • Vii

      Sho girl,

      I can imagine how that must feel.

      I’d say, share your thoughts with God…really…just be raw and real…and then when you and God have chatted bout this…as for wisdom to share with your husband.

      Reply
  54. A

    My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We have three children. When we married we shared the same beliefs, that was one of the things that brought us together. Eight months ago my husband left our faith completely. He has since become an atheist. At this point he doesn’t really know what he believes, he’s still trying to figure it all out.

    We are trying to make it work. It’s very difficult. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being respectful of his new beliefs/way of living and he’s reciprocated to a point. It’s hard though. I’m still raising our children in our faith, and he’s been mostly respectful of that, even though he doesn’t like it. That was the deal when we married though, that the children would be raised in this faith. They don’t understand why their father doesn’t believe in God or anything anymore. It’s tough for them, especially the older two, to have their father teach them their whole lives and then suddenly the things that he taught them he no longer believes.

    He has a lot of bitterness toward our faith and religion in general, because he believes it’s all lies. I’m struggling with my own bitterness for what he’s done and how it’s negatively affected our lives in so many ways. I feel alone in our marriage now. If we can remain respectful and committed to our family and marriage, I think it will work, but I can see things changing in him and I worry it won’t remain that way.

    It’s just hard.

    Reply
  55. VR

    Hi Addie,
    Thanks for posting and thanks for being honest. So many Christians believe that once you marry a believer that it’s all smooth sailing in terms of being spiritually yoked, forgetting or neglecting the reality of one of the persons falling short or backsliding. I must admit that I am one such christian who didn’t really give it much thought.
    On another note, I do have a question about spiritual compatibility. I am a born again young woman of God, who daily endeavors to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable unto God, which requires a daily sacrifice. I have a suitor who also believes in the Word and was once more of a dedicated christian. We are of the same denomination, so we believe in the same doctrine. He has not been attending church regularly like he said he used to before, but he is not resistant to going back to church or discussing the Word of God. Does this make him spiritually unequally yoked with me? And can two people in the church be spiritually unequally yoked?

    Reply
  56. JC

    I enjoyed this Addie, thanks.

    Reply
  57. Laura

    I have just ended a short term relationship because it was my belief that we were unevenly yoked. We both are Christians but his views are much more extreme than mine. I believe that God is my Father in heaven and that he wants his children to be happy in fairh, not be scared and worried about everything. I believe that unevenly yoked can be applied to such relationships and those of different fairhs as well.

    Reply
  58. David

    I don’t know you. But that is a sound reflection. Good. Honest. Real.

    Thank you,

    Love one another, and Love God (the two, all-encompassing commandments Jesus abridged) kind of fly in the face of modern interpretations of “unequally yoked.”

    What should we do?

    Love.

    Reply
  59. Melissa

    Thank you for this insight. I have been looking for advice/experiences of two Christians becoming unequally yolked while married. I am struggling with this right now. Your encouragement was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Ariana

      My name is Ariana I am a 22 year-old Christian female. Last night I ended a relationship with the man I am head over heels in love with because we were “unequally yolked.” In 2 days it was supposed to be our one year anniversary. I’m on these sites trying to find peace because my heart literally feels torn in two. I’m trying to be obedient to my Lord by adhering to his verse in the bible to not be unequally yolked because what hath light with darkness. The thing is I love every flaw and rough edge about this man and every loving thing about him. I love him so much it hurts. But I’m constantly thinking everyday that I’m being disobedient to my true love God. And what if he has someone else for me that I’m supposed to be with and I’m messing that up going down this path? I don’t want to have this feeling on my wedding day that there’s a big chance he’s not the one for me. At the same time I literally feel I am in depression being without him. I met him when I was in a dark place. I had just graduated college (last year) and right before graduation I was raped by my ex(who was a Christian and went to church dutifully). My ex had cheated on me because he couldn’t stand not having sex because I was trying to wait till marriage even though I told him on the first date my belief and to either respect it or not date me and he said he agreed with it. So 8 months later he cheated on me and when he came to my house to “apologize and give me closure” he raped me multiples times. So I met the man I’m in love with a couple months after and he wasn’t Christian but he treated me like one which I wasn’t used to. And he helped give me hope and happiness after that. He’s never pressured me into sex, he wipes my tears from past pain even my family loves him. But because he is a great guy doesn’t mean he’s the great guy FOR me. Why did God say not to be unequally yoked can someone answer that for me? If it’s because he doesn’t want us faltering in our faith I can say that dating him has only pushed my faith to be even stronger because I can witness first hand when he goes through hard stuff in life and not have a faith to have a crutch on it’s miserable and I could never go through bad times and good times without my faith and my Lord. I just really need peace and assurance right now and strength to not run back to him. I just don’t know what to do. And I just don’t know if I can do this being without him. When some people are depressed they want to die, for me I don’t want death I want the rapture to come so I can just follow my Jesus out of this sadness and live in endless love. That’s how I feel.

      Reply
  60. Kay

    Hi, Ariana…..my heart breaks for you. I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I UNDERSTAND HOW YOU FEEL. I was married with 1 child (son) and 1 on the way. I was raised in church, but nobody ever taught me what 2Corinthians 6:14 really meant. I married someone who sent to me straight from the pits of Hell! We went to church together and everything. I asked GOD to give me a sign during the engagement if I was supposed to marry this man. God gave me a sign and it was a BIG FAT NO! Ariana remember that the flesh and the spirit are constantly at WAR! with one another. God will NEVER send somebody your way that will draw youaway from him. I ignored God and married anyway only to find out my husband was Gay. I never thought my desire to Love this man and be Loved would nearly cost me my sanity. God loves you and he has someone for YOU. Your Heavenly Father wil heal your heart just like he healed mine. GOD BLESS YOU MY SISTA!

    Reply
  61. irene green

    That was adeep story

    Reply

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