One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to walk through the weirdness to get to the other side, to grow stronger, to grow confidence.
To make better decisions for the long-term…
My last year of college, I interned at a magazine, and one of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave—a self-deprecating, bearded man named Merle (best name for an editor ever!)—was that “in journalism, it’s good to play dumb.” This means the other person will probably think you a bit dimwitted for asking the easy questions, but often these easy questions lead to richer answers and a greater understanding of your subject.
Read: awesome material for your story.
Read: I am a little more primed than some to look stupid.
But seriously, the best advice I can give for avoiding unequally yoked dating is to ask EARLY whether your date is a Christian (preferably before the date, but better then than never).
And probably, if you’re like me and have been burned by dating numerous guys who made you feel prudish for being a Christian; if you don’t like to seem judgmental; if you consider yourself open-minded and culturally savvy, seeking out this information will make you feel any number of ways, especially at first:
- Like an investigative reporter
- Like a “square” Christian
- Like a close-minded, judgy person
- Unfun (Is that a word?)
But when you’ve been through ten+ years of unequally yoked relationships that have ended in heartbreak and when you are in your early thirties, you learn that you don’t want to waste more time and you don’t want to go through so much pain again. So you learn to ask earlier, despite the awkwardness.
And, honestly, if your date is a real Christian, it won’t be awkward at all past that first, brave question…
So…are you a Christian?
Sometimes, you can weave it into the conversation.
Sometimes, you just have to be blunt.
However it comes out, just ask. The earlier the better before your heart gets entangled. And especially before locking lips.
A year or so ago, I met a nice guy in the laundry room of my apartment complex (so cliché, but yes, over folding laundry), and he asked me out to lunch. His car was in the shop so I met him at a restaurant near his workplace. We only had an hour—he was on his lunch break—so we stuck to casual topics. Since his work was so close, I hopped on over there afterwards, and he introduced me to his coworkers. Already, I could tell he was proud to be seen with me. It was nice. We also found out we were both musicians. He played guitar; I’m a singer/songwriter.
I knew I had to find out soon what his faith was.
I used to feel that this question, just kinda floating there in the air, waiting for me to ask it, made me judgmental, but now I know it’s loving. Loving for me, loving for him.
Unequally yoked relationships don’t only hurt the Christian, they also hurt the other person. Neither will feel entirely understood. Our faith is central to the way we think, to our values, to our decisions, to our actions, and if the other person doesn’t share it, they’ll always be a disconnect. Yes, I know there are stories of people getting saved in relationships, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way or the easiest way—honestly, it’s hard. I know from A LOT of experience.
So on my second date with apartment guy, I bridged the faith question and found out he had grown up Jehovah’s Witness. Cue all kinds of preconceived notions. It had been a while since he’d gone to a meeting. But when he started passionately talking about certain elements of his faith, it seemed, honestly, very similar to mine.
Thus started my search to understand the JW faith. Reading articles, seeking advice. This was a real man, I was finding in conversation, a man who wanted to get married and have a family, a man who had a good, solid head on his shoulders. A former actor, he had decided to go back to school to work a job that was steadier to provide for a future family. Though I didn’t think he had to give up his dream (and I encouraged him not to), I found it so attractive that he cared about such things. It showed his maturity.
One day shortly after this second date, we took a walk around the neighborhood. He started telling me about a concert in the future and how it’d be so cool if I could come. He then took a selfie of us. I felt cherished; I could tell I was someone he was proud of. And he was a MAN and handsome.
Still, what did he really believe? Not being fully sure of the answer, I kept things going slow…I did not invite him into my apartment; we didn’t do the smoochy smoochy.
God gave me strength and grace, being he was practically my next-door neighbor. And there was a time or two I called my accountability partner for prayer during this, especially on nights I was lonely, and I could very easily walk to his place!
After researching more about the JW faith, I was coming more and more to the realization that our faiths were very different, and furthermore, thinking beyond, I would not want to raise my kids in this church. (It’s not a bad thing to think long-term, especially when there are big concerns about someone right from the start.) So one day after another neighborhood walk, I was honest with apartment guy, discussing our differences in faith.
Do you still consider yourself a JW? What do you think about the Trinity? About heaven?
And I found out that, yes, while he hadn’t been to a meeting in a while, he was still very much a believer in this theology. I tried to tell him gently that I wanted to date someone of my same faith, though yes, I’ll admit there were similarities here. I told him my concerns. He respectfully listened. I went back to my apartment, and he went back to his. And I quietly shut the door of my heart.
Until Valentine’s Day.
A week or two later, apartment guy asked if I wanted to grab dinner on V-day. I told him I was busy with work, but later that day, feeling tired and lonely (it was Valentine’s Day…yeah, I know, no excuse), I accepted. So we went to an Irish restaurant (I know, wrong holiday), and the food was delicious. And the conversation good. This guy really liked me. And I thought him a real stand-up person.
I was putting myself in the danger zone.
Somehow, over dinner, I started sharing about a new church I was trying out the next day. And what the heck, I asked if he wanted to go. This church was new to me too. We’d both be trying it out. To my surprise, he accepted.
Well that was easy.
As we walked out of the restaurant, me shivering and wishing I had brought gloves, he took my hand in his. We walked a little ways, me feeling the warmth of his hand. I hadn’t held a man’s hand in a long time. Physically, it felt nice. Emotionally, warning bells were ringing. And loudly. As we walked back to my car (his car was still in the shop), I knew I had to be blunt. Right then and there.
Apartment guy, I have to be honest with you. I can’t date a non-Christian. I just can’t, I stammered. I felt judgy. I felt square. I felt prudish.
But I was being true to myself. To what I wanted.
He dropped his hand. The cold bit my skin.
I rambled on a little more; I could tell he was disappointed. I was disappointed. I liked him! And he was a MAN, not a boy but mature. He had so much going on for him. And was I wrong in my timing? He accepted an invite to church with me! The NEXT DAY. Who knows what could have happened? But I knew. I knew that if I didn’t say anything, he would try to kiss me at the end of the date. And I just couldn’t go there. Kisses, at least to me, bring my liking of a person up to the next level, up FIVE-TO-TEN levels, and they make it harder for me to think straight, harder for me to let go.
So as we drove back to the apartment complex, we talked music; we talked friendly. I dropped him off, and we said goodnight. He said he still planned to come to church in the morning with me.
Almost immediately, when I pulled my car into park, I called my friend, my accountability partner. I felt I had done the right thing. And yeah, it took me a few weeks to feel out this situation, but I had taken it slowly and prayerfully. I was getting better at this. Three weeks sorta-kinda dating is better than three years of being in an unequally yoked relationship.
But I’m not going to lie.
And I wondered if my whole life would be a series of turning down amazing men because they didn’t share the same faith. I still couldn’t fully shake the feeling that I was a judgmental person, but why? For wanting to share my life with someone who shared my love for Jesus? With someone whose values and belief system matched my own? With someone whom I can be truly myself with and not feel weird about it?
But really, would it ever happen? Would I ever find an amazing guy—mature, handsome, interesting, kind, and CHRISTIAN?
Still, there was church in the morning. And who knows? I had let go and let God. Perhaps apartment guy would come to church in the morning; perhaps he would be touched by the service and accept Christ as his savior.
You never know.
I mean, it’s often when you die to things, sacrificing them on the altar, that they come back to you, right?
In the morning, I received this text:
Hey I was thinking about church. I know you’re looking for someone of the same faith, and if I were with you, people would think we were together. And I don’t want you to miss out on meeting that person. So I decided it would be best that I don’t go.
I was disappointed. But still, what a good man. To respect me like that. He showed his character even then.
When I drove to church that morning, I saw him walking back to his apartment. He looked a bit dejected, sorta hunched over, carrying a plastic bag full of groceries. He didn’t see me. It hurt. It hurt more than I thought it would to let this one go, a real man who was ready for the real thing, a man who wanted to be a provider, who was also creative and sweet. Who had already been cherishing me.
But I trusted that despite the pain, God saw. God knew. This would not be for naught.
Of course I made fun of the situation to my friends—I broke up with a Jehovah’s Witness on Valentine’s Day. They don’t celebrate holidays. Bahaha!!! (Forgive me if this makes me seem like a bad person; I don’t typically make fun of people or other faiths. In fact, I have a number of friends who believe differently than me.) But what some of my friends don’t know about me—what some of your friends might not know about you either—is that sometimes humor gets us through, that making light of a situation by reframing it into a funny story is a way to make it hurt less. But it doesn’t always.
From time to time, I would see apartment guy at the mailbox. He was still nice, still friendly. But when you’ve seen how these things turn out, when you’ve walked them out many times, you know you’ve made the right choice. Just because someone is nice or shares a faith with similarities, without Christ at the center, without the fundamental beliefs being the same, you’re still unequally yoked.
If you’re unsure about someone or their belief system, take it slow and prayerfully. Study and ask questions. There’s no rush. If anything, your intelligence and maturity will impress the heck out of the RIGHT guy!!! (Or the right girl, if any guys are reading my blog today.) 🙂
Now that I’m dating a Christian man with all the qualities apartment guy displayed but even more so, I am SO glad I waited. And I wish AG the absolute best in life because he’s awesome and SO deserving of love.