Fifteen years married today, 17 years together, and two kids later, there still isn’t another soul I would rather spend my life with.
Given that I speak out my Christian faith boldly, you may be surprised to know that my husband, Matt, is an Atheist. This is rather recent and isn’t something we have shared about publicly.
I share now, because I know there are many marriages and families facing this challenge secretly.
I know it’s out there destroying lives and families, because today’s society says we need to pick a side and draw a hard line in the sand.
I don’t believe that is what God is calling us to do.
Jesus spent most of his time in community with those who did not believe, while also surrounding himself with a small, close group who did.
How we came to this place in our lives.
Neither of us grew up Christian. We became Christians together six months before our wedding.
Trust and faith in God, and the unknown, have never been easy for Matt.
For me, I can’t survive without it. I can’t not integrate it and talk about it. It’s like a burning fire inside of. A part of me.
In the last three years, Matt started to evaluate what he believed and why. That led him to a path of self-discovery and realizing our beliefs did not align.
It’s one thing to go into a marriage knowing your faiths differ and having that worked out beforehand.
It’s another thing for it to happen after you have been raising your family with Chrisitan values.
When Matt first started questioning his faith, I thought for sure he would come out on the side I wanted. The Christian side.
For a while, I felt it was my duty to convince him or show him why he should believe. I quickly learned that was not healthy for our marriage and it was not profiting anyone.
Matt’s health began to suffer the more he tried to force himself into something that didn’t resonate with him. He became very ill, depressed and lost alot of weight. At one point, we were concerned about cancer. This decision was like a ton of bricks weighing on him. He feared losing everything. His wife, family, kids, friends.
As I was praying one night after an argument, I felt God tell me it wasn’t my job to convince him. God spoke to me so clearly that this issue was between him and Matt. Not me and Matt. My job was to love him and stand beside him, despite our differing views.
I had an overwhelming peace come into my heart and mind that night. Was it easy after that? No. Was I sad? Yes! Do I wish it was a different result? 100% Yes.
But, the truth is, I didn’t marry him for his beliefs. I married him for who he was. For his character–a good, kind, supportive, funny human being. I was confident that wasn’t going to change because I knew him before he became a Christian.
So, the question is, how do we co-exist?
We respect and honor each other’s differing beliefs. And, we have a lot of them. All it takes is listening. Not convincing.
Sometimes, I pray at the dinner table and sometimes he gives thanks for what he is grateful for.
Our kids are still very integrated in the Chrisitan life (fellowship, Vacation Bible School, books, bibles, music etc).
Do we have it figured out? Nope. We take it day by day and circumstance by circumstance.
There is definitely grieving on my part at times. I miss praying together. I miss going to fellowship as a family. There is a lot to be grieved and it’s something I have to talk through in counseling. But, in the end, I am just happy to still be with the man I married.
How do we raise kids with such differing beliefs?
Our boys started to question why daddy didn’t pray with them at night anymore. They wanted to know why daddy no longer came to fellowship (aka-church for us).
I talked to them about how people have differing beliefs and everyone has to make their own choice of what they believe.
When they have questions about something (e.g. evolution vs creation) we both respond with our honest answers and beliefs and tell them it’s up for them to decide what they believe.
I was worried this might be confusing for them. At times, it is confusing for them. But, I also believe they will come out stronger for it. More accepting and respectful of people’s differences. More confident in their own beliefs.
Am I scared of what my kids will grow up to believe? I was at first, and at times, I still am. I want so badly for them to know Jesus Christ on a real level and have the kind of relationship with God that I do.
But, I am reminded that it’s not my battle. It’s not my choice. My job is to teach them and show them what I know and believe. To allow them to hear other people’s beliefs. To lead by example and hope that they will see that God is good and God is real. To help them understand my love and Matt’s love is not dependent on what they believe.
I trust that God has their hearts. That God has Matt’s heart. My job is to love them.
About Cheree Sauer and Heartfelt Mamas