The Faith Challenge

Tomorrow Harry and I are heading to my pastor’s office for our first pre-marriage counseling appointment.  We thought about foregoing that option and just hiring an officiant instead but when it came right down to it, I knew and so did he that because my faith is so important to me, this had to be done.  Even if the result is that my pastor opts out of overseeing our wedding because of the issues Harry still has regarding Christianity…I will feel as if I’ve been honest before the Lord and genuine in my acknowledgment of my decision instead of sneaking in the back door.

I wrote my pastor an email last week asking him to consider marrying us.  This Sunday Harry approached him to introduce himself and they had a fairly in-depth conversation that resulted in this meeting on Tuesday.  I know that Harry respects him a great deal and was nervous to engage him in conversation and I’m so proud of him for doing it.  Harry has been attending church for almost a year and half…it was time for them to meet.

One of the things my pastor said to Harry was that he didn’t want him to accept my faith just because he wanted to marry me.  And Harry assured him that if he was going to make a commitment it would not be out of a sense of duty but real.  Harry said, “This is why I’m struggling, because I would never accept something I couldn’t believe in 100%”  If he had been willing it would have occurred at the beginning of our relationship not now.

We are also gearing up to apply for our marriage license at the country clerks office.  In preparation, we are locating our documentation of our prior divorces just to be on the safe side.  Harry recently moved his business from one city to another.  All his personal stuff came to my house, all his business stuff got either dumped or  moved.  I’ve been reminding him that he needed to locate his divorce papers and I can’t help but remember similar requests I made to Slimeball a few years back.

Those prior requests were met with avoidance, lies, and aggression.  Why? Because Slimeball was still married.  And so this time asking gives me an automatic lump in my throat.  Happily there is a final divorce decree heading to my house by mail officially sent by the Orange County clerks office as I type.  Harry and I are able to joke about how this time…everything is different because it’s real.  I’m so grateful.

Last time I was engaged, my faith was used against me.  Not only did Slimeball accept faith the very first church service he attended with me.  But he also conformed his views to align with mine on every subject my faith pertained to.  Then when it was convenient for him he invoked the “forgiveness clause” the “you’re my spiritual mentor clause” and “you’re a hypocrite clause” when things really got desperate.  Because my actions and intentions were pure, using these manipulations completely worked on me.  I looked inside and challenged myself to be a good role model, to be forgiving even when it wasn’t warranted, and to only say exactly what I meant.  I wasn’t perfect but I certainly did my very best.

This time, no such manipulations are being used against me.  This time the faith I have in my Lord is not being butt up against the faith I have in my relationship. This time I don’t feel obligated before I’m even married to accept something less then I deserve because my faith is being challenged.

This time instead of getting increasingly doubtful and discouraged as the days go by, I’m getting hopeful and encouraged.  Because this time the only challenge is containing our enthusiasm and excitement.

I pray every day that Harry sees the goodness and truth of the gospel message.  He’s come so far already in learning and understanding the Christian perspective.  But I refuse to challenge him with an ultimatum because all faith must come from a free choice not a sense of duty or obligation.  God seeks us, draws us in, and makes his truth known.  He’s got this one…not me.  My only job is to love Harry with the kind of love Jesus has given me through the forgiveness of my sin and acceptance despite my own failings.  With that, my faith can only add to the goodness already in Harry’s already soft and tender heart.

Not my will but God’s be done.

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