My friend, Carol, and her husband are both Christian. This spiritual unity enhances their marriage union. But it wasn’t always that way. They agreed to share their story as an encouragement to those of us who are, or have been, in unequally yoked relationships.
Wherever you are on your own journey, won’t you join me in celebrating with Carol and Doug?
The Early Days
Carol and Doug had known each other since high school. They grew, married other people, and moved on with their lives.
They rekindled their relationship years later when they were both single again. Carol’s children had grown and were living on their own. Doug’s young children lived with his ex-wife.
Carol did not realize that theirs would be a spiritually mismatched marriage. Doug had professed his belief in the Bible. Yet, after working 6-day weeks, he preferred to skip church so he could stay home and rest on Sundays.
Raising a Family
Soon their spiritual differences became more apparent. Doug’s ex-wife was addicted to drugs and not able to take proper care of the children. They were living without electric or water for months. The house and the children’s clothing were in disarray. Carol and Doug took the 5 children, ages 3 to 8, into their home.
Carol naturally wanted to raise the children to love The Lord. Taking them to church services began to be a point of contention. At first, the children went out of curiosity. Then, they wanted to follow their father’s example and stay home instead. He offered no support in her efforts. At one point, Carol confronted him with, “It is your responsibility to bring these children up in the Lord.” That did not go over well at all. He was offended and put up a wall of resistance.
She sought advice from her pastor. He suggested that she continually pray and invite him to church every week. She did this for nearly 2 years. His response started out with a simple, “No. I don’t think so.” Over time, his responses became angrier. She would be in tears. Oh, he’d go when the kids were performing in a Christmas pageant or something. They really wrestled with their approach to guiding the children’s spiritual growth.
After a few years, the ex-wife wanted the kids back. Since they never filed legal paperwork for custody, they had to let the kids go.
A Different Approach
There were several changes in Carol’s life around the same time that the children returned to their mother. She joined a different church and started a new job.
Carol’s new pastor had gentler advice. He said to pray, but not to prod. Prodding can be perceived as hounding. She prayed that God work on Doug’s heart. She prayed for other people to come into his life and influence him.
Carol continued to try to persuade him through the example of her daily walk with The Lord. If an argument started, she would calmly excuse herself to pray. When she returned to continue the discussion, her advice was consistently sound and reasonable.
Sadly, the family faced devastating news. Doug’s daughter had a brain tumor. Throughout this time, Carol had a lot of support from Christians. Doug started to pray with her for the benefit of his beloved daughter. She eventually passed away.
Coincidently (or God-incidently), Carol noticed the same friendly face at her new job that she recognized as the worship leader at her new church. Carol and Mary soon became friends.
They learned that their husbands had a lot in common – motorcycles, cars and growing up in the same small town. They had differences too. One was a company executive; the other a mechanic. Ted was a devout Christian; Doug still had not committed. The ladies decided that Doug and Ted needed to meet.
The couples got together socially and their friendships grew. Early on, it was a concert that Ted and Mary rode their motorcycle to. Ted was open about his faith. He shared how Christianity helped him through situations with his own children. Doug seemed comfortable with this type of conversation coming from another man. When Carol invited Doug to church again, she added that they could go to breakfast afterwards with Mary and Ted. Doug agreed! He is now a faithful Christian and attends church regularly.
Doug says that at first, attending church was something he did just to make Carol happy. But now, he attends to worship The Lord.
Many things worked together to soften his heart and draw him to Christ. He was broken by the loss of his daughter. He saw how Christians supported each other through trials. He saw the wisdom Carol obtained through prayer. And he heard the testimony of another man, whom he respected.
Advice for SUMites
I asked Carol what advice she could share with us. She said that the biggest lesson is to be patient. It took ten years of their marriage before Doug was saved. She advises that we occasionally ask our prebelievers to church, but not to push. Pray for workers in the field, like Ted. Sometimes, people have to hear the message over and over and from different people before their hearts are ready.
Carol and Doug’s story seemed to correspond with Dineen and Lynn’s book, Winning Him Without Words. The chapter,“Key#2 Don’t Save your Husband – Save Yourself” says it this way “When I finally let go and stopped all my foolish and unproductive efforts to save my man, two things happened. First, I discovered new freedom. A terrible heaviness I didn’t know I had been carrying lifted from my shoulders. I no longer felt the pressure to do whatever it takes to push my husband to faith. I stopped obsessing over what “activity” I should try next to force my husband toward faith. I was able to step back and finally trust God wholeheartedly with my husand’s salvation. What a relief.”
Hallelujah, Lord. We celebrate every soul that comes to know and love You. We celebrate this family that now puts you at the center of their marriage. Continue to bless them and their love story. Bless Mary and Ted. Strengthen the rest of us, Lord. Give us patience and wisdom. Help us share love with our prebelievers. Some of us are in difficult positions or estranged from our spouses. Help us forgive them and live our lives freely for You. Thank you for this community and the support we find here.
Everyone’s story is different. Could you relate, in some way, to this testimony? Does it encourage or discourage you to hear stories like this?