My husband and I married very young by today's standards. I was 21 and he was 22. We stood together in a church before a pastor who had counseled us weeks before and spoke our vows and bowed our heads for each prayer. Yet neither of us was really pursuing a relationship with God.
For years I've had a dream of one day renewing our wedding vows. In this dream I see us standing with a full understanding that we are both making a covenant before God. In other words, when my husband is a believer. The irony here is that this dream is the very thing that has limited God working in my marriage. And possibly my husband.
Renewing My Thinking
In the book Winning Him without Words, I share a story of sitting at a traffic light and talking to God about respecting my husband. That day God made it very clear that I should treat my husband no differently than if he were a believer. Respect him, pray for him, and love him as if he already were a believer.
This change in my thinking allowed God to move me to the next renewal in my thought process—to see my marriage in the same light as I see my husband and to shed the label "spiritually mismatched." This still describes our faith differences, but it doesn't define who we are as a married couple.
I admit it's a radical shift, but this shift in thinking falls right in line with Philippians 4:8: "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
When I embraced this new way of thinking, it changed my viewpoint from a focus on what my marriage lacked to what my marriage was and who I could be within it.
The Renewed Mindset
1. My first shift in mindset came in realizing my husband's unbelief doesn't keep me from growing in my relationship with God. In fact, the more I pursue my faith and calling according to who I am in Jesus, the more I become the woman of influence that God desires me to be in my husband's life and in our marriage. And even better, when I am secure in this knowledge, I am no longer afraid to live my faith openly and authentically.
2. Instead of seeing my husband's unbelief as what has limited God working in my marriage, I now see the problems were my fear, doubts, pride, and unbelief. They fed into my decisions and choices in how I lived my faith in front of my husband and within my marriage. Fear and God's love cannot coexist. When I shed the fear that fed my doubts, pride, and unbelief, I experienced a freedom I'd never known before so I could really be a person of faith in my marriage.
3. When I shed the labels and the old mindset, I gave God free reign to work in my marriage. Words are powerful. Keeping the label of "mismatched" essentially kept my marriage and husband contained in a box, which I believed would keep the peace and eliminate conflict. What I didn't realize was that I'd limited the potential for our marriage to be a place of freedom and love in greater ways than I could imagine.
The most beautiful part of the renewed mindset is that it's applicable to anyone. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is described in Mark 10, when Jesus met a young rich ruler. This young man went to his knees before Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminded him of all the commandments, which the young man said he had upheld since he was a boy.
Jesus saw this young man's heart—saw the good, the bad, and all the flaws in between—and what did he do? Verse 21 says, "Jesus felt genuine love for him."
When we can look at our spouses or other loved ones, or even strangers, and see them through the eyes of Jesus, we see them through God's amazing love and no labels are needed. We see the same people we once were—broken, lost, and in need of a Savior.
Oh, and that dream of mine? My husband and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage with a trip to Kauai. One morning on the beach as the sun rose to a new and glorious day, we renewed our commitment to each other with new wedding bands. Just him and me and our desire to love each other—just as we are.
Dineen Miller is a fiction author and the co-author of Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage. Married for 25 years to a guy who keeps her young, she lives in the Bay Area with her husband and their two adult daughters, who surprise her daily with their own creativity. For more information about Dineen's current projects and speaking engagements, go to www.MistmachedandThriving.com or DineenMiller.com.
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