I don't really like labels. I mean, they're helpful for identifying things like flank steak vs. rump roast. But when applied to humans--things get tricky. Still, if I'm required to align myself inside Christendom, I call myself Catholic. And my husband calls himself Protestant.
At the end of the day, though, we are both devout Christians and the denominational labels (for lack of a better term) are not as important to us as the integrity of our hearts.
People often wonder how our marriage works and whether this "lack of unity" has a negative impact on our family life. Some have asked what it's like to live in an "interfaith" marriage--as if Protestantism and Catholicism are two separate religions.
I've heard the following questions: Why aren't you submitting to your husband's spiritual leadership? Are you worried about confusing your children? How do you reconcile your differences?
I think these are all valid questions. The problem is, there are no easy answers. What I mean is, there are no shortcuts to living peacefully and humbly with another human being.
We reconcile the differences the way all differences are reconciled: with love, grace and humility. It's a delicate balancing act that requires the skill, strength and most of all, patient understanding. Forbearance.
If there is one thing I've learned since entering the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil 2009, it's that theological debates are never edifying or efficacious--at least, not in the context of an intimate relationship.
But living in grace and humility is always edifying.
Unfortunately, arguing comes much more easily to me than living graciously. I know this is a HUGE surprise to you, right? :)
All this to say, I have made many mistakes along the way. And if there is pain and hurt in my marriage as a result of my defection to the Catholic Church, it is entirely my fault. I'm the one who changed. I'm the one who left Protestantism.
It is a testament to the enduring love and patience of my husband that he has given me the space and grace to change.
Still, I did not enter the Church without his consent. For whatever reason, this seems to be a big question for a lot of people. They want to know if I "rebelled" against my husband.
No, I didn't "rebel." I waited for my husband's consent. If I was to enter the Church, the Lord made it clear to me that I was to honor the Biblical structure of our marriage--and that has always meant making decisions together. A huge part of my journey into the Catholic Church involved a lot of waiting. And holding my tongue. And not running ahead of grace.
At last, he gave me his consent and I entered the Church alone. It was such a strange, bittersweet feeling to enter the Church alone. It felt like a joyous homecoming and a heartrending departure. I was both relieved and terribly grieved.
Sometimes people are concerned that Catholicism negatively impacts our marital unity. Perhaps what they don't understand is that Protestantism negatively impacted my marriage, too. In my experience, the Protestant understanding of marriage was often oppressive to women. I could write an entire chapter on this, but suffice to say, Catholics are not afraid of publicly honoring women. And unlike my Protestant upbringing, the equality of women is not seen as a threat to men. Additionally, for Catholics, marriage is a sacrament. I think this plays a big part in balancing the marriage equation.
Sure, I would love for my whole family to be together in the Catholic Church. But I'm not about to pursue any goal other than being absolutely content to let God be God. That means I don't try to control His will and how it needs to be accomplished. My job is to live like a Christian, no matter my circumstances.
Am I willing to be faithful to what God has shown me--even if no-one else comes along? Am I willing to live obediently--even if it means I go to Mass alone? Am I willing to live graciously and lovingly--even when I'm misunderstood?
Only by the grace of God.
But one thing I know for sure: the priceless gift of Christ in the Eucharist is worth every sacrifice.