My girlfriend of six months and I are nearing a decision point in our relationship where we decide either that God has marriage intended for us (engagement) or that He doesn't (breaking up). All signs point toward marriage except for one nagging issue: spiritual compatibility. While we both have a clear and unswerving commitment to the Lord, His will and His Word, our spirituality looks much different. My process of making decisions is rooted almost exclusively in the Bible; Hannah's (I'll use a fake name to protect her privacy) seems more focused on personal revelation, although never in contradiction with the Word. Hannah prefers charismatic worship on Sundays; I prefer more "orderly" worship. Hannah benefits from the use of and exposure to the "gifts of the Spirit" (prophecy, tongues), while I feel neither gifted in those areas nor comfortable with them.
While normally I would say (as would several of my spiritual mentors) that it's really only important to align on the fundamentals of the Christian faith and that God will give us the grace for unity and compromise within a marriage, I'm wondering if these issues are "deal breakers" or not.
Both of us feel called to full-time ministry at some point in our lives, and the form which such a ministry would take perhaps looks much different. I feel distinctly uncomfortable at her church when I visit, partly due to my past negative experiences with charismatic Christianity and partly due to my passion for a different style of Sunday service. I know she would be very, very reluctant to leave this church which she works at part time and moved into this city for.
Obviously, God can call us to marriage without resolving all these issues perfectly. As I discern that call, however, I'm wondering what it means to be "equally yoked," to what extent a married, Christian couple ought to align spiritually, and whether the need for such an alignment is greater when the two individuals feel called to a life of Christian ministry.
This is such a significant question. While undoubtedly you each will mature in your faith over time, as we all do hopefully, I think it's always best to ask yourself, "If there's no significant change in her view or mine over the years, would that be a problem?" If it is a problem now, it won't go away after you're married. So this is a great question to ask.
The good thing is that you both sound like you're very serious about knowing Christ and making Him the center of your lives for a lifetime. Usually the problem is that one person is pursuing God while the other really has no interest. So at least we're past that.
Whether this is an issue worth ending a relationship is going to depend on whether these are preferences of style for each of you or convictions about content. Yes, it is important to be unified on the fundamentals. The question is, for the two of you, are these fundamentals? That's what you need to decide.
While for now you might be able to "overlook" those things that really don't appeal to you in each other's approach to worship and connecting to God, and you might even attend different churches, keep in mind if you marry there will come a day when you will have to decide under which approach you will rear your children. On that day unity, especially about small "c" church, will be essential.
If your personal devotional connection is more through reading Scripture, and hers is more through worship and prayer, then so be it. Everyone has his or her own spiritual disciplines he or she tends to gravitate toward in his or her own secret devotional life. I believe differences at that level are no problem at all.
But if the differences are more core beliefs, so much so that you wouldn't want your kids to embrace her view or she wouldn't want them to embrace your view, then you have a major problem that needs to be settled before you move on to courtship.
Here's what I think: I think you both bring important aspects of worship and connection to God to the table, and I think you should explore how they complement one another rather than contradict. You might just discover that God wants to bring each of you into a richer relationship with Him by allowing the other person's approach to have some influence on you. Neither of you should let past baggage keep that from happening.
Your commitment to God's written Word is awesome; her passion for personal revelation is wonderful. Both are essential. God guides and speaks to us through His Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Why not learn from each other? A child who was reared with a healthy appreciation of both would be one well-influenced child.
However, if even one of you has no interest in exploring what the other brings in his/her approach, then that will indeed hamstring unity in your relationship, especially when it comes to the public outworking of your faith in the local body of Christ.
As long as how we get to the triune God is biblically sound, my big deal is just getting there and allowing Him to transform our hearts to be more and more like Christ. You might be in the Amazon under a tree worshiping the Lord with a bongo or in a metro area with thousands of choices of where and how to worship. The means by which you connect to God is not the end. An intimate friendship with God himself is the end. The point is the Person being worshipped. As the two of you continue to make Him your aim, I believe He'll continue to bring you into unity on how you get there.
Copyright 2008 John Thomas. All rights reserved.