Photo Credit: Ben White (Unsplash.com)
I wrote a letter first, in 2015, to women who go to church alone. To date, it’s the Traces of Faith post found most often through search engines. Then, shortly thereafter, I decided to write one to moms who are going to church now, and their adult children wonder why it’s become such a big deal in their lives. In speaking with a lady at an event this weekend, I realized I’d forgotten a group of women most precious. What about the ones who married a Christian man, and they went to church together for years, and now he’s decided not to go?
To the woman whose husband doesn’t go to church with her (anymore),
This one has its own special kind of sting. We’re told to expect changes as our marriages grow in years. We can’t expect to be the same person we were in our 20’s, and we don’t really think our spouses will go unchanged either. But you never expected his faith to change so much - in the wrong direction.
Maybe he’s decided he can be a Christian without the church part. You’ve heard it said, “I experience God just as well in the great outdoors.” Perhaps he didn’t have much in common with the other men at church. Or maybe, and I’m only whispering this because it’s hard to even type, maybe he has lost his faith altogether.
You find yourself in a scary place. You lean into Jesus, and search your Scriptures to decipher how to handle this unknown. Does 1 Peter 3 apply to you now, more than it ever did before?
There’s a subculture within the church community, and maybe you belong. Because of my family background, I’m not a member but so many of my wonderful church ladies relate to this one. You grew up in a family of Christians. Perhaps your grandpa or dad were pastors, maybe they both were. There are several deacons on your family tree. I know women who can trace their faith ancestry clear back to its European roots. Sure, there are a few family members who have gone astray, but every family has its black sheep, right?
Now, you share a marital bed with a black sheep, and if you’re being completely honest, you carry a bit of shame over that. It doesn’t mean you want your marriage to end in any way, for a whole list of other reasons, doctrinal and otherwise. You just wish with all your heart, your husband’s heart would be changed, and you could all go to church as a family again.
These women, who grew up in a family of Christians, they’re also surrounded by Christian friends. Often, they attended Christian preschool, elementary, middle and high schools before going across town or a few hours down the highway to a Christian college. You all met Christian husbands, were in each other’s weddings and attended your children’s baptism/dedication services. Often, you settled back in your own hometown, maybe even the church of your childhood.
If that’s you, or even a piece of that is you, you must be wondering who are you going to talk to about this private matter? How could you betray your husband by confessing this issue to a family member or friend? Who could possibly understand this less-than-perfect situation anyway? What if she automatically assumes this means you’re going to get a divorce?
I don’t have answers here. These situations are highly personal. But can I tell you a couple stories, maybe reminding you that you’re not alone?
My dad was alive for the first 31 years of my life, and he attended church one time in all those years. Again, my background is different from yours, but I am beyond thankful for a mom who went to church anyway. I had a friend recently ask me what the church thought of my parent’s situation. Did they know I had a dad? Did they assume my mom was single when she always came to church alone?
Those are such interesting questions, and I don’t know the answers to either of them. Maybe your situation is temporary (let’s pray it is), but I implore you to consider what you might do if it goes on for months or years. Please consider what will be best in developing your children’s faith. What will help you sustain your own?
There’s a sweet friend of mine who lives this scenario. It’s been hard for her to attend church solo. She has adult children, so sometimes she walks in those sanctuary doors all alone. But isn’t it true she walks in to find herself among family? Family of God, don’t we have a responsibility to notice when she is and isn’t there? Aren’t we supposed to lovingly wrap our arms around her, and be a safe place for her to share her story when she’s ready? We don’t have to force the conversation. Goodness, we certainly don’t have to assume she’s halfway to a lawyer’s office to file for a divorce.
Sister in Christ, I’m so sorry your husband is in a rough place right now. Remember, no one is saddened by this more than Jesus. He’s chasing him. Watch for opportunities to live out your faith in your home every day. Be honest about your feelings. Trust God to return your husband to a place of faith stronger than the one he’s left behind. Please ask God to show you one true friend you can talk to in confidence. Find a church who will embrace you as you are, because you need to be with others who love Jesus. I hope you are able to go to church together again someday, but in the meantime, I pray you find the courage to do church alone.