My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever


What is the church’s response to Christians who are married to unbelievers?


I walked my son to his bus stop this morning and came across this lonely crocus in my front yard. Everything in my yard says Winter is still here, but this one little crocus showed her pretty face in the recent warm days we’ve had. I was thinking about the personal story (below) and wondered if this is what Gracie feels like – alone in her church. We’ve discussed singles in churches and how difficult that can be, but we haven’t discussed what it’s like for a married person married to an unbeliever and the church’s response.

I’d like you to read about Gracie, who is married to an unbeliever.  Sometimes spiritual harm comes to people in the form of emotional abandonment, apathy, not caring for an individual. Let’s read Gracie’s story. I’m thankful she was willing to share it with us.

~Julie Anne

 

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 My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever

 

I am a christian, married to an unbeliever. Being married to an unbeliever is hard. It can be heartbreaking, frustrating and exhausting. Many times, the church is not helpful when it comes to this subject.

I renewed my relationship with God thirteen years ago. Occasionally my husband would come to a service for Christmas or Easter. I would introduce him to my friends, but we would often end up sitting by ourselves. No one would invite us to sit with them. I don’t really know why.

The church is missing the mark when it comes to dealing with spouses who are married to unbelievers. In my experiences (I’ve been to six churches since I renewed my relationship with Christ) at different churches, except for the one I attend now, it has always been the same thing. People find out you are married, but your spouse doesn’t attend church. They ask if he is a believer, and you say no. From then on, you feel like half a person because of the way you are treated.

In one church, which I attended for 8 years, I was involved in one ministry. I was in leadership. However, when I would give advice to others regarding their marriages, I was told “You have no right to talk to anyone about marriage. Yours isn’t so good.” I did attend outings with others, but I often felt like a third wheel to all the couples there. In all of those years, I was never asked to be involved in any other ministry, and although many of the couples I know were invited to dinner with the Pastor and his wife, I never was. The church is not huge either. It makes you feel less than. Churches focus so much on marriage and family, and marriage sermons are always geared to those who are believing couples. I only heard one sentence in all my years that slightly mentioned the unequally yoked issue. It basically said “If you are married to an unbeliever, act like a christian.” Wow, that’s helpful.

People in my situation have many struggles. We have divided loyalties. We want to be at church often, and are questioned when we can’t attend every event. We are told to be sold out for Jesus, but can’t be there all the time because our spouse gets upset, and the church then thinks we don’t want to be involved. We sit in the pews and feel sad when we see the happy couple with the two kids who are shining examples of a ‘christian family’ and feel like there is something wrong with us because we sit alone Sunday after Sunday.

I left that church two years ago after attempting to confront leadership in the ministry I was involved in. I did it biblically, per Matt. 18. However, when I attempted to bring in witnesses, the lead pastor wouldn’t allow it. It was going to be me against the three of them. I knew how it was going to turn out, as these leaders have been confronted before, and nothing was done. I left that church and never returned.

I started attending another church, and things in my marriage were getting worse. I went to see the pastor and his wife. All I got for advice was the typical ‘pray more, submit more, have more sex, etc’. I told them he had committed adultery, and found out they don’t believe in divorce even for adultery. I was stunned. I confronted the pastor’s wife one Sunday and asked “So he can sleep around all he wants, I can’t divorce him? So, what, I’m supposed to keep loving him, having sex and just hope I don’t get HIV?” She paused and said “Well, no.” It was like that thought never even entered her mind! I left that church shortly after once I discovered they are heavy into patriarchy, too.

Many of the women I communicate with in a ministry which deals with this issue have had things said to them such as “You must submit, even to sin. You must obey, you have to be Jesus with skin on. Because how would you feel if you were married to your husband for life but he/she never got to know the Lord? It’s your job to get them saved!” This is unbiblical, and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us, especially wives. Our husbands are supposed to be representing Jesus, and we ladies are supposed to be the bride. We take on a role we aren’t meant to. If you are married to an abusive spouse, or an addict, it is even harder.

I will end by saying I have finally found a wonderful church. I did interview the pastor for two hours before I joined, and had a list of questions for him. I was very pleased with his responses. In the midst of all this, I found out one month ago my husband is having an affair. I did everything those former churches told me to do, I prayed, fasted, submitted, loved, encouraged, and he still had an affair. I have come to realize that even if you love perfectly, they may not love you back. Jesus loved perfectly, and they still killed him. Even today, people still reject Him. I know I did the best I could, but my husband still chose someone else. I went to my current church and explained the situation, as this has been a not great marriage for a long time. No one condemned me. No one told me God hates divorce. What did they tell me? “You are worth more than what your husband is doing to you. It’s not your fault. How can we support you?” That’s Jesus. That’s love.

 

 

160 comments on “My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever

  1. Bubba, your words are showing your true beliefs regarding this issue. For the record, I never met a christian woman who LIED about being abused. The problem lies in the church requiring proof. Please tell me how a woman, who is called vile names every single day can ‘prove’ it? Because that is abuse too. I also don’t know any women who has people who actually witness physical abuse. Again, abusers are nice as pie in public. Then we have church leaders who refuse to look at proof, such as photos, texts, and emails. When you don’t side with the victim, you side with the abuser.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gracie,
    Your comment to bb was very kind. I will not respond as I fear I would end up in the SSB dog house right now for being too personal and not Christ like. I agree with you whole heartedly– Calling Christian women liars when it comes to abuse doesn’t set well with me. I agree with you fully: “When you don’t side with the victim, you side with the abuser.” I may add that if you side with an abuser you are also an abuser.

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  3. bike bubba,

    This site is specifically for survivors and for them to feel safe. Are there some cases where there have been false claims? Probably, but they are very few. Our focus here is on survivors and giving them an opportunity to share their stories (because most survivors have been silenced).

    I’m going to ask you to NOT provide any more links or discussion about false reports as that is emotionally triggering to survivors. This place must remain safe for survivors.

    Brenda: I fixed the typo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bb,
    I realize that your comments were meant for Gary and he can address them himself, but I find what you have said not only frustrating, but offensive. “a presumption of guilt that is repulsive to both the Bible and our sense of justice” Where is your repulsive feelings to those who have been abused? Where is your sense of justice for them? The Bible says that we are to defend the oppressed. God is repulsed by those claiming to be Christ followers and their lack of compassion for the oppressed.

    “It denies the rights of the accused”. Where are the rights of victims to not be beat up, raped, belittled, tormented, gaslighted, controlled and manipulated in their own homes. Their are mothers having their children taken away because the abuser can waltz into court and make a judge feel like the mother of his children has lost her sanity. Where is your outrage over that? Where is your outrage for the oppressed?

    Scripture does not frustrate me, but your interpretation of it does. I am repulsed by this kind of attitude. I am repulsed by churches and Christians who turn their backs on the oppressed and pat abusers on the back. “A huge incentive for false allegations”–Father forgive him because he has no idea what he says. Do you really think abused women(or men) want their marriages to be turned upside down? You really need to get a clue.

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  5. Brenda, Gracie,

    Really, I completely trust you and other women to be able to discern whether an abuser’s conduct is or is not that of a believer. There is no need to apply to the ecclesiastical authorities for a determination. Jesus, not some man or group of men, is our judge.

    To suggest that a woman must initiate some sort of process of reconciliation with her tormentor is to lay one more layer of abuse upon all the multiple layers that have already been applied by their abuser. It smacks of an attitude of male superiority and entitlement. It is to side with the wolves and pigs in opposition to their prey. Morally speaking, it is to be an accessory after the fact. It is not too difficult to imagine circumstances in which those who choose to run with the wolves and wallow with the pigs could devolve into criminal culpability. We might be surprised to know just how often preachers engage in actual witness tampering when it comes to instances of domestic abuse.

    No, the one who already bears the scars left by wolves’ fangs is not required to render up the good of some twisted and perverted version of ecclesiastical due process. The one who has been gored by boars’ tusks may keep their pearls to themselves. Nay, such a one is admonished, if not outright commanded, to keep their pearls and all else that is good to themselves.

    O.K. Back to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gary W,
    There was/is no doubt in my mind that you felt any other way. I cannot say the same for another individual.

    Brenda

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  7. “And if she dies, not forgiving, will she go to hell?
    What is the final destination for a victim of emotional trauma? Hell for some more trauma?
    I think a bit of empathy needs to go to the victim, instead of commandments to forgive.”

    Could not agree with you more. I sure hope no one ever says such a horrible thing to any kind of abuse victim.

    Bad enough are the unkind, disdainful assumptions often made about a victim’s emotions and character, when the person does not comply with or conform to popular beliefs about forgiveness (we are not all the same; some of us still believe an abuser’s repentance is the first part of the equation). To add the cruel threat of abandonment by Jesus upon death, is to heap yet another unfair burden on the victim, and can retraumatize/revictimize the person all over again.

    Liked by 1 person

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