21 Nov When you and your spouse are divided spiritually
Because Steve disbelieves as strongly as I believe, we both feel a separation. Though I have traveled a distance in his secular shoes, he has no way of fathoming mine. When on the rare occasion we discuss religion, I become tongue-tied and unable to articulate arguments that I’ve long since resolved. Having once been there, no doubt, I identify with his skepticism. I resemble Walt Whitman who said, “When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot. My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots. My breath will not be obedient to its organs, I become a dumb man.”
Yet, words, even at their best, would likely fall on unhearing ears. Faith, an inside job, remains inaccessible through reason or logic. An ineffable sort of knowing exists among those of us who’ve been tapped on the shoulder and named by God. Pascal, the seventeenth-century French mathematician and philosopher wrote, “The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know.” In a similar vein, the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard defined faith as “A subjective certainty about an objective uncertainty.”
This chasm results not so much from a communication problem but an experiential one. When individuals interpret the world in totally different ways, they have little common ground for discussion. George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist, explored the concept of frames—deep-seated mental structures that determine how we view the world. Because of the way these paradigms play out, people can see the same set of facts and arrive at completely different conclusions.
Even after thirty years, Steve has little interest in discussing anything that even touches on the sacred. As the subject gradually became taboo, I learned to compartmentalize the deepest parts of me. Locked tight in an inner sanctum, they remain inaccessible to the very person I love the most—my husband.
Having an awareness of the space every person needs for spiritual formation, I trust that the mystery and sincerity of my walk will penetrate as much from what I leave unsaid as what I say. I also anticipate that my faith, lived out in contrast, will amplify in unique and provocative ways. If there is such a thing as “spiritual resistance,” my life embodied it.
Steve and I often give healthy voice to the spiritual loneliness that challenges our marriage. We counterbalance it by bolstering other areas of our relationship– ones imbued with their own timbre of sacredness. The intimacy, shared values, and mutual respect we have cultivated shows grace working its art in our forty-four-year marriage.
After reading a short piece I wrote about my spirituality, a male friend of mine said, “This is the sexiest thing I’ve ever read.” I should have understood the dynamic. Steve knows that my bond with Jesus entails having an intimate relationship with another man. One night at the kitchen table, Steve looked at me with searching eyes, and said, “At least in this world let me feel as though I’m your number one man.”