This weekend, I was lucky enough to fly to the Netherlands for two and a half days to see my lovely boyfriend Ken for Valentine’s day.
Ken and I have been dating for almost three years. When I found out I was accepted to Oxford, one of my first thoughts was how much easier it would be to see each other (the English Channel is much smaller than the Atlantic Ocean, after all). But, although we’ve made the trek a little more often, we still spend months and months apart. As such, I was so incredibly excited to come see him, even if it was for only a few days.
The weekend was perfect; I have rarely, if ever, been so happy. It was exactly what I needed after the start of a difficult term. We went out for dinner; he made me breakfast; we watched one of his favorite movies (The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is very weird and very good). He took apart my laptop in an attempt to fix the broken keyboard, which was very nerve-wracking to watch.
I sometimes like to remind myself that I once swore I wouldn’t date in college. As the old saying goes, “man plans, God laughs.” If you had told me when I met Ken that we’d be in a long-term, long-distance relationship three years later, I would have been shocked. On paper, after all, we’re complete opposites. He’s shy and quiet; I’m a total extrovert. He thinks before he speaks; I say whatever is on my mind. He has an enormous amount of self-control (it takes him several weeks finish a candy bar), and I… struggle in that area.
Maybe biggest of all, he’s an agnostic atheist and I’m a Christian. That’s an area that I’ve struggled with in the past, because many conservative Christians think it’s unwise, or even wrong to date someone with whom you’re “unequally yoked.” For those unfamiliar with Christian lingo, a yoke is the bar between two cattle who walk alongside each other. If one animal is smaller, weaker, or slower, the unevenness of the bar causes the other animal to start walking in circles. This is the risk for Christians who date non-believers, I am told. I may start walking in circles. I may stop believing entirely.
It’s also difficult not to be able to share such a big part of my life with someone I love so much. So Ken goes out of his way to understand. He asks me about what I’m studying right now in my theology classes. He will sit next to me when I pray at night. He comes to church with me when I ask. I, in turn, do my best to understand why he doesn’t believe – and I respect that. I know that he came to his beliefs with the same amount of time, consideration, and struggle that I came to mine.
As for the risk of losing my faith; it’s true that my life might be a tiny bit easier if my boyfriend, or my parents, or my best friend were of my same faith. It’s true that, because they are not, I am forced to challenge, think through, and explain my beliefs more often then I might otherwise. But I think that’s a good thing. Because an easy, unexamined belief is not a belief.
Sometimes when I hear a sermon targeted at people in relationships like mine, I question whether I’m being unwise. But when I think of the enormous surprise that our relationship has been, and the huge gift of a love like this, I know that it’s not just our hands at work. Ken has helped me become a wiser, better, kinder person. He has taught me patience. He has shown me true love.
To me, those gifts are heaven-sent.