Claire Hailwood offers some advice to those spouses following Jesus alone
I have a dear friend who came to faith in her 30s. At that stage of her life, she was already living with her partner, had a mortgage, some children together (and a dog). Her priorities gradually changed because of what she believed, including her perspective on why and how she celebrated things like Christmas.
Things didn’t change for her partner who didn’t make the same decision around faith. Nor did they change for either of their extended families.
My friend found herself wanting to celebrate and do some things differently, like being part of some services or events in the lead up to Christmas or acknowledge the reason for the season in some way. She wanted to consider, if and how they should spend their money differently.
It wasn’t that all that had gone before was bad but that she didn’t feel the same about some things anymore. It created tension in their relationship because her partner couldn’t understand why she wanted to do things differently and resentment grew between and around them.
My friend wanted to stay true to what she believed, and to prioritise her relationship with Jesus because for her, it had been transformative. Equally, she didn’t want to create a deeper rift in her relationship with her partner or family. She longed for her partner, children and family to discover faith as she had, but felt the weight of responsibility on her shoulders for this and didn’t want anything to push them away.
It’s a familiar scene in different contexts around the UK this Christmas. So how can we approach it? Here are a few places to start
What really matters?
Are there particular things that really matter as you celebrate? A particular event or way to express your celebration? Perhaps in the lead up to Christmas, in a moment of peace between those where there could be tension, have a conversation about that event or thing.
Explore the why
If you’re loved by your family (which I acknowledge is not a given for some), though they may not understand, it’s likely that they care about you. Why not find ways to take them on the journey of why these things matter so they understand, even if they fundamentally disagree or want to do differently? In doing so, perhaps you’ll understand more about the areas of tension and why they exist. Perhaps there could be a way through it together helped by mutual understanding?
There are things that my partner and children love to do that I don’t, but I release them to do it because of the joy it brings them (and vice versa) and because they matter to me.
Two years ago I wouldn’t have been anywhere near stables or horses, but because of my daughter’s growing love for them, I’m now learning about them and occasionally willing to go feed them a sugar cube or similar. It’s not the same as faith, but perhaps there are principles that might be helpful?
Truth and grace
There are times when we should be immovable and stand our ground. There are other times we should flex towards others even when it costs us.
The Bible says that Jesus was FULL of grace and truth. Getting closer to Him helps us because we become more like Him and in doing so, we know whether we need to demonstrate more truth or grace in a particular situation
If this is your situation or someone you know and love – pray.
He can do things that we can’t imagine or believe possible in and through us. Sometimes that will look as we expect or hope. Sometimes it won’t.
Nothing can be lost, only gained, in praying more in, around, for and through situations and people.