Dear friend, I hate to be writing this letter, but I have to. I really feel like God wants me to say something now because the longer I wait, the harder it will be — for you. You aren’t going to want to hear this. I know, because I was in your shoes once too.
When my former husband decided he wanted a different life than the one we were building together, I was devastated. My dreams and hopes for our future were shattered. I’d married a Christian man, or so I thought, shortly after attending a Christian college together. We dated for a long time. I thought we both knew what we were getting into. He was going to medical school and I knew that could be a challenge. I braced myself for the hard days. I read the books. I was happy to work and take care of the house supporting the family on both ends so he could focus on his education and training, and I embraced each of the few moments I had with him during the week. Until he left.
Dating An Unbeliever
Soon after, seeking a distraction or, perhaps even, a pleasant relationship, I met a man. He was not a believer, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious anyway. He made me laugh. Belly laugh. Tears streaming down my face, bent over, in pain, capital L – Laugh. And I needed laughter. It turned out he did too.
He was a kind man. Thoughtful. Generous. Pleasant. Gentle. He seemed like the perfect guy. When I laughed loud, he said he wanted to put my laugh on a loop and play it over and over again. When we met for a date, he brought me my favorite cookies, baked himself, and still warm from the oven. When I told him I loved the sound of waves, he planned a date for us one evening at the beach. For my birthday he had six pints of my favorite ice cream, not available in my state, shipped to me on dry ice. He studied my every word and stored it in a bank where he could use it later to tell me he thought I was special.
It wasn’t long before I fell in love with him. It would have been hard not to. He was an incredible man. Whereas I’d once vowed never to remarry, the thought of making things permanent with this man crossed my mind, and his, a time or two. I wanted nothing more than to be with him all the time.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God spoke: “Will you give up what is great for what is best?”
I shook it off.
Again, “Will you give up what is great for what is best?”
No, God, don’t ask that! I knew immediately in my spirit, God, my very Creator, was asking me to give up this relationship.
He didn’t relent, though. Daily, sometimes several times a day, I heard that same gentle but firm voice, “Will you give up what is great for what is best?”
Oh, how I didn’t want to. I wept bitterly. I prayed God would change this man, that God would change his mind. I wanted to obey God, but I wanted him too. I knew the verse about being unequally yoked from my whole childhood, as it was so often quoted to me. My mother often even joked that we were only allowed to marry a preacher, teacher or prophet.
2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV)
I argued with God about it. I argued he wasn’t wicked. He was a good man! He was even Jewish, …even if he didn’t even believe in any of it.
And there I sat, knowing exactly what God was demanding, and I surrendered that relationship.
Still, knowing it was not going to end well, I decided to give him one more chance.
I called him and told him that no matter how much I loved him, that I could no longer be with him because I believed in Jesus and he didn’t. I apologized to him, telling him I didn’t know I would fall in love with him, that I didn’t even know how much it mattered to me. I told him God was asking me to end it.
He thought I was insane.
I can’t blame him.
I told him that maybe he could give Jesus a try. Maybe he could investigate whether or not Jesus was his Messiah. Maybe then…
He responded agreeing that if we married, I could take our kids to church, “or whatever.” He even agreed to come with me a couple times a year. We could celebrate Christmas.
He was missing the point. But honestly, how could he not, when I, myself, didn’t understand why dating an unbeliever was wrong.
In fact, I was choosing to do what God asked without understanding the reason. All I knew was that God was speaking to me directly about this and I had two choices – to choose God or to choose someone else.
God was asking me, …is he an idol? Will you choose a kind and good man over Me? Do you trust that My plan for your life is better? Not just better, but best? Do you believe I see you and understand how difficult this is? Do you believe in Me?
The kind man was hurt. I had hurt him because of my early disobedience in beginning a relationship on my terms and not God’s. I could never make it up to him. I knew that. I had sinned against God and against this man.
He called me one day and told me he was going back to online dating only changing his username to Dumped4Jesus. He was being clever and witty and using humor to simultaneously jab at me and lighten the mood. I chuckled through my own tears, hearing the bitter sadness in his voice.
We remained casual friends until years later when he met and married another woman. Now, I only see glimpses of him on Facebook from time to time.
You, my friend, may wonder… did God follow through and replace him with His best? Did I end up with a perfect marriage that made it all seem worth it in retrospect? And I’ll tell you, yes and no. My marriage isn’t without the occasional hurt. It isn’t perfect. But it is amazing. And while I love my husband and wouldn’t change this story for the world, I realize, now, that God wasn’t talking about His Best being another man…
All the things that made that man and that relationship amazing? They’re nothing. What was God’s best, that promise God made? Well, it was God himself. God himself loves me so much that he does have my laugh on a loop and plays it over and over again. He is the one who created my laugh in the first place! God sees me and knows me at a level no man ever could. When I whisper a prayer to God in my struggle, He shows his love for me bringing an answer without delay. He made the seashore and the sound of the waves just for me because I love that sound. No ice cream or cookie is as sweet as His love for me.
I didn’t understand that then. But I know it now.
There is so much wrong with being unequally yoked, from being pulled away from God to merely being held back in so many ways, but the worst part is that by choosing your way over His, you reject God’s Best for your life — you by default reject God, who won’t settle for being one of your loves, but demands to be your everything.
Dating an Unbeliever is Idolatry.
I know this is a hard truth. I lived it. But I encourage you to cast those cares, those hot, stinging tears onto your LORD as you choose to walk in His way and to turn from a relationship that will drag you away from your Messiah. His love is enough and He will carry you through.
To the man I once hurt… just in case you ever read this: I am so very sorry, still to this day. I never wanted to hurt you. I still love you, though not in the same way, and I pray for you often that you will find your Messiah whose love is unfailing.