Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Equally Yoked - or How My Buddhist Husband Brought Me Closer to God

I am a Christian. A grew up in church, saved and baptized when I was 13, born again at 25, filled with the Holy Spirit - evidence of tongues - Christian. My husband is Buddhist.

When my husband and I met he was studying Buddhism but had not fully immersed himself into the religion so it didn't bother me much. After all, we all get a little side tracked now and then, but he'd grown up Christian and we loved the same God.

But as our relationship progressed and he became more dedicated to the Buddhist path the dogma of my Christian upbringing and youth spent in church began to cause me a bit of uncertainty.

I was never one of those girls who grew up planning their wedding. I never imagined what my husband would look like, or what kind of flowers I'd have. I didn't spend hours picturing our first dance or how my hair would be styled. Those things just never really mattered to me. I did have one picture of a dress torn out of a magazine that I tucked away for that special day but that was the extent of my 'when I get married' fervor.

When it came to getting married, there was one thing though that did matter. One thing that I knew would be an all or nothing stipulation for my groom to be and that was that we would be 'equally yoked'.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV).

My husband and I would both be Christians, go to church together, pray and read the Bible together and love the same God.

So as Matthew and I became more serious I started to worry about how 'unequally yoked' we appeared to be. I believed in Jesus... he followed Buddha. And that's where I got hung up. But our relationship progressed, we got engaged and as any 'good Christian' wife-to-be would do, I began praying for his conversion or 'return to God' in time for the wedding.

I've always had a slightly different view on God and the Bible than most Christians I know.. some things I'd been taught just didn't add up with the God I knew in my spirit but that yoking thing was apparently drilled in pretty deep because it really started to wear on me. But I had faith and was sure he'd 'come around' and everything would be fine. I mean he grew up in a Christian home.. his dad was a Southern Baptist minister for crying out loud.

No go back... you didn't say that right...drop your voice an octave......

slow down.....

and try again.. 

Suuuuthernnn Baptist. There you go. We're talking DEEP South Southern. 

To the point where if Matthew was caught trying to read a book about another religion his parents would take it and properly scold him about the dangers of letting in demons and the like by reading anything other than 'Godly' material. So I thought surely this Buddhist thing was just a fad.. a lingering rebellion and he'd snap out of it and go back to being a Jesus freak like me.

What I didn't know then.. and has taken me almost 3 years to realize is that He loved Jesus and God the same way I did all along. He worshiped the same God. We had the SAME beliefs. He just used a different method on his path to spiritual growth than I did.

I recently had an extended Facebook debate with a Christian friend who is the exact same as I was back before I decided to stop putting God in a box and let Him be GOD. She in short 'educated' me about how Buddhists worship Buddha as their God, and how they thought Jesus was 'below' Buddha and how she had no need or desire to read about any religion other than her own and from no other book than the Bible because that's what a Christian was supposed to do.

Needless to say I failed in my attempt to help her see how grossly incorrect she was in pretty much every statement she made because even though she'd never read one single thing about Buddhism she knew all she needed to know about it because she read the Bible.. and that gave her the right and authority to tell me (I'm paraphrasing here) that my husband - and I by proxy - was going to hell for worshipping false Gods and that she'd pray I found my way back to the 'real' God. Because apparently mine was fake.

It made me sad... for her.. and for myself - because I'd been just like her for so many years.

Blind in my 'faith' and unyielding in my views. Funny how easy it is for us to skip over or completely forget what the Bible actually says when it suits us... I mean I'm pretty sure Jesus said that we should Study and show ourselves approved.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. "  (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV).

Our different faiths actually caused some problems the first year of our marriage.. I wanted a strong spiritual head of my home.. a husband that 'led me' in the right path who sat down and read the Bible and prayed with me and Matthew's Buddhist practice of meditation and mantras just wasn't giving me that. It wasn't that he didn't try... he did... it was that I wanted him to believe like I did and anything else just wasn't good enough.

Thank God (literally) that I've always been open to His voice and leading - even when I wasn't open to anyone else and I finally realized that I was being selfish. I wanted my husband to follow my faith my way yet I couldn't even be bothered to so much as read a webpage about his... his faith and spiritual practice that was just as important to him as mine was to me and here I was completely disregarding it because it didn't fit in the box I'd put God in.

It was hard but I finally opened my mind to learning something knew and in the process I found my heart opening more to God. The same God I grew up learning about and loving in small town Southern (did you say it right this time) Baptist church. Learning about Buddhism didn't make me a Buddhist, or less of a 'Christian'. It didn't take away from my faith and it wasn't going to condemn me to the fiery depths of hell.

What it did was open my eyes to how amazingly big and wonderful God truly is. God can't be put in a box.. and just because I call him 'God' and you call him 'Dios' doesn't mean we're not worshiping the same marvelous Creator.

This is a slight segway in this particular post so I'm only going to mention it briefly but I feel it warrants attention. You may have noticed that I spelled God in both English and Spanish as explanation that people may call God by a different name but He's still the same God....

Allah... is GOD in Arabic... it literally translates to 'the God'. Little mind blowing trivial for the Muslim haters out there. Same GOD.. different LANGUAGE.

Now back to Jesus...

By being open to actually educating myself about something I was unfamiliar with I learned that the core teachings of Buddha and Jesus are almost identical. In fact - Buddha taught those same core teachings a few hundred years before Jesus was ever born. If they'd lived in the same time I fully believe they would have been best of friends and brothers in their mission to bring the world to enlightenment through peace and love. 

Now I personally claim Christianity as my 'religion' because it was Jesus who led me to God.. it was through Jesus' story that I learned who God was and developed the amazing relationship that I have with my Creator today. For my husband.. it was Buddha's teachings that brought him to that place.

He doesn't worship a different God than I do... he doesn't discredit Jesus for what He did by dying on the cross. He's not anti-Christian or a lost sinner because he's Buddhist. His journey to God just took a different fork in the road than mine did.

.... The important thing to know here is that this forked road didn't take us on to separate paths... it brought us to the same one.

I now have a closer relationship with God than ever and my husband and I, both as individuals and as a couple, are growing leaps and bounds in our spiritual walk. A walk we're taking together.