Four or five years before Derek stopped fully participating in the Church, I was reading in the Book of Mormon about the brother of Jared getting ready to cross the ocean (Ether 2:24-25). The Lord talked about preparing the brother of Jared against the wind and the waves that would carry them across the ocean in their barges but which would also beat against the boats and toss them around. I had a distinct impression that “wind” and “waves” were coming my way and that I needed to be spiritually prepared. I felt an urgency to have a closer connection with the Lord and became more serious about my personal worship.
Over the next several years I started to get impressions about things I should do to improve our marriage. Derek and I had always gotten along pretty easily. We went on regular dates, shared similar interests and rarely found anything to fight about. But my impressions led me to start reading books on marriage and researching things I could do to become a better wife. (One book in particular made a huge impact: Wife for Life by Ramona Zabriskie). Slowly I noticed we were communicating a little more freely and our trust level for one another was increasing.
It was about that same time I started feeling unsettled about Derek’s commitment to the church. I could tell something was off but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. There came a day when I was fervently praying and questioning if there was something I should do about my feelings. The thoughts came clearly to me that my suspicions were correct, that something was amiss, but that there wasn’t anything to do and that it would all be okay. In fact, the struggle we would face was needed for us to find deeper happiness together. That idea brought me a comfort that superseded my other feelings of confusion and trepidation.
I’ll insert here that Derek stepping away from the church wasn’t the only “wave” that our family has encountered since I read those verses in the Book of Mormon. We’ve dealt with our share of physical and mental illness, challenges in our immediate and extended families, not to mention a global pandemic. 🙄 This dramatic change to our marriage and family, however, seriously rocked our boat. I am confident and grateful that the nudge to improve my spiritual connection with the Lord helped me to weather the storm better than I could have otherwise.
I also believe the progress we’d made in our relationship paved the way for making this mixed-faith marriage work. We had a fairly solid partnership to begin with, but through our efforts to intentionally improve and with the help of marriage gurus, we were able to strengthen it even more. When the challenge arose of living together with differing belief systems, we were able to work through the logistics together, trusting in each other and the foundation we had built.
One other idea that carried me through that weekend in 2016 and beyond came while I was picking grapes during conference. I had this pressing thought: I had married Derek for eternity and that his progression (and mine) would be eternal. That message ran through my mind again and again for the rest of the weekend. The following evening as Derek discussed his faith transition with me, once more it settled into my mind and heart. It gave me peace, not because it guaranteed that he would return to the faith I cherished, but because it reminded me that our marriage has divine approval and will last beyond this life and any challenges we encounter. I believe it was that message, given so clearly in such a critical moment, that helped me to respond to him with love and compassion even though I felt such emotional upheaval.
As I look back on my life, I see many other breadcrumbs that led me to my marriage; enduring not one but many challenges to my own faith, being a witness to others who questioned their beliefs as well as my experience becoming engaged to Derek. I see these moments as evidence of God’s love in my life; of His guiding hand and constant presence. They serve as a reminder that He has a grand plan for all of His children and a specific plan for each individual.
I want to acknowledge the vital role that individual choice plays here. No matter what messages God sends, it’s always our choices that matter most in the end. I choose to see His hand in everything. I choose to trust Him and believe there’s a purpose to this life. I choose to recognize divine messages that come into my life. I choose to work on my marriage with intention. I choose my husband and choose to love and trust him. I am so honored that he chooses me. He chooses to support me in my beliefs just as he does in my other interests, hobbies and activities. He chooses to be fully involved in our marriage and family. The individual choices we each make are key to the success of our marriage.
I am truly blessed to have him next to me as we navigate the winds and the waves of life. It’s not always easy to recognize in the middle of the storm, but the same experiences that beat us down and toss us around are what drive us to our destination. I’m hoping to arrive at a place of deeper happiness in my marriage and of peace in my family after weathering all of the ups and downs together.
I don’t believe that there is one “right” path for everyone or for every relationship. I do believe that if you look, you can find the Lord in your journey.