It can be impossibly hard not to judge somebody for making a choice you never would. Or, maybe withholding judgment isn’t that hard, but refraining from projecting your feelings about the choice onto them is.
I recently found out that a friend of mine had an abortion four years ago. I’m as pro-choice as the next feminist, but I felt sad when I found out. Sad for her, about how hard that choice must have been, and how hard it must still be. And then I thought, maybe it wasn’t as hard for her as it would have been for me. I mean, the circumstances under which I found out lead me to believe it was/is that hard for her. But maybe it wouldn’t be for everybody and my near-automatic sorrow would be unwelcome.
Maybe you don’t like the abortion lead-in. But I’m going to stick with it.
When I tell other LDS people that Husband is not a member of our faith, they often don’t know what to say. They look back at me, with pity written in their eyes. Sometimes they even ask me how I do it, how can I drag myself to church every week and sit in the pews alone, surrounded by happy families. And that always make me think, if going to church is a chore unless your spouse is involved, maybe your relationship with God isn’t as rock solid as you think.
Before we got married, before we even got engaged, way back when our love was young and new, but not quite new enough that I didn’t worry about the future, I couldn’t imagine myself worshiping alone, week after week, and praying alone, day after day, knowing the person closest to me did not share, did not even understand, the thing that matters most to me. I looked at future-me with pity written in my eyes. But when I made the decision to spend my life with Husband, before we got married, before we even got engaged, something changed. Sometimes Husband goes to church with me and sometimes he does not, but Sundays are still my favorite day. My relationship and my faith grow bigger every day, not always at the same rate, or following the same path, but their trajectories stick close together because good things love good things.
If I could open my mouth to all the friendly faces with the sad, concerned eyes, here is what I would say:
My relationship with God is deeply personal. I share it with others, but I do not depend on my family. This is essential in a world where people, even those closest to us, even our spouses, lose faith themselves, or leave, for whatever reason. Worshipping alone, week after week, day after day, hour after hour, cultivated this faith in me. Consciously choosing to stay a member of a church that many leave when they reach the point that I did — because they can’t believe in a God that would force them to choose between love and faith, or because they don’t feel strong enough to live a life with both, or because they don’t feel worthy or feared rejection, having chosen one over the other — cultivated this faith in me. And it did so in a way that happily, readily walking into the temple never would have.
And I’d say one more thing, also. I would say that Husband may not understand the thing that matters most to me, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t share it. Our differences enrich our lives, such that we understand more about people, love, and faith than we would if we’d married somebody more like ourselves.
I wish I could go back and tell myself not to worry. That I would find great joy in my marriage and my religion, despite their apparent incompatibility. But I couldn’t do that and expect it to turn out the same. Because it was worshiping alone, week after week, siting in the pews surrounded by happy families, that shaped me into a person who can find joy in this life I live.
It can be impossibly hard not to judge somebody for making a choice you never would. It can be impossibly easy to think we know how other people feel, especially when we’re talking about things that are as universal as they are personal: love, marriage, birth, and death. These things are personal, though. They’re intimate. Which is not to say that they shouldn’t be talked about, but that we should do so carefully, and honestly, recognizing our own limitations.