My Interfaith Marriage
It was at The Village Restaurant in Litchfield, Connecticut. August 2001.
He had a head full of floppy auburn curls, a plaid button down shirt and a sparkle in his eye that threw me for a loop. He was a private school math teacher, football and wrestling coach and was from Massachusetts. I was instantly head over heels, enamored, smitten. I couldn't find anything wrong with him. I looked, listened and finally relaxed, knowing this was the first of many future dates.
We were getting to know each other that night. I told him about my family, my upbringing and my aspirations. He did the same. He also mentioned he was Jewish, but that fact blew by me like a soft, New England breeze. After all, I was a 22 year old girl from a small town in Upstate New York. I had gone to college in my hometown which allowed some exposure to people of other cultures and religions, but not much. Most of the people I grew up with either went to St. Francis Church or St. Stephen's Church. It just depended which one you lived closer to. The only Jewish people I knew (and one of the few Jewish families in my town) lived one street over from us and they didn't celebrate Christmas. Big whoop.
When Adam mentioned that he was Jewish, I'm sure he expected a reaction. He didn't get one. I was Catholic and this adorable person across from me in the dim, brick walled restaurant was not. I didn't see the issue then and fourteen years later, I still don't. But what has happened in between that August day in Litchfield, and this August day in Baltimore (religion wise), hasn't been easy. We have faced adversity and confusion, questions about faith in general and what it would mean to our family, our children.
Adam and I have always done what we've thought best. We don't always think everything through and we have accepted this about ourselves. Everything that has happened to us has ultimately turned out for the best. Remember my previous post about the sun always coming out? We've weathered some pretty strong storms, but the sun has always smiled on us after the storm passed.
We did not choose a religion for our children. We discussed – from day one – raising them "to be good people." When they were first born, I wrestled with this decision. My college roommate Lisa married an awesome guy I happened to know from childhood. She converted to Judaism and they are raising their son to know the Torah. I have often thought that perhaps that would be the easiest thing. Maybe then the world would leave us alone and stop asking us "what we were going to do." Adam is fine raising them to know both religions, but it would be a battle to get him to have our daughters identify only as Catholic, dismissing the Jewish heritage that flows through their veins. We've thought about having them "blessed" by a "neutral" person. My mom, I know, would love to see them baptized. For years I've felt like a sinking ship. On guilty Sundays, I'd drag them to church, armed with goldfish and coloring pads. They'd whisper too loud, drop the hymnal, have to go to the bathroom. I've been wrapped in a tornado of "we need to decide" and "you need to decide" feelings. Meanwhile, I was losing at life on many levels and religion got pushed to that every present back burner.
God has blessed me with a family, an education, a car, a roof over my head, and so on. God has also given me quite a few bumpy roads to navigate in my 36 1/2 years. I have cursed God, I have questioned Him but I have always, always come back to Him when I was at my bottom(s). I am completely in awe of God and what he does each and every day for me, for my family, for the world. Joyce Meyer stated that "No matter what you're going through there's no pit so deep that God can't reach in and get you out." I want to run up and down the street chanting this. I want to stand on my room and scream it to the world. It is what I believe.
Our daughters are 363 days apart. Any parent with "two under two" (actually, make that any parent), can relate to the chaos of babyhood. Adam and I did make a point of teaching them to pray before they ate, pray when they heard an ambulance and to thank God for their basic needs being met. They went to a Jewish pre-school and know that Daddy is Jewish and Mommy took them to church twice. Now that God and I are like this (fingers crossed), I am embracing what Adam and I decided a long time ago. Remember the part about raising them to be good people? Our family's religion is Kindness. Our love for God guides us to give water bottles to homeless people. Our love for God means we thank Him each night before bed for the roof over our head and the clothes on our back and meals in our bellies. Our love for God guides us to encourage others to make the right choices and to ask for forgiveness when we make mistakes. Our love for God means we are grateful and we write thank you notes and use kind words. As our children grow, Adam and I will let them decide how they want to channel their Kindness. I pray each day that God keep my children healthy and kind. I do not pray that they not know pain or confusion or loss, because ultimately, these have been God's greatest gifts to me. They were just wrapped up in ugly paper.
God is a huge part of our lives here in Mayerville. He is discussed regularly and He is known. Are our children baptized? They are not. Will they be Bat Mitzvahed (did I spell that right?)? I am guessing no. Will my children be kind and fair people? I am confident they will.
Faith and religion, I've learned, are deeply personal life choices everyone has the right to make. God has His hands wrapped around my life and I trust that He knows what He is doing. My religion is kindness, and my girls witness this each day. It's not inside of a church or synagogue. It's at the stop light on Reisterstown Road on a hot day. It's in the form of a water bottle and sandwich. It's inside the book that I'm reading with the word "God" on the front. It's in me talking about God every time something good (and not so good) happens.
It's not perfect, and it's messy. But it's who we are.