My family is bi.
And before you go running to the hills, not that kind of bi. We are a fusion of two– Bilingual. Bicultural. Bifaith. I think the only “BI” that we’re not is that first thought you probably had when you read the title of the post. We are a splicing of two very distinct lives…one American, one Colombian (and no, I don’t mean South Carolina). One dominated by the English language, one by Spanish. One Protestant, one Catholic. The added challenge of unity in the face of bifurcation is one we will have to contend with all our lives, but it’s not something I would ever give up. As I have mentioned before, the balancing act is something unique to our struggle as a couple, but it makes our lives all the richer for it. As we approach our anniversary in a week, I’m trying to take a look back at the lessons learned in one year of living bi. This may be a multi-post topic, so I’ll start today with the first few, and post the others in the following days.
Know what you believe. This was a major one for me. As an evangelical (and daughter of a Pastor) this was one I was fairly prepared for, but one of the best things about living with someone of a variant viewpoint is the deepening, strengthening effect it has had on my own faith. The question “WHY” is inevitable when juggling Mass and communion, rosaries and sola fide. I suppose one could live in ignorance and simply accept without understanding, but that has never been my modus operandi. It has led me to investigate more about his church, and he about mine.
Entertain the differences. One of the first arguments my husband and I had, before we were married, was about Vatican II and its effects. Soon after came the rundown on the Westminster Confession (my church is Reformed Evangelical). Then came the logistical questions. Why does the congregation stand when they hear the scripture? Why does the priest bow his head at a certain point in the credo? What’s the deal with all the incense? This process of research, questioning, and thoughtful introspection has only been good. Tough, sometimes, as with many things, but good. Both of us have fairly intense theological training, so this was a no-brainer…some people react the opposite way, eventually converting to their partner’s faith, usually “for the sake of the children”. This apparently happens when one person’s beliefs aren’t as closely held as the other’s. This has not been our experience.
Love the person, respect the tradition. Something important is grown when you can not only appreciate but- yes- even love the qualities that make your partner who they are. They may be annoying, they may be inexplicable, but they are part of this person you’ve decided to spend your life with, to make children with, to worship with. I may not see the theological need for Catholic confession, but I appreciate its importance in R’s life. He may not understand how election and free will work together in Calvinism, but he sees its effect as I live my life. The thing that has been influential to me is that I am the representative Protestant for him, just as he is my Catholic. And that is a great burden and a great privilege.
In the end, it all comes down to your decisions…how are you going to work the differences? How much can you let things go? What are you unwilling to let go? It’s in the working of these questions that we are tested- sometimes by fire, but always to our benefit. And always remembering that we have much, much more to learn.