Ask Margot-Our Callings Clash…

A woman and her boyfriend have very different views of serving God—can their relationship thrive?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I am a Christian woman and have been exclusively dating a Christian man for about five months. We are both divorced from lengthy marriages and are open about our "baggage" and have taken steps to work through these areas (i.e., counseling with a pastor). We believe we are approaching our
Counseling is an endeavor that will serve you for a long time.
relationship in an open, mature manner, and the future looks very promising. However, there's one issue: We've had numerous conversations on how we serve God, as individuals. He is very much a prayer-warrior. I, on the other hand, feel my calling is to serve as a helper to others. In this role, I am asked by various groups to participate in retreats, Mexico mission projects, etc. My boyfriend has expressed a concern that, if we were married, I would be gone too much. My feeling is that he knows how active I am with the church and should be willing to accept that. He asked: If he is going to be left alone "all the time", why should he get married? I feel like, if we go forward, I'm going to have to choose between honoring my husband's wishes or follow my calling to serve. Any advice?
– Confused by Our Callings

Dear Confused,
Congratulations on being aware enough of your baggage to try to sort through it all before getting any more serious than the two of you already are. There's a line I've loved for a long time from Free Will Astrologist Rob Brezny: "Don't drag your prison with you when you escape."

I had that on my office wall for a long time as I tried (valiantly) to dislodge some of the baked-on grease of former relationships in order to prepare for the next. Counseling is an endeavor that will serve you for a long time, whether you stay with your current man or not. Good for you!

But you're right, there's more to dating this dude than dealing with your collective past. And this issue is definitely a challenge for the two of you moving forward. Regular readers of this column know that I preach the gospel of shared lifestyles, values and beliefs. I think the two of you are in good shape on the doctrine. But your lifestyles and values do seem to be in conflict.

You value service to others (him included). He values having a partner within arm's reach. You want to live a life of service. He wants to live a life of hometown worship. And while we all want to
We all know it just doesn't work that way most of the time.
believe that true love comes with no conditions, only full acceptance, we all know it just doesn't work that way most of the time.

This doesn't have to be a problem if you both support each other's values and choices. But it's clear from your letter that your man doesn't. He thinks it's "wrong" of you to be away, that that your being away makes it dumb to be married. And the truth is, honey, I don't think anyone with those feelings is going to turn from them easily. Why? Because I think it's a trust or insecurity issue, not an "I'll miss you" issue. Now, if he's willing to address those underlying issues in therapy, you might be able to work this out.

You can ask him to accept your decision to travel in service to Christ and others — and heck, he might even do it — but you can't expect him to be happy about it if his true desire is having his wife at home. Same goes for you. You could accept his wanting you to stay local, but I doubt you'd be content with that. So you see what's shaping up here? Acceptance isn't the problem, really. It's what comes after the accepting.

That's why I think it'd be a good idea to turn your counseling sessions towards addressing this challenging future. It's very important that you be partnered with someone who wants to share your life, not just accept it. And your man deserves the same. Getting over your past is important, mind you, but it's not going to mean much to go through that with this guy if you don't have a future with him. That said, developing tools for dealing with your feelings around conflicting values is no guarantee the conflicts won't arise. And judging by the tone of your letter, I'd say you're already seeing the writing on the wall.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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