Picture this: It’s a warm sabbath afternoon. It’s “youth sabbath” so you’ve been running (reverently) through church trying to make sure that all the small details you’ve been working on for the last few weeks are working out alright, which they aren’t of course. Suddenly, the church’s heavy brown double doors open, and your eyes meet those of a very handsome young man. You think, is he my age? He certainly is. Next to him is one of your closest friends. You understand. A visitor? You ask yourself. Too bad.
I know this feeling all too well. Growing up in a conservative Spanish speaking Seventh-day Adventist church, “unequally yoked” was a term my rebellious young self knew all too well. The idea that in order to have a successful and God-centered relationship both partners must have a spiritual life of their own. I followed this rule…. religiously. Only putting effort into relationships where the young men I got to know read their Bibles, devotionals, and attended Amanecer con Cristo every Sunday morning. On Sabbath afternoons you could often find me with my friends in the church basement talking about our ideal partners. “He needs to be strong,” one would say. “He needs to love God,” another would add. We had this rule: Once during a youth Sabbath the speaker had a talk in the afternoon with all the youth in the church about, you guessed it, relationships. He said that a sure-fire way to rule out any ineligible bachelor or bachelorette was to take notice of whether or not they took their Bible to church. Needless to say, Bibles were the biggest accessory that season.
I often look back at some of these moments. My current self, looking back at my younger self, physically cringes at some of the things I used to say and think. So, imagine my surprise when a decade and change later, across the country, I found myself sitting across the table from one of the most amazing men I had ever met. Sure, at the time I didn’t necessarily think so. He was a conversation starter and hogger. The corners of his mouth seemed permanently set in a smile at all times. Somehow, this made me angry.
“How can someone be that happy all the time? I don’t get it,” I would tell my friends.
I gave him a chance. Our conversations grew longer and less one-sided. I found myself smiling a little more at the thought of him. Overtime, and in the same out of the blue way that we met, I found myself truly in love. As time progressed it was time to meet each other’s families. The thought made my palms sweat. I had never introduced my parents to a boyfriend before. Even the word sounded odd on my lips. What I was most afraid of though was the reaction they’d have when they found out he wasn’t Seventh-day Adventist. The lectures about yoking equally come back to me as if it were yesterday. What would they say? Would they write him off immediately? They would at least get to know him, right?
Looking back at how terrified I was makes me laugh. My parents treat my partner as if he is one of their own. My mom makes a list of things around the house she’d like him to fix or build for when he visits during the holidays. The differences between us are made up by the way he stands up for those who need advocacy, the way he loves my family, and most importantly, the way he loves me.
I reflect on scripture and Jesus and I think about what those words might have meant. To me, to be equally yoked can mean many things: To have the same passion for justice and equality. To have the same desire to live life fully and purposefully. To be equally willing to be vulnerable with one another. To love so deeply and imperfectly without expecting anything in return. Although my younger self would be surprised with my current self’s choices, she’d be far from disappointed.
Katherine Gonzalez is a 2nd year graduate student at La Sierra University. She is pursuing her M.A. in English. During her free time she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.
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