My upbringing was as a fundamentalist Christian since the moment of conception. Which may well have been my parent’s wedding night on January 5th, 1970 as I arrived on the scene exactly eight months and twenty days later on September 25th that year. Because Mom was an unwed teenage mother with my older sister she insisted I was the product of my parent’s lawful union. It didn’t matter to me either way but I understood she was trying to look good in my eyes.
As a Christian, my life was framed by Scripture and Mom was super great at quoting it and then making me memorize it. She tailored that aspect to my age and situations I was facing. When it came to puberty, Mom the nurse and aforementioned unwed pregnant teen mother, was sure to send many anti peer pressure scriptures my way. One of her favorites was to not be “unequally yoked” or match myself up with a non-Christian. I was 12 at the time but quite boy crazy and she was paranoid I would fall for a bad boy aka not a church going guy.
The focus of being unequally yoked also struck me as odd. It referred to when two oxen are yoked up to plow a field. If they’re not in unison, equally matched in strength and focus, they go nowhere, pulling at each other, and the field doesn’t get plowed. It’s basically pointless, frustrating and there is discord.
Mom was all about the spiritual aspect of this notion and yet the part I saw being an issue was being unequally yoked in character. Being a Christian is no guarantee that you’re also a good person, honorable, kind, etc. But Mom didn’t see it that way. It’s kind of like being Italian, which I am, and the only acceptable guy would also be Italian (which, ironically, my husband is and he is the best match for me).
My concerns were is he kind? Does he like animals? Is he clean? Does he show respect to his mother? Grandmother? Father? I once made a list that included he had to wear his shirts tucked in and wear sweaters – two things my dad never did.
In this way, the concept of character and ideals, Mom and Dad were unequally yoked. They were like oil and water but with sparks and fire in the mix. I do believe they were in love at one time, even dangerously so. Their passion for each other would eventually turn into passion against each other. The fire that fueled their romance soon consumed each other and when I graduated from college, Mom filed for divorce.
Despite being aware of the spiritual and character conflicts earlier in my life, I eventually became entangled with some men who were completely not my equal. Often knowingly so. My first marriage was a sham and complete disaster. It took me years to find a reasonable answer to the questions of “What happened?” and “Why did it end?”. He is an Englishman and so my funny answer became, “The English can be strange, but even he was too strange for the English.” My more philosophical answer is that he wasn’t enough man for me and I was too much woman for him. It was a case of uneven distribution of work, finances, affection, respect, and consideration.
We were unequally yoked.
In the years since my divorce, which was of my choosing, the thought that a man equal to me in character, beliefs, priorities and common sense was foreign. Then on a warm July night in 2014, around a small bonfire in the yard of a mutual friend, I was introduced to the man who would become my husband. He was nursing a badly broken heart and a few beers, I was quietly easing back into socializing after the loss of my parents and my job in a few months time.
It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact it didn’t even cross my mind that I made it onto his radar, and I wasn’t looking to. But in time, we became friends, and I learned that many of the traits I admire and respect in a person, he held and he lived them out. With the passing of more time, I went from trying to fix him up with someone else I knew, to claiming him as my own.
While I don’t like to compare us to oxen, we do take on life together now as a bonded pair, as husband and wife. To make any progress, whether its moving day, paying bills, keeping up with housework, or getting through a health crisis, we have to work with each other and not against. To plow the field we want to set our roots down in, to live the life we envision for ourselves, we must pull together and in the same direction.
We have to be, and we are, equally yoked and evenly matched.
Dedicated to my husband, Dave. - Sharon