This spring, I met a wonderful guy who swept me off my feet. We instantly connected, sharing similar hobbies and perceptions on life, however, we also found each other to be quite different, particularly within our upbringing. This sense of mystery is what keeps our relationship exciting, and equally challenges both of us to reach a point of understanding and compassion beyond our sense of normalcy.
Prior to meeting my sweetie, I had been in a few serious relationships that ended in disappointment due to mutual differences, and he had been around the dating block several times. We were active on dating websites, searching to find someone who shared our hopes and dreams for the future. Of course, when you decide to meet someone off a dating website, you are gambling with fate and trusting in this stranger to not let you down, which can be an intimidating process at times.
Little did I know, this sweet, handsome guy who had made me laugh through the night during our first phone conversation, had worked right around the corner from my store in our local mall. We had possibly crossed paths multiple times before ever going on our first date. Later on during the dating process, we realized we had a few mutual friends, which ended up bringing us closer to those individuals together. Our co-workers quickly congratulated us on finding someone, and sooner than we realized, we were off on what would become (and still is) the wildest adventure of our lives.
After our relationship had started to blossom, my life was flourishing in a stable manner as well--I had a fulfilling job, was focusing on finishing up my freshman year in college working on my bachelor's degree in human studies, and had a positive family experience from living at home. Shortly after we began to feel comfortable and settled into our new lifestyle, the guy who had held me up was starting to sink. He soon learned that his grandfather battling cancer had less than a couple weeks to live, and was absolutely devastated.
Three years prior, I had lost my grandmother to similar cancer, as well as Alzheimer's, and knew what it was like to process this experience. All I could do was support him in the ways I knew how, hold him tight, and let him experience the weight of the situation on his own. This would've been easier, had there not been something large the two of us had been coming to terms with before this loss: his choice to leave the religion of his family, a family bonded together by the faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
On our very first date, my then-future boyfriend confided in me that he was raised in this religion, was not a currently active member in his fellowship, and that he had no desire of returning to this form of faith for reasons left unmentioned. I'll admit, while I was naively shocked to have met a Jehovah's Witness in a liberal town, I quickly sympathized with him, and gave him my full support in whichever decision he had to make. After meeting his mother and confirming my suspicions, it became clear to me that (as Witness rules state) his family would no longer be able to have an active connection with him if he became disfellowshipped. He reassured me that he had made up his mind months before we met... I swallowed the lump in my throat.
By then, this guy had become someone incredibly treasured to me--a guy who had the ability to light up the room when he walked in, just by his smile alone. A guy who could comfort me with the touch of his hand and the look in his eyes. I was torn. How could I let the person who I had started to fall for cut ties with a majority of his family and friends? Then I analyzed my question: it wasn't my job to "let" him do anything... I decided I would give him space and see what his final decision was. Soon enough, he had left the religion, and with protest from his family, found the freedom he had been craving.
My heart ached. I kept asking the questions: "Why can't we all get along? Why do religions have to do this? Why can't he live the life he wants out of a religion, and have his religious family too?" I am aware that I'm a big believer in God's unique fate for each human, and it is in my nature to support each person I meet, whether they are choosing to be religious or not. My advocacy work is about diversity and individuality, and within faith, most religions believe the only way to the gates of Heaven (or whichever "after-life" they believe in) is by their way of commandments, and their way only. I respect this kind of dedication and passion for an individual's faith, but also believe we were put on this earth to love (or at least support) thy neighbor regardless of their religious compass. I couldn't bring myself to lose someone dear to me because of a difference in belief systems.
I've sat up and thought about this situation countless nights, and worry about how my boyfriend will deal later on in life, stirring up a lot of inner anxiety. I've slowly but surely been learning to detach myself, and find the strength to love with all of myself--in an uncertain situation, through the struggle, and ironically, but bravely: celebrating the arrival on the other side.
While, if it were my choice I would have the situation pan out much differently, it is a challenging journey, and a journey that's worth making for both of our true happiness. I firmly believe God will sort out the rest for us if we let Him take the reins. There is a reason for everything, and there is a reason I found my sweetie.
Kathryn's Note: I have performed minor edits to the original content of this blog post after critiquing my choice of jumbled words in a few paragraphs. I sincerely hope the message comes across cleaner/clearer, and want to state that the purpose of this post on my personal, lifestyle blog was to create a relatable and personable dialogue with readers who have either become disconnected from someone close to them due to religion, or have observed a similar situation from the outside. This post was created in a diary format, and was not shared with the intention of offending anyone--it was specifically born out of psychological reasoning and intimate healing, seeming vital enough to share with those whom I love and care about deepest.