Let me just preface this by saying: it’s not because I constantly feel the need to convert him. In fact, I never feel that need.
No, The Dude, who is an affirmed atheist (or, as he’d probably prefer, humanist–it’s more pro-humans than anti-divinity) frequently reminds me of my first and strongest sense of a call to ministry in his continued incredulity of my profession.
At first, there was mutual bemusement by both of us with who we’d ended up falling in love with. I never imagined myself with an atheist. I know of other couples made up of clergy + atheist, and never quite understood how it worked. How could a partnership between someone who didn’t believe in God, and someone who’s whole career was focused on God, work out?
I got over it. We have shared values, and Dude is very respectful of my beliefs, as well as fairly knowledgeable about the Bible and its history.
He has not quite gotten over the fact that he’s dating a pastor. Or rather, that I am a pastor, or even religious at all.
In his experience, religious people are close-minded, anti-intellectual, set in their ways and beliefs, hateful and bigoted in their speech, and constantly trying to make other people think the same way they do. So pretty much the opposite of me.
I’m a bisexual, feminist, intelligent, very open-minded, justice-oriented, science-believing, critically-thinking, beer and wine-drinking, swearing, sexy, big-hearted woman–who also loves me some Jesus.
And I’m not alone.
When I first seriously considered a call to Christian ministry, after many years of fleeting thoughts about it, what really pulled me was wanting to share God with everyone who was like me–because what kept me from acting on my sense of call previously was the thought, “I’m not the minister type.”
Once I finally realized that was not the case, that God was calling me, with all my strengths and flaws, gifts and weaknesses, I finally gave in and went to seminary–where I promptly met lots more people even more open-minded than I had been!
Still, sometimes it seems that people who are like me and Christian are unicorns. When I was using dating sites, most of the people who had high percentage connections were atheists or agnostics. When I tried to use a Christian dating site, I found zero matches. I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with non-religious friends and acquaintances about how my Christian beliefs differ so widely from what is portrayed in the media (and in fact, such a conversation happened at Dude’s house with his friends the night of what turned out to be our first date).
So when The Dude and I start talking again about how weird it is that I’m a minister, I hear my call reverberate. I feel the Spirit urging me to share that message that yes, people like me can be people of faith–Christian faith. He doesn’t yet believe that there are more than a handful of us in existence (and that they’re probably all my clergy colleagues).
I love him, but I aim to spend the rest of my working life proving him wrong.