This Sunday I’m speaking at a local spiritual center on how my husband and I have managed to successfully combine two cultures and two religions during our 20-year marriage. I smiled when I saw the write-up in the spiritual center’s newsletter about my talk and how it said that I’ve blended all our differences together to form a harmonious family. Just come to my house some morning as I’m trying to get two middle-school boys out the door to school, and you might re-think that adjective.
But for some reason, what we’ve got as a couple and as a family has worked during our 25-year history. So what makes it work?
I was raised as a Southern Baptist and became a Christian around 7 or 8. My husband, Faramarz, was raised as a Baha’i. My parents had their eyes on me marrying a nice, all-American Baptist boy. What they got instead was something much better – a wonderful, hard-working Persian gentleman who takes excellent care of their daughter and serves as a wonderful husband and terrific father.
“We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.” Those are the Baha’i wedding vows we recited in unison at our Baha’i / Christian ceremony on June 15, 1991. We married at my mother-in-law’s home (where Faramarz was currently living along with his two sisters). My mom read from the love chapter in the Bible – love is patient, love is kind. My mother-in-law beautifully chanted Baha’i prayers. Our ceremony was a touching combination of two completely different worlds coming together. As our ceremony ended, we played the song “Love is a Wonderful Thing” by Michael Bolton and threw confetti all over the place. We even had a double rainbow in the sky as we drove away from our reception.
Some of the advantages of a two-religion, two-culture family: we always spend Christmas with my family in Kansas City since my husband’s family doesn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus. We get more holidays to celebrate, like the Persian New Year called Naw Ruz, the first day of spring. And who can forget the fabulous Persian food? People ask me if I cook Middle Eastern food. I tell them I don’t cook American food unless it follows my 3-ingredient rule. That’s definitely not the case with fesanjun, baklava or gormazabzi. I
do, however, make a pretty mean bowl of Persian rice.
What’s been our secret to being together since 1986 and being married since 1991 (other than the fact that my husband is a very smart man who knows a good deal when he sees one?)
We don’t try to change each other – we accept each other for who we are, differences and likenesses.
We are committed to making our relationship work.
My hope for our two boys William and Thomas is this: That they believe in and love God and discover their own spiritual truth. I want them to be kind, loving, honest, respectful boys with generous hearts who give back to their family, their community and their world. I want them to do good works, always do the right thing and leave the world a better place than they found it. Also, I instill in them my mom’s advice: “Always do your best and try your hardest.”
I share with my children my beliefs in God, and we attend Baha’i functions as a family. When the boys were little, I said the following prayer to them each night: “Now I lay me
down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Thy love be with me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen. Oh God, guide me, protect me. Make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the mighty and the powerful. Abdul-Baha.” I would end by saying, “You are my gift from God.”
I was touched by William’s quote this summer about one of his friend’s moms who is battling cancer. He said to me, “Mom, it’s in God’s hands.” And I stopped for a moment because those weren’t typical words from my first-born. I then said, “You’re right.”
Thomas attended Vacation Bible School this summer with a friend and excitedly told me one day when he got home, “I learned that God is always with us. We just have to ask Him for help.”
God brought my husband and me together 25 years ago, and by God’s grace, we’ve made it work. We’re looking forward to the next 50 years of married life. And like Thomas said, God is always with us. We just have to ask Him for help.
Green-eyed Baptist girl marries brown-eyed Baha’i boy, and they’re living happily ever after. Love is a wonderful thing.
Jan Sperry Astani