Marriage Through Multi-Colour Lenses

Are you contemplating inter-racial marriage? What are your thoughts about it? Are you fearful? Hopeful? Anticipating the joys? The Challenges? Wondering if it could really work? My advice…enter with your eyes wide open but with your hopes high…it’s not the color…it’s the culture…and marriage itself is a cross-cultural union…

Sometimes I struggle to know exactly what to say about interracial marriage, mostly because I speak not from an American inter-racial marriage standpoint but mostly from a completely inter-cultural, inter-everything you can think of standpoint. My husband and I are not only black and white, but we are Kenyan and American. In fact, we are as far inter-everything as you can imagine. We are different in color, culture, height, upbringing and most of all, as opposite in personality as you can get.

My husband and I are often asked about the joys and challenges of inter-cultural marriage and most of the time it is from those who are in an inter-racial relationship and are considering marriage or from those considering entering into an inter-racial/inter-cultural relationship but might have some fears…

And that was certainly me before I married my husband…

When my husband (a tall 6ft 7in dark and handsome man born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya) and I (a white Southern American girl born and raised in N.C.) first began contemplating and talking about the possibility of marriage we looked at it from two extremes. I was scared and overly concerned about race and cultural differences thinking of all the ways we might struggle or be perceived. I even found myself asking “can this really work?” I focused more on the challenges, while my husband thought only of the joys. He was not concerned about culture very much. He downplayed the potential challenges, focusing only on the spiritual unity we would have, trusting that with Christ we could overcome any difference.

We looked and searched for other cross-cultural couples to help us with our questions and
process the thoughts about the joys and challenges, but sadly, we never found that ideal couple. We were lead instead (and I know God-ordained) to focus only on what Scripture says about a godly-marriage and to seek out the wisdom and counsel from our pastors and other non-cross-cultural married couples. Then, after that, we decided to trust in God with our love and we jumped right in.

Now 10 years later, funny enough, we are “that” inter-cultural couple that others seek out. As the years have gone, and we’ve thought back to our extreme mindsets, we have found that we were both right to some degree…

In a cross-cultural/biracial marriage are there differing challenges to overcome? Yes, of course there are! Can Christ overcome those differences and give you a marriage that glorifies Him and brings joy in those challenges? Yes, He can!

BUT isn’t this the case for ANY MARRIAGE?

I have learned that in as much as race or culture plays a large part, many of the issues or challenges that arise in a cross-cultural marriage are also experienced by those in a same culture, same race marriage. Whether you consider yourself inter-cultural, inter-racial, or inter-everything else like my husband and I, the reality is that marriage itself is a cross-cultural union. The majority of marriages have elements of cross-cultural experiences already built in. The reality is that any marriage is joining together with another person from another culture, one who didn’t grow up exactly the way you did. You must get outside of your own self, take time to learn each other; the way you operate, the way you grew up, and what your character, strength and weaknesses are. The key piece of learning one another has been so important for our marriage but it’s important for all marriages that are not inter-racial or inter-cultural as well.

But you might wonder, “Can’t there be more conflict or specific challenges with inter-cultural couples than the “average” same cultural marriage? Yes that is a possibility. We’ve definitely experienced some of that. But even with the conflict and learning to manage the differences, a cross-cultural couple can also experience extraordinary benefits and joys!

So for those contemplating “can I be married to a person of a different race or different culture” ironically, I would say what sounds similar to what I would say to ANY couple, cross-cultural or not…

Go in with your eyes wide open! Be aware! Know your partner and talk about how you each grew up. Cross cultural differences and challenges cannot be ignored—be ready to work hard and pray a lot! Commit to identifying and understanding your differences and talking through them with others. With time, learn not only to identify but appreciate and truly value those differences. Look to Jesus and persevere! Any marriage is a life time commitment not only to one another but most importantly to Christ! When we do look to Jesus and persevere through the challenges, through the differences, and maybe even the criticism of others, there is even greater joy in watching Christ glorify Himself as He gives us the strength and grace to work through our differences. It is not about us anyway is it? Not at all! It’s all about Him!!

And one other small piece of advice to those who do take that leap of faith and marry cross-culturally. When marriage gets a little tough, as most all marriages do, don’t let the enemy get control of your mind and thoughts and immediately blame any conflict on “it’s because I’m American or he is Kenyan or I am white and he is black”…but pray and preach truth to yourself and focus on the fact that you are both sinners, inter-cultural, inter-racial and different in many ways, but saved by the grace of Jesus! Most importantly you are coming together to reflect the magnificent beauty and diversity of Jesus Christ and His Church!!!

Marriage is a cross-cultural union! You can’t overestimate the challenges and you can’t underestimate the joys!!! It’s a beautiful thing!

Allison Omondi was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, is a Registered Nurse, and a SEBTS MDIV International Church Planting 2+2 Alumni. She and her husband Dennis met while she was serving as a missionary with the IMB on the coast of Kenya in 2004. They have two adopted children and have been serving together as missionaries in Kenya with Serve International/Serve Kenya Ministries since they were married in 2007.  Allison is always ready and eager to testify of God’s grace, sovereignty, and faithfulness by sharing with anyone how HE so uniquely knit their multicultural-multicolor family together…….one amazing God-sized story after another….just ask her! :):)
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2 Comments On “Marriage Through Multi-Colour Lenses”

  1. Well put! “… the reality is that marriage itself is a cross – cultural union.”
    This is so true and clinging to Jesus is the only way this union would glorify and honor HIM!!!

    Reply

  2. The struggles and fears are real…so this is very very very helpful advise..thank you for sharing 🙂

    Reply

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