Recently I read a post entitled, “Why I’m Not Attending Church with My Girlfriend.” In it writer Jozen Cummings discusses his relationship with his girlfriend, a devout Catholic who attends church regularly, while he, a former Catholic who is now a Baptist, has sporadic attendance. Gina invites him to church often but Jozen declines citing that although church is important to him and his faith in God is deeper than any “religious practice,” there are many things that have kept him away. From a periodic lack of desire to attend church to what seems like a residual ecclesial exhaustion from his Catholic altar boy days, Jozen articulates why he stays away more often than not. Undergirding his argument is what he describes as the personal nature of faith and church attendance. He begins his story by talking about how both he and his girlfriend view faith as a personal matter and concludes it with church being a personal matter as well. Of this he says,
Church is not a time for couples to be together so much as it’s a time for all of us to be with God. That’s my time for Him. I truly believe that, and yet, I haven’t been giving Him much of it. I also realize, writing about this may contradict some of what I said about taking my faith personally. But I wanted to share because I know people who look at faith and church-going as a high value in a partner. I believe Gina and I feel the same, but I also believe we might not ever attend church together and we don’t have to. As long as I go do my thing and she goes to do hers, I think we’ll be all right, at brunch, together.
My concern about Jozen’s situation—and maybe that of anyone who doesn’t consider church attendance with their significant other important—is that it isn’t a sustainable model for being in intimate relationship with another person. Intimate/Intimacy is the key word here. Whether casually dating or charting more serious territory that is leading to engagement or marriage, church attendance as a couple can unearth much about a person that you wouldn’t get if you just met up for brunch with them.
To attend church with your significant other is to let them into your most personal and vulnerable space and you theirs. The church is a city of refuge from a chaotic world and thus it is the space where many can let their hair down, let the tears flow, be silent, or be slain in the spirit. Now this could be a reason not to attend church with your significant other because you may not want them to see your “ugly cry,” or maybe you don’t want them to know you sing quite off key, but these possibilities of vulnerability can open a relationship up. Does this mean that if your significant other doesn’t sing along or barely sways during praise and worship that your relationship is doomed for failure? Not necessarily. But it is something to take note of if you are more prone to charismatic expressions in worship. Or maybe you like to debrief about the sermon after church but your significant other has very little to say and seems like he or she didn’t even pay attention. This doesn’t mean they are going to hell in a hand basket. It does give you something to reflect on if church is an important part of your life. And if he or she doesn’t attend church at all are you comfortable with upholding the spiritual mantle in the relationship and, if so, how long? Throughout my time in church I’ve seen far too many wives attending church alone, managing their rambunctious children alone, taking their relationship to the altar alone, only to return home to a husband who is sitting on the couch or hitting the links. One cannot the spiritual mantle alone. Two can carry it better.
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SOURCE: Urban Faith