Stuck in the Middle with You, Part Two

As I considered where I might go on vacation this summer, I knew it had to be somewhere tropical. Having visited some beautiful beaches before, I knew deep within me that this would be the most relaxing, rejuvenating and restful experience that summer vacation had to offer.

Right about when I was dreaming up this idea, I met someone. Over these last few months, I’ve had to adjust my independent and sometimes selfish life to once again include someone else in the constant push and pull of time and compromise that lives within a relationship. And to be honest, I’ve loved every minute of it. It seemed to make perfect sense to both of us that we would vacation together.

With my dream of beaches and his love of going anywhere to get away from work for a bit, we decided on a tropical paradise far from home. We booked the car, the hotel, our plane tickets to Mexico and off we went.

Somewhere in my dream vacation world, I forgot to consider that perhaps my church would be uncomfortable with this arrangement. In all seriousness, I didn’t plan on telling them. And as we all know, living in community and transparency doesn’t necessarily work that way. They have questions all the time like, “When are you getting married?” and “When will the engagement happen?” and “Do you think you’ll start having children immediately?” They do not know how to live with us in this dating phase.

When I was single, I received comments about “me not trying hard enough” or “being too picky” to find a partner. And now that I’m partnered up, they don’t know how to deal with the idea that I just might be a sexual being before I am married. Newsflash: I was a sexual being before I was ever in a relationship.

But back to vacation. As news trickled to a few that I was going away, just me and the boy, I received questions like, “Are you all meeting other friends there?” Translation: “Please tell me that you are so that I can possibly believe that you will be staying in different hotel rooms.” And “How many of you are going?” Translation: “Maybe I misheard and it’s not just the two of them going away together.”

My congregation is wonderful and they really do want me to be happy and in a good place. I must ask the question: why do they all think they know what is best for me? This stuck-in-the-middle between single and married isn’t an uncomfortable place for me to be, even though it appears to be for them.

In their minds, I might be in between singleness and marriage, but I’m turning the tables and asking the question of what my relationship means to the congregation and me. Maybe their intense questioning and curiosity is because now they are wondering how my relationship with them will change. I am now stuck-in-the-middle with them of re-negotiating boundaries and introducing them to someone I love and I have to figure out how to bring him into the crazy, beautiful world that we call church.  I'm willing to live with them there in that tension. 

The beach was beautiful, by the way.

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i've been wondering for years how and why, exactly, no sex outside of marriage became some kind of litmus test of christianity. is what we do with our bodies important? sure. is it the be all end all? not really. lately i've been wondering if the preoccupation with sex is to avoid all that troubling stuff jesus has to say about money, and, boy, does he have a lot more to say about that! thanks for posting.

I have been frustrated and angry for a long time with this mentality that other people think they know what is best for someone else, be that in regard to relationships, friendships or any other part of life. Church people, in my experience, seem to be especially guilty here.

i am interested how this interplays with the recent divine details. they are questions about the body -- how we love it, make it our own and serve christ in it. what happens when our bodies fail? what happens when they flourish? what happens when we get excited? i mean that in every sense...

When I was doing my first degree, I did a paper on Christian Approaches to Marriage and Human Sexuality. Apparently (and I am talking about English history here) in medieval times it was common practice that a couple would be betrothed and would only actually marry when the woman was pregnant. There are varying views how long this custom persisted for but possibly up until the beginnings of general registration of births, deaths and marriages in England & Wales in 1837. In Scotland the law was different again and up until fairly recent times, three 'types' of marriage were recognised: before a minister; before a civil official and by practice where a couple were living together and had declared in the presence of witnesses (presumably who weren't either a minister or official) that they understood themselves as married.

All this suggests to me that the trip down the aisle and pledging one's troth before God and community as a believed precursor to a sexual relationship in the historical sweep of things is a relatively new development.

Also, as I have said before on here, I do believe that an open and honest debate about what constitutes marriage would be helpful within the church. We bandy about discussion about it, warts and all, rarely clarifying what our understanding is of this institution. I have a suspicion that there are many assumptions and as always with assumptions, some are going to be less helpful than others!

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