Why I’m Not Attending Church With My Girlfriend
On our very first date, Gina and I were already talking about our faith. She is Catholic and I am a former Catholic who now identifies as a practicing Baptist church goer. Even though we attend different churches of different faiths, I appreciated how both of us had a very similar outlook on the way we felt about our religious activities. Like me, Gina doesn’t evangelize to others nor sees a need to do so. Like me, she sees her faith as a personal thing that she keeps close to her chest. Like me, she doesn’t need to debate with other people who disagree with her faith, nor justify it to anyone, and she doesn’t need other people to attend church every Sunday with her.
Only two or three weeks had gone by before Gina started asking me if I wanted to go to church with her. This was right in the middle of the football season, and for years I have a tradition of going to my brother’s every Sunday to watch the games. It is he and I’s quality time, and I never have any qualms about choosing to be there instead of a service. Gina understood this, but to her credit, she never let it detour her from asking week in and week out. The one time I agreed was because the church she attends is literally around the corner from my brother’s and she was joining me to watch the Super Bowl at his place (and to meet him for the first time), so we went to a 5:30 mass that was so quick, Gina was convinced they ended it early because of the game.
I did not attend the mass kicking and screaming. There was no hesitation in my accepting her invitation, but if I’m being honest, I did feel like I was being put on the spot. I know that wasn’t Gina’s intent, that her timing was more a matter of circumstance than trickery, so I went, because if I declined, I knew it would send a message I was not entirely comfortable sending: Going to church is not important to me.
Church is important to me, but yes, my attendance doesn’t necessarily reflect that.
I haven’t attended church once in 2014. I don’t think I attended church more than 10 times in 2013. The last time I can claim to go regularly was back in 2012, and I don’t know how accurate of a statement that really is because I can safely say I did not go 52 Sundays in a row.
And yet, I have always held attending church in high regard. I cannot look someone in the face and say going to church is not my thing. Of course my frequency varies, but I don’t need extreme circumstances to convince me to go receive the good word on a Sunday. I don’t need a religious holiday to lead me through the church doors, to the point where I don’t even like attending church on weeks like Easter Sunday because I know all the once-a-year folks will be taking up all the seats. The bottom line is: Sometimes I feel like going, and sometimes I don’t, but I know it’s important to me. I attend because it makes me feel good, no matter my state of mind. There are no downsides when I leave church, no time wasted, and I always feel better when I leave than when I entered. But sometimes I want that Sunday to myself, and I’m sure if I think hard enough about it, I can justify it, but what’s the point? Maybe I want to go for a run or try a new brunch spot or sit at home and catch up on that HBO series I’ve heard so much about. Just because I feel better when I attend church doesn’t mean I feel worse for not attending.
But with my girl asking me to go and me politely declining except for that one time I felt I had no choice, I started becoming concerned with the impression I was giving to her.
As I began to get to know Gina more and more, I learned that as personal as she may take her faith, she is a devout Catholic, and in turn, a very spiritual woman. It is one of the things I love most about her and hold in high regard. I have never been the kind of guy who has needed to be with a holy roller, but someone who is spiritually awake has always been my preference, so I put Gina’s church-going ways in the plus category. Like Andre 3000, “nothing’s more attractive than a heavy praying woman.” But knowing this Sunday is an important one in the eyes of many, I had to be respectfully honest with her about my not attending being more than me not feeling like it. when she goes to Easter mass I more than likely won’t be going.
As I said, I grew up Catholic – an Our Father/Hail Mary-memorizing, confession-going altar boy who was at times so devout, I remember going to a Saturday night service before my prom because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it the next morning. I stopped attending in college, and I can get into all the reasons why I’m not a Catholic anymore, but let’s just say, some of the church’s ways just don’t sit right with me. I want to stress, that is how I feel personally. Everyone, from my family to my girl, seems to be okay with it because they know I am still a God-fearing man whose faith in Him is deeper than any religion practice. But I take religious practices seriously enough where I know I would be uncomfortable sitting in a Catholic church on a day intended to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The term “equally yoked” is a favorite among many Christian couples. Historically it derives from 2 Corinthians 6:14 in which Paul said:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever
The first time I heard it was from a girl I was dating in college who cited our inability to be equally yoked as a reason she could not date me. Gina has not used that term with me, and I don’t believe she ever would to leave me or otherwise. But I know that every Sunday we have been together, I have declined her invitation to go to church while making no attempt to go on my own. And though she has been nothing but understanding, I can’t take advantage of that.
After Easter, I am going to make going to church more of a priority. Maybe it will be on Sundays, or maybe I will attend my church’s Wednesday services instead seeing as I always enjoy those a little more anyway. Whatever I choose, I won’t be going simply because it’s important to Gina, but because it’s important to me.
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.