Pondering Cohabitation

Pastor Bryan Carter preaches on cohabitation yesterday, and then has his church step up to the plate in a huge way. To say my mind was blown would have been a severe understatement.

Yesterday I preached on cohabitation and we invited cohabiting couples to accept the challenge of stepping into marriage. We paid one month’s rent for those who want to move out and will marry those who desire to get married with a free wedding - dress, tuxedo, rings. #church

It’s a really intense Gospel message both in word and in deed and its non-judgmental too.

its out of my scope of experience, being my late wife and I didn’t cohabitate before marriage, and we didn’t get around to living with each other until we’d been married for over a year… which isn’t such a good thing either, but it was what it was.

And I totally get that economic issues throw a wrench into the works, the same with the best laid plans. Back in the day, not living with your newly married spouse was pretty uncommon, in today’s world it seems most folks know at least a few couples who do. Back then, cohabitation before marriage was pretty common, I’d say maybe 50% of couples, vs in today’s world, its seems more like 95%. I remember some friends freaking out having to “hide” so as to not loose their church jobs… those sort of policies make me wonder if the cart is being put before the horse a bit.

Granted, I see a lot of young folks who are dating one month, and 2-3 months later are moving in together. And maybe it works for some, but for others, it seems a huge gamble to put a new relationship to such a test, where in if something goes sideways, it easily becomes a toxic trap without an exit strategy for one or both partners.  I think its super awesome that his church is stepping up to the plate and providing for an exit strategy in those situations.

Another issue which seems more and more common today, is that young and old have written off marriage, as a tradition of old, that no longer makes much sense. When I look out at the huge numbers of Christian’s getting divorced, or staying in toxic marriages / suffering abuses, to the point of poisoning their kids… it makes me wonder about this as well.

And yet, the scripture used in yesterday’s message was Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

That’s a pretty high bar, and yet in my 21 years of marriage, I think of sanctification that came about as errant bits of our lives were worn away over time as the two of us became more and more one. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that as a widowed guy, but that’s far outside the scope of this post! Lol

I do wonder how marriage can be honored by all?

Sure,the obvious stuff like marriage partners not doing adultery, or cheating, or engage with prostitutes makes sense, but I think its equally as important to consider the non-obvious, not only for the marriage partners themselves, but for everyone of all life stages.

There are some church practices that dishonor marriage, such as shot gun weddings, as horrors, we can’t have scandal, so this couple has to get married now, even if they really aren’t in a position to fully consent to a life long commitment. Another dishonoring practice that some churches endorse is early marriage for young folks to avoid sexual sin… which then turns right back around years later with divorce and upended family dynamics which not only injures the partners, but also their kids. Lastly, I tend to think the body of Christ does a pretty poor job of teaching about the permanence of marriage vows, short of the obvious exclusions. Granted, when folks are in the midst of romantic love, they are exactly hearing things clearly…. but still there seems to be a sense of the temporary rather than permanence. I’ve sent a few young folks over to my caregiving is tougher than tough post… and they come back with, well that will never happen to us. Any my response is, you can’t predict it, hopefully it won’t, but your vows need to be strong enough to honor it should it happen.

A young friend of mine will celebrate his first year of ordination as a Catholic priest in a couple months. Prior to being ordained, he spent nearly a decade of intense study and discernment, as it is such a huge and life long commitment to enter the priesthood. And yet, when it comes to marriage, young folks spend 10x or more hours on wedding planning, than they do on premarital counseling… and unlike the priesthood where their are processes to step aside, the marriage vows, short of a few exclusions are for life.

And this is where things get strange. I’ve known a lot of cohabiting couples over the years, and many of them do get married. I think of my old friend Tom, who we’d bug on this periodically… he’d been living with his girlfriend for 10 years, they were together 5 years prior and had a couple kids. So every once in a while, Hey Tom, when you going to get married, and he about dropped us on the floor when he said, a “couple weekends ago”. The thing is, he and his wife totally got the lifetime aspects of the marriage vows, and they went in eyes fully opened. In a lot of ways, I think his marriage was a lot more holy than those who did everything right on the surface, but rushed through it without thinking a whole lot. Granted, it is hard to know the heart… which brings me back to the above church.

In the message notes, a number of myths and truths are presented. As some seem very foreign to my own experiences over the years, my guess is they are unique to the culture in that church and perhaps surrounding area. Ultimately though, we have the same scriptures to guide us.

Lastly, it seems the church sees premarital counseling as an integral part of the marriage process and as such require 12 weeks of it. My best guess is that couples are free to step out at anytime should they run into any insurmountable barriers and the church will be there to walk with them through it, or to provide an escape path away from it.

What an incredible witness to the Gospel!

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