Living in Sin

Rebecca ordered the Uber for both of them. She and her long-time bestie Cheryl had already started drinking, but the night was young. They were heading to the Oceanfront where a plethora of clubs would welcome them.

When I pulled into the driveway, Cheryl jumped in back and told me that Rebecca might be a while–she was embroiled in boyfriend drama. I could see her standing on the lawn in the dark, shouting at her phone.

Eventually Rebecca got in too. The drive to the beach would take about twenty-five minutes. Plenty of time for stories.

I am always amazed at the willingness of Uber passengers to bare their souls to me. I guess I’m a good listener. I sympathize and ask questions. I also think there’s something safe about fifteen minutes in a stranger’s car. No commitment and no pressure.

Rebecca was eager to share her story. Somehow it came up that I was a pastor for a short stint. And that I’ve been married for twenty-eight years. (“Wow! That’s amazing!”)

Rebecca grew up in a church. As a young single, she was singing on the worship team. For practical reasons, she moved in with her boyfriend. Then her pastors got wind of it.

They told her it was living in sin. She assured them that the relationship wasn’t physical. That they were both Christians and committed to staying sexually pure until they got married. The pastors weren’t buying it.

“They didn’t believe me, but it was TRUE!” she said. “Do YOU believe me?”

“I don’t know you at all,” I said, “but I believe you.”

During a sermon at a singles event, one pastor said, “If two people are living together and say they aren’t having sex, it’s bulls–t.”

“He actually said that word?” I asked.

“Yes! And people thought it was cool because our pastor was so real. I mean, how f—ed up is that?”

Soon after, with the help of the pastors and friends from the church, her boyfriend proposed. Cheryl was there and said it was really nice. At the mall, I think, they arranged to have a love song Rebecca had recorded played over the PA. The guy got on his knee and friends emerged to congratulate them. That part is sweet.

But they drove from the mall right to the church. The pastor’s office, where the paperwork was all ready. Just hours after the proposal, they were married. Without a ceremony. Without vows. Without family.

One woman kept sympathetically rubbing her back, saying, “Are you sure you want to do this?” What could she say? There didn’t seem to be an option. She loved the guy, she thought. They wouldn’t be living in sin anymore.

The pastor at one point said, “You’re not going to blame me if this doesn’t work out are you?”

“Can you believe it? Who the f— would say something like that?” Rebecca said. At this point, she’s leaning forward, between the front seats of my Corolla. Animated.

She stopped going to church. Started drinking more. Smoking weed. No one at church seemed to notice she was gone for several months. Her husband confessed to cheating on her. She started falling for another guy. A year later, they were divorced.

The guy she was yelling at on the lawn was the one she fell for. That relationship was now on the rocks. So, Cheryl and Rebecca decided to go out and get drunk.

As I was dropping them off, Rebecca leaned forward again.

“So, what do you think? Seriously. I want to know what you think of all this.”

I said, “I think you got a bad deal. Maybe their intentions were good, but pressuring you to get married was stupid and wrong. I’m sorry that happened to you. God loves you, and I’m going to pray for you. Have a good time tonight. Be safe and smart, but have some fun.”

I gave them one of the invitation cards to my church that I keep handy. I told them they could just throw it away if they weren’t interested, but that if they wanted to try a church that would love and embrace them, they should check it out.

“Thanks. That’s awesome,” they said.

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