I want to share part of my journal entry from December 03, 2012:
The days… have not been easy. But as I have been moving forward, last week I recalled a major lesson I learned while praying and meditating…. The major issue I learned is that I have (had?) a false sense of righteousness.
This conclusion [arrived] because I was wrestling with my conscience not accepting Torah [Bible] permitted marital arrangements. I had, intellectually, accepted that reality – for others, but had not wrestled with potential reality – for me. So with my conscience unsettled, I prayed.
I prayed asking: What was the root of my conscience issue? The answer provided: I deny myself. So then I asked: Why do I deny myself? The answer: I self-[scourge] – in essence, I enforce tightness of righteousness, buffeting my conscience making things not permissible that God permits. So, I asked: What is the root cause of self-[scourging]? The answer: A false sense of righteousness.
That was a tough revelation. But I was somehow made to feel better by understanding that reality. …
It’s kind of interesting to me that prayer can bring such revelatory thoughts. My prayers, previously in my life, seem so – limited.
So allow me some time to offer some additional thoughts to that entry. There is a translation of 1 Corinthians 9.27 that says that Paul buffets his body daily. Early in my faith, I heard several lessons that incorporated that passage. The message I took away was that self-denial was appropriate and good.
The scourge that I speak of is regarding the ancient practice entitled: flagellation. That practice takes its name from flagella/flagellum, the whip like device that is used to strike against your body, punishing it in order to discipline one’s self.
To be clear. I NEVER had a literal flagellum. I HAD a metaphorical flagellum. Intellectually, I used the doctrines that I was given to whip against my mind and my soul, keeping them disciplined and therefore righteous. Until 2012, I did not realize that I was doing that practice, because I simply thought that I was being a good Christian.
For example, I never had a beer until I was forty. For this, set aside the lessons used to justify that Christians are to abstain from alcohol. The core of all those lessons was: buffet your body, in order to bring your body into bondage through discipline, so that your body would work for you, so that your body would not betray you.
Through the course of the last few years, through lessons like the one I experienced above, I will say that the same holds true for the emphatic Christian enforcement of one husband having one wife. Some will misinterpret me as encouraging something that God tells us to eschew, but that is not what I am saying. Yet the truth remains – Biblically, theologically, doctrinally, God permits a husband to have two or more wives.
However, I was trained up to be ascetic, stoic, and extremely reverent. I was trained up that Christians were to rein in their emotions, their desires, and their life. Everything was to be done austerely, purposefully, because that is what pleased God. Keep in mind that conducting the Christian walk in that fashion did not save the person, just that living that type of life was the most pleasing to God.
If those concepts were not enough, a twinge of guilt was added based upon Romans 14.13 and 1 Corinthians 8.9. The guilt was designed to make the Christian think before they acted, which is proper, because no Christian is an island unto their own self. However, the guilt was to make you feel culpable because you never knew who would be watching and you didn’t want to become someone’s stumbling block.
What I have discovered about that guilt is two-fold. One, Christians simply do not live that way. Take for instance that Christians are a stumbling block to lots of people just because of what many Christians eat. Two, if Christians practiced their view about stumbling blocks, the result would prohibit taking the doctrine of the Bible out into the world, because someone somewhere finds Christ and the liberty therein to be a stumbling block.
Ultimately, what I learned is that many Christians have preferred doctrines. That means many Christians emphasize that which they believe is important. The Bible simply does not do that. The Bible reveals that God permits a husband to have one wife. The Bible reveals that God permits a husband to have two or more wives. Christians preach preferences to the exclusion of what God permits for marriage.
Before my rethink, I lived according to what Christians taught me: no drinking, monogamy only, amongst several other things. In the eyes of many, I was a great example of faith, discipleship, church leadership, husband, father, and family.
Then things changed.
What changed was that I was being taken through a major rethink. On the heels of all my prayers, I was put into a situation that made me reconsider things about God, the Bible, and how God and the Bible relate to faith and discipleship.
So here’s what I learned.
Regarding the topic of alcohol, God permits a person to responsibly drink alcohol, and it doesn’t matter how Christians spiritualize abstinence from alcohol. Similarly regarding the topic of wives, God permits a husband to sensibly have two or more wives, and it doesn’t matter how Christians spiritualize one husband married to only one wife.
What that means is that God does NOT view a husband having one wife as more righteous than a husband having two or more wives. Similarly, God does NOT view a person who abstains from alcohol as more righteous than a person who drinks responsibly.
Rather, it is humanity that makes those judgments, where the judgments of humanity are as wide and as varied as there are religions, cultures, and peoples.
Importantly, not every person can responsibly drink alcohol, yet Biblically that doesn’t mean that others are prohibited from responsibly drinking alcohol. Similarly, not every man can sensibly have two or more wives, yet Biblically that doesn’t prohibit other men from sensibly having two or more wives.
Having discussed those things, I am going to discuss the concept of sensible marriage. The word “sensible” brings forth the ideas of levelheaded, reasonable, prudent, perhaps even the concept of rational. The problem is the word “sensible” can be used to describe many things.
For some, the sensible thing is to never become married, for example, Jesus, and then later Paul. For them, it was sensible to not take a wife. Throughout history there have been those who have not ever taken a spouse, whether the male remained single or the female remained single, both men and women have chosen not to have a spouse.
For those individuals, they reasoned that for them to walk out their faith, it is/was sensible to not have the responsibility of a spouse. How they arrived at that conclusion varies. To apply Jesus’ statement of Matthew 19.12, it means that some will remain single from their birth, some will remain single because of others, yet some will remain single because they choose for themselves.
Yet, for others it is sensible to have a spouse. Therefore, the sensibilities of marriage are far ranging. This becomes an interesting discussion.
For some, it is sensible to marry people of the same religious background. Yet, not everyone does what is sensible. For example, some people marry people from other religious backgrounds. For whom was it sensible?
For some it is sensible for the wife to choose her husband. Yet, not everyone does what is sensible. For some, the father chooses his daughter’s husband, which seems completely insensible for those who think it is sensible for the wife to choose her own husband.
For some, it is sensible that God leads each spouse to their marriage partner(s). Yet, others do not believe that is sensible, because they want to choose their marriage partner(s).
For some, it is sensible to marry then have children. Yet, not everyone does what is sensible. For example, Jesus was conceived outside of marriage. God should have been sensible and should have been sensitive to the sensibilities of the people, but that is NOT what God did. God violated the very thing that many believe is sensible.
For some, it is sensible for God to give the number of children he wants into the marriage. Yet, others do not think that is sensible, because they want to choose the number of children in their family.
For some, it is reasonable to have no children. Yet, others see it as sensible to have one child, others two children, others three children, others still four or more children.
Therefore, what one person or a marriage sees as sensible is not sensible to another. So what we have is a collision of sensibilities.
So, I ask: What is sensible?
For some, sensible matches their family. For others, sensible matches their religion. For others still, sensible matches themselves. So for me, sensible is the following.
One, for me, it is sensible that God leads, God indicates. I might not fully understand, but God leads and has prominence in my life, and my wife and my wife-to-be agree that God leads and God has prominence in each of their lives.
Two, for me, it is sensible that we would be of the same or similar religious heritage. Not that that makes or breaks the marriage, it simply provides a similar footing by which we can navigate the waters of marriage.
Three, for me, it is sensible that she chooses her husband. Back in 1991, my wife chose to marry me. During these events, she has chosen to continue to be my bride. In similar fashion, my wife-to-be will freely choose to be my wife.
Four, for me, it seems sensible that marriage comes before children. But, here I am in my early forties. I am not naïve. It is quite possible, probable even, that my wife-to-be has a child/children.
Five, for me, it seems sensible that since we believe that God leads, then God blesses us with our children, and the number of children we will have.
Sensibilities. That represents a foundation, the starting point, for the discussions the three of us have to have. But here are some additional things that I consider sensible for us.
One house. To become truly one marriage, having one love for each other, we need one home. One house prevents one of us from running off to the other house when things become difficult. One house for the children. One environment. One home.
Two incomes. Might sound weird, but proper. After prayers and meditation, I am truly convinced that when I remain at home, the income not only increases to support the family, but also permits me to best help the family. The reasons for this are multiple. First, I am the common denominator, which means that I should take on some of the heavy duties of the house, even those which have “traditionally” gone to the woman, like taking care of infants. Second, with me home, the tension and difficulty which can arise because the husband usually dedicates himself to his employment does not become a hindrance to the family, the father is there, all the time, helping the mothers and the children. Third, this situation actually enables and encourages each wife to develop her own skills and career.
Three. Faith in God. Belief in Jesus. Trust in the Holy Spirit. Those three agree, and in them we should as well. We are three, yet should be one. To be one, we should each agree that these three are the most important things to our spiritual life.
Four. Bible. Study, learning, guidance. It becomes one of the, if not the primary, written sources for our life and faith. We share that with our children.
Five. Children. They are encouraged to learn who God created them to be. They are encouraged to find the marriage that they believe God leads them to. If they find themselves in a marriage of one husband and one wife, then that is fully acceptable. In essence, our marriage of three is ours, they are not expected to follow us in that choice.
Six. Harmony. Beauty. Respite. Strength. Refuge. Encouragement. Those build a strong family. Having the harmony of a family unit, living and enjoying being in each other’s presence. The beauty is seen in that each person feels reward for being part of the family, being emotionally, spiritually, intellectually supported, helping each person achieve their God-given desires. The respite comes because family, the home, is the place to take a breather from the world, the interval where each person gets a recharge of positive energy. The strength is seen in that while each person is an individual it is one for all and all for one, and that strength flows into our children’s lives empowering them to achieve and be well-rounded. Refuge, the home is a sanctuary from the aliments of the world, a safe harbor for emotions and personal growth. The encouragement is found when we help each other and each child achieve their potential, helping them become successful in their faith and their family.
There is probably more to be discussed, but that sets out the vision, the image, the big picture, that I have for the family.
I’m in this for the beauty of it. I’m in this because my heart is in it. I’m in this because I believe in it. I’m in this because I want this. I’m in this because I love my ladies.
But I’m also in this because I want to help others achieve that which God has before them. Yet, I’m in this because I love what this can be. I’m in this because I love my wife and my wife-to-be.
The possibilities seem amazing.
Blessings and Shalom