2013 is a year for big changes. I can’t say that I was really ready to experience that year. At the time, I was still wrestling with God regarding my life and its direction. I really was unsure what to do. I could grasp the concepts, direction, but the internality of it all had not settled in. That year I corresponded with a lady regarding marriage. That year is also the year that we informed our family.
But before I get to any of that, I want to share my journal entry from January 10, 2013 entitled “Big Love”.
Interestingly, yesterday [Wednesday] as I was driving, I know I was meditating and praying about this polygamous arrangement, and believe I have been instructed to obtain the TV show “Big Love” for research regarding polygyny.
I shared this with Mary, and she balked, until she researched things for herself, then she has not stopped researching. However, I did encourage her to read articles and research by and for women that supported polygyny.
Also, I have asked God to help me find this additional wife. Interestingly, today [Thursday], as I navigate life I notice people like I do every day; but since last Friday I am even more concerned about getting this show on the road – so to speak.
So, I find myself pondering, or beginning to ponder, about women. I am not certain what captures my attention, but I don’t want to be led by the flesh that is why I prayed for God’s help. … It actually helped set my spirit at ease, and [I found that] very comforting. So I asked where is she? …
In the last couple of days, I have been pondering the background of this promised wife. … I simply ponder. God will reveal in time.
Candidly, I had become aware of the show “Big Love” prior to that day. If my memory helps me, I recall walking through the DVD section of some store and saw the cover with the main male character. When? Where? I have no idea.
Prior to me watching the show, the extent of what I knew about the show was the main male character. He was in several movies that I have enjoyed. Did that motivate me to see the show? No.
I mean, look at the cover. It is a portrait of the main character. But he is a man hiding. Prominently hiding. Shamed? But he has three wedding rings. Prominently showing. Proud?
“Big Love” ran from 2006 to 2011. Until 2013, I never watched it. I had not heard of it beyond the DVD cover, and had never seen a video clip.
Naïve? Maybe. But more simply stuck in my life. In 2006, I was in Bible School and then moved into Pulpit Ministry. In 2007-2010 I was in Pulpit Ministry. In 2011, I returned to Texas. All the years that show was aired, I was invested elsewhere.
But as you can see from the date of the following journal entry, it took me nearly two weeks to work up the courage to go purchase Season One of Big Love. Perhaps it shouldn’t but the topic intimidated me.
January 23, 2013 – “Big Love”
Yesterday, [Tuesday] we obtained the first season of Big Love. It cost $10, the exact amount of money Mary and I found after filming last week’s Torah video. The money was on the ground, sitting there. …
We watched the first two episodes last night. I notice here and there situational dilemmas and kept asking: What is God doing to me? The dynamics are far greater than one could possibly imagine.
Yet, there I was in January 2013 and was led to pick up that show. Strange of strange was the cost of the DVD set for Season One. We bought it used. The price was exactly the amount of money that Mary and I found where we live. God’s provision? We took it that way.
I will talk about the situational dilemmas here in a few minutes. For now, consider the following journal entry from January 24, 2013 also entitled “Big Love”.
[I] watched episodes three and four with Mary last night. All I can tell you is that even though Big Love focuses on Mormons/LDS, the situation of polygyny is one that causes me grief and tears. Don’t get the impression I am singularly focused, because this polygynist arrangement is, at moments, sublime and beautiful, unmatched by monogamy/monogyny.
But I left feeling numb after those two hours. Went to the bathroom in tears, fell asleep with Mary praying over me whilst I cried. I really do not want to enter into this path, but [I] know that God has me. When praying and crying in the bathroom, I again asked, “Why?” and I heard a reply in my spirit.
I never talk to or about the Divine using the first person pronoun (I, me, my, mine). I use the second [person pronoun] (you, yours) or third person [pronoun] (he, his, him).
So when I heard “my people need help.” I was stunned.
Yet, [I] still asked [praying], “Why send me?”
The answer I received was just “feeling” this morning, but it was unmistakable – no one else will go, [the] reason – these people are truly outcasts, social pariahs – that no one who is “righteously” clean wants to touch… the polygamist -whether male or female- is viewed as a diseased person -leprous, unclean, unworthy. I cry.
With that journal entry, my reader can see that I still am interpreting God as leading me. I do feel that way today. But I have come to see God’s leading somewhat differently.
I can see how God was leading me to understand that polygyny is acceptable to him. Many have problems with that, but after dedicated study, the Bible simply never condemns polygamy. Polygyny, often referred to as polygamy, is an ancient marriage arrangement. Even though western culture and most of the church roundly criticize and/or condemn polygyny, polygyny as a marital reality cannot be biblically condemned.
I also can see God is leading me to understand that my existence becomes more meaningful by following this leading. That is something that several have wrestled with. But a certain truth is real. To narrow that truth into something easier, that truth is about fulfilling one’s purpose.
Will I become a “minister” to polygamists? I am not really certain. All I can say, is at this moment in time, I have had conversations with some who live polygyny. I have my thoughts, but not having two wives makes me akin to a single person trying to give marriage advice. At best, for me, at this moment, it is all theory, because I have no practical experience.
Let me spend a few moments talking about the show Big Love. Yes the religious setting is Mormon. So that religious affiliation along with the marriage arrange of Big Love automatically makes some people squeamish.
Religiously, for me, Big Love was my “introduction” to that religion. Is the show accurate? Doubt it. Yet, the producers did spend a good deal of time investigating the religion in order to give a fairly good portrayal. So without any kind of personal knowledge of that religion, I simply accept that it is part of the show because most Americans associate polygamy with Mormons.
In this installment, I am not here to dispute that religion. I simply am interested in the family dynamics, even though the family dynamics are highly influenced by the family’s faith, as is mine, if it hasn’t become apparent. For my beliefs simply peruse my websites (raymondharris.com and faithandconviction.org).
Now for the family. For my reader, don’t confuse my family with the fictional Henrickson family, because I am describing that fictional family.
The Henrickson’s are modern. They live in a neighborhood. These people are trying to fit in to modern life. They have all the modern home amenities. They drive modern cars.
Bill grew up experiencing polygamy. His first wife, Barbara, did not grow up experiencing polygamy, but after a personal incident came to believe it was right for her family. Bill’s second wife, Nicki, is like Bill himself, she grew up experiencing polygamy. Bill’s third wife, Margene, comes from a different background altogether.
At one point, prior to Season One, they all lived in one house. But it was too small for the size of the family. Season One opens up with the Henrickson family having purchased three houses on the same block. Each wife has her own house. Bill spends specific nights at each location.
Bill is the primary income. He is an entrepreneur, a well-respected business owner who employees many people. His income pays for each house. In the backyard, the fences have been removed so that the three houses share one large backyard.
The family spends time eating together, praying together, interacting together, primarily in one house. Bill pushes himself to make sure the business is successful enough to provide for their collective needs. Yet Bill is divided among his responsibilities.
Bill cares about his family, in fact would die for his family. His wives vary. Barbara is 40-something and has the oldest children, and is considered Bill’s public wife. Nicki is 30-something. Margene is 20-something. Each wife has expectations of Bill. Each wife has expectations of their family and children. Bill has expectations for himself, his wives, and his family.
The households vary, as do their needs, the ages of the children are from infant to High School. The household is complex, with lots of individual needs. Lots of tension because of each person needing to be part of the whole yet wanting their own personal needs attended to.
The best thing this series does is draw attention to the heart-felt conviction of these people. Their willingness to go the distance. Their willingness to give it their all.
But this series also displays the difficulties of a polygamous marriage. It is complex, but so are the issues that the family faces when interacting with family, friends, and society.
Barbara is estranged from her family because of Barbara’s belief in polygamy. Nicki does not suffer that kind of estrangement; she experiences family problems in different ways. Margene has her own unique family problems. And Bill has issues with his parents.
But more than anything, the family feels that they cannot live forthrightly amongst the culture. They feel they have to hide who they are. In that they portray false fronts, trying to protect the family, the family itself or various individuals end up feeling the cost of their family commitment.
In many ways, after watching that show -yes, I know it is a show- it helped me think of ways that I would try in order to have our home more stable, more healthy, more honest, more virtuous. The dynamics of multiple wives are far more fluid than the dynamics of one wife. No offense to the monogamous couples out there, but, a multiple-wife family requires commitment and energy from the husband/father and from each mother/wife in ways that I never quite understood.
That leads me to my journal entry dated January 26, 2013 also entitled “Big Love”.
The last few days have been a tremendous mix of emotions. Almost daily, it seems to change. I have felt very close to God, yet want to run. I can’t run, I know that, he is my master, forever. Yet, while his servant, I have never felt so free, and yet in freedom I want to simply stand in one place. I don’t feel ready to move, yet I know I must.
Finished Big Love Season One last night. I am left perplexed, more aware of the shame and ridicule received, but prayerfully told God, “I said, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children’ I won’t run, I will walk this.” But, I still sit here contemplating the reality of my future, fearful to some degree.
But I do know one thing, every member husband/wife/wife had to be willing to sacrifice for the family. The element of being willing to pay a high sacrificial price is and comes with this territory. Not certain I have this [ability], hope I develop it.
Don’t get me wrong, the commitment to monogamy is actually quite high. But the commitment to multiple wives increases with each wife. There are now more in-laws, more children, more social dynamics. It takes a focused marriage to work through the challenges.
But I am here, I am committed to this. I want this. I also think that I am in the best place in order to be the best help to my wives. That may not work for others, but I am convinced that it is best for us. Some of that I described in my previous Installment.
However, before I close I want to share my journal entry from January 23, 2013 entitled “Feeling the Pariah”.
So, Yesterday [a person] whom I had shared this situation with, went home and [informed their spouse of my situation]. [Their spouse] immediately went to praying in tongues and told [my friend] “This is not from God.” regarding me. Then [on] Sunday [that spouse] went and told their pastor and he denied that God would do such. So, [my friend] shared this with me yesterday.
I feel for [my friend], [they want] to do well. But perhaps the greatest thing that occurred during our conversation was that [my friend] expressed that perhaps I had allowed the adversary to gain an advantage due to some weakness, and because Mary and I are one, then it has affected her too. When I shared this with Mary, the instance of Jesus being accused of casting out spirits in the name of Beelzebub came to mind.
The experience, coupled with me learning that Big Love deals with characters not wanting to become social pariahs (outcasts) solidified for me the reality of this situation. It simply will not become easier for being accepted, but my heart, interestingly enough, began feeling more compassion toward and for those practicing polygyny. It also occurred to me that in this arrangement, I will truly find myself as an outcast, the same as Jesus. I never expected to become an outcast for Messiah; yet, here I am. The student cannot exceed the master.
That type of interaction played out repeatedly through out 2013, and 2014, and 2015, and probably will continue as long as I discuss this. God helped me. There is simply no other way for me to describe it, and I will not deny it.
But there is a social cost to polygamy that monogamy will never experience. Here in modernity not even divorced people experience the social shaming that a marriage committed to polygamy experiences.
Candidly, I had to walk through that shaming in order to experience it and I am not yet a husband with two wives. I simply talked about it. The path was difficult. It required me to examine myself, my commitments, my willingness, my heart, my preferences, my desires.
The matrimony of one husband having two wives is completely acceptable before God Almighty. It is humanity that struggles to understand. Having come from the background that is challenged by polygamy, I can appreciate their difficulties.
Yet knowing that there will be times when the winds will be against me/us, I still am willing to move forward. The winds don’t stop me from driving my car. Neither will the winds stop me from living a life that God permits.
Blessings and Shalom