In the previous Installment, I shared that my prayers had led me to inform a congregational leader about the developments of my life. I also shared that the congregational leader had prayed prior to meeting with me and they knew what the topic of our conversation was going to be.
I expressly conveyed that the adversary would not have ever encouraged me to behave in such fashion, but would rather lead me or anyone else to remain hidden and in the shadows.
The other thing that I shared is that the congregational leader counseled that we needed to inform our parents. I took that as indication that the Divine was leading through that congregational leader and so my wife and I opened up to our parents.
In this Installment, I will be talking about the developments in our families regarding my wife and me. In my opinion, this part is one of the most delicate. Let me explain why.
The situation between me and my parents and between me and my in-laws is strained. My reader might either be appalled by that or sympathetic to that. I am not sure which.
Truth told, it is always easier to share the dirt and splash the drama across the page. Emotionally, it makes for great reading. But it does NOTHING to improve the relationship of the family.
So I let my reader know that currently it is not “happily ever after” with my parents or my in-laws, and I am not sure whether it will ever be. But I am going to address this tactfully and tastefully, because for me it comes down to one thing: giving to others the very thing I want – respect of personhood. Here’s what I mean.
I want to be respected for what I think, how I believe, and how I conduct my life. My parents and in-laws want the same from me to them. Since I want them to treat me with respect, I treat them with respect, even though they and I are in relationship straits.
Up to this point, I have been following a fairly chronological presentation of events, and at times providing details about those events. But that format seems ill-suited for sharing things about family. So for this part, I look back and offer some reflections.
How shall I describe the outcome of us telling our parents?
The outcome, was, I guess, expected. Our respective parents made it clear that they not only disapprove, but categorically affirmed that they cannot believe that God is leading us to have another wife. Our respective parents have also made it clear that if/when we take another wife into our family, they will sever family ties.
That is the situation.
How do I even begin to talk about this?
I am not certain, so while I am not my parents, I am a parent. I am a father of two adult children. My daughter will turn 22 this year. My son recently turned 20. So allow me think about this and reflect on this as a father.
I am in my early forties. There are many things that I thought I understood. There are many things that I thought I knew. There are many things that I have been challenged by. But there are lots of things that didn’t challenge me.
One of the realities is that in my life I am completely different from my parents as my children are from me. I grew up in a different world than my parents. My children grew up in a different world than me.
But, as a father, there is one thing I don’t want to experience – don’t rattle the foundations of my expectations. What has been handed down has been handed down, because things like traditions are important and define a family.
Whether we want to accept that truth, it is there. And some of the most solidified people are husbands and fathers, hence why historically fathers have worked so hard to infuse themselves into their children, wanting their children to think like their father, even take occupations that their father or grandfathers have done. For some reason, this is how many fathers approach family and children.
Am I declaring that wrong?
No. Not by any means.
BUT, there is a stark reality, when a child wants to follow their own path, good or ill, most fathers have a difficult time accepting their child.
I have personal experience with that reality, because I am a father.
From the earliest of days, I had a vague idea of how I expected my children to mature into themselves. But along the way, as they have matured, they have taken turns that I didn’t expect or didn’t prefer. What’s a father to do?
Well, a tremendous amount of people say something to the effect of “It’s their life. Let them do what they want.”
But here is another reality. My children haven’t experienced the world as I have, just as I have not experienced the world as my fathers did before me. As my fathers before me, I, as a father, have felt that I have the corner on the advice and spiritual council to guide my children.
What parent doesn’t feel that way?
Truth told, my daughter and my son will never experience the world as I have, just as I cannot experience the world the way my father and father-in-law have. It’s just NOT possible.
But here’s the rub.
You see, if it was dealing with something like falling in the footsteps of my father’s occupation, or challenging a long-held family tradition, then there is a certain amount of crap to be expected.
But, you see, this is different.
Different on a whole other level, because this deals not with traditions but convictions.
Traditions, lots of times, can be changed. On the other hand, convictions define who we are, and convictions are not to be changed.
To give a parallel, it would be like if my wife and I had determined that the right way to follow God would be to become a Catholic. If we had, that would have been bad enough. But let’s say we became Mormon. I don’t use it often, but the phrase “Oh My God?!” fits perfectly.
We haven’t become Catholic. And don’t intend to.
We haven’t become Mormon. And don’t intend to.
But that type of thing is what we are facing.
In this process of things, I challenged two core convictions. Challenging the one or challenging the other would have been more than enough. But I challenged two.
One of those core family convictions is complete confidence that my religious heritage was the only correct embodiment of the Christian faith.
The other of those core family convictions is an absolute allegiance to monogamy-only.
So allow me to shed some light on this development. On my side, I came from a long line of family who believed in the heritage that gave me my faith. Oh, sure there are those that had fallen away going to other “Christian” religions. But I hadn’t.
In fact, some looked up to me. I attended a well-known, well-established Bible School (Seminary of sorts). I then became a preacher in the brotherhood. In some small way, parts of my family had “bragging rights”.
Ultimately, I did not attend that Bible School to go preach the doctrines of my heritage. I went to that Bible School because I was confused when I read the Bible, trying to defend doctrine as I had been given. In several important instances, the two did not align well.
Ultimately, I studied the Bible with the study tools that I had been given by that well-known, well-established Bible School. In doing so, the manner in which the sermon content was derived varied from those completely devoted to the doctrines of my heritage. Knowing that they and I disagreed, I left pulpit ministry.
I left my religious heritage for the same reason I cannot practice Catholicism. Some of the doctrines cannot be substantiated via the Scriptures.
I left my religious heritage for the same reason I cannot practice Mormonism. Some of the doctrines cannot be substantiated via the Scriptures.
I left my religious heritage for the same reason I cannot practice Judaism. Some of the doctrines cannot be substantiated via the Scriptures.
All of those groups, along with my religious heritage, believe it matters how we arrive at doctrine and how we arrive at our understanding of God. In that they are correct, it does seem to matter how we arrive at doctrine and our understanding of God.
The thing that makes this so difficult is that because I differ with my religious heritage about how we arrive at doctrine and our understanding of God, it means that I differ with one of my family’s core convictions.
That core conviction was passed down through my maternal line. What I understand, my father-in-law studied himself into the same religious core conviction as my family. This means that no matter which side of the family, this core conviction runs strong.
Because I differ with my religious heritage about how we arrive at doctrine is why I challenged the other core conviction of my family regarding monogamy-only.
Without doubt, how we arrive at church doctrine matters. That difference is why my family and I disagree about church doctrine and what the Bible condemns, condones, or consents regarding marriage.
The issue for my parents and in-laws is that there is only one way to view the Scriptures. That way is the way according to my religious heritage, in particular its biblical doctrine regarding monogamy-only.
Because my parents and my in-laws do not see Biblical permissions or Biblical sanctions for a husband to have two or more wives, they have made it clear that they are not going to permit anything to alter this particular core conviction, nor will they show approval to those who practice a marriage that goes against their core conviction about marriage.
With the family members that I can, I have had extensive discussions. We have debated. We have argued. Sometimes it was intense. Other times it was cordial.
But their core conviction is what it is. No amount of dialogue from me matters.
For some of my family, discussion about the Scripturality of a husband having two wives is immaterial. They consider the discussion itself irrelevant. This is because, for them, no amount of discussion will affect their core conviction.
For some of my family, discussion has been engaged about the Scripturality of a husband having two wives. In a sense, they permitted the discussion primarily to get me to see the error of my ways, to repent of my thoughts, and to change the direction of my life.
For all of them, I respect their core convictions. I do.
According to their core convictions, when I do take a second wife, for them to have any association and fellowship with me and my larger family is, for them, a demonstration of their approval. Their approval is something that is not forthcoming.
So, where do we go from here?
That is a big question. Part of the answer is that I have been thorough with my prayers. I have also been diligent to speak to lots of people. As for the Scriptures, I have been studious and systematic.
I know where we all stand. They believe that I have made or that I am in the process of making the final decision that will forever separate me from parents and in-laws. Such is distressing, for me, for them.
But I must make something clear, I have never believed that this should sever family relations. It saddens me that such seems to be the developing matter. Yet, it is family that has put me in this situation, although they believe and will say otherwise.
In discussing the Scriptural nature of a man having more than one wife, and defending that Scriptural reality, and moving toward having another wife, I have nothing to repent of.
Biblically speaking, a man can have more than one wife. It is Scriptural. That truth, however, does not mean that God venerates polygamy, nor does that truth mean that God has invalidated monogamy. Biblically, both marriage styles have been blessed by God.
Because I have done nothing that needs to be changed, then there is a difficulty that remains.
I am not, just as I will not, be permitted around certain members of the family.
In one sense, I want to say “so be it.” But that is rather callous, disingenuous, and simply not generous. I want my parents and my in-laws to continue to associate with me and my family.
But with regard to the matter of marriage, where doors have closed and were doors will close, I cannot reopen those doors. Here is what I mean.
Some have made the decision to close the door, severing their relationship with me. Others seem to be in the process of doing that very thing. Even though I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to repent of, I have to respect their decision.
Because I respect their personhood, it means that I respect their decisions based on their core convictions. That simply means that when they have closed the door to our relationship, I will not, because I can not, stand at that door, knock, and hope that they reopen their relationship to me and my family.
Am I perfect? No.
But given the relationship dynamics imposed on me, have I been diligent to do as best as I can to talk with family? Yes.
I can accept that they are livid. I can accept that they feel betrayed. I can accept that they feel dishonored.
I have to accept that I cannot force myself into their lives.
I am not going to be convinced that monogamy-only is the only Bible doctrine for marriage.
I am not going to be shamed into wanting only one wife.
When something is Scriptural, it is doctrine.
When something is Scriptural, there is no shame.
When something is Scriptural, there is no need to repent
When something is Scriptural, as I was taught by my heritage, the one challenged is therefore behooved to see the truth.
As I have said, some have closed the doors to our relationship. In light of what I just said, if you want to reestablish our relationship, for me to honor you, I have to respect the door that was closed, to honor you I cannot reopen that which has closed, I cannot reattach that which has been severed.
I do appreciate that my parents, my in-laws, my friends, and others I have met over the last few years have core convictions. What would we be without core convictions? They shape us. Guide us.
Genuinely, I do appreciate the difficulty that we have experienced over the last few years. This has been no easy thing to maneuver. Tempers have flared. Distrust grew. Impatience experienced. Relationship rifts are understandable. I can even understand why doors were closed or will close.
It seems that everyone knows where I stand.
But our relationship can be resumed. I am not going to require any apologies from anyone, I am not going to demean anyone, I am not going to destroy anyone who wants to resume their relationship with me.
Like I have explained in this Installment, because I respect the personhood of the individual, the situation that I have experienced may have caused you to close the door to our relationship, but if the door was closed, it was you who closed the door, not I.
Because of that, I cannot open what you have closed. To do so violates not only your personhood but any conditions that you may have put on our relationship.
I am not being mean, I am not being resentful, I am not being difficult. I am respecting your wishes, anything less devalues you as a person.
Yet, I remain approachable and I desire reconciliation. I want to resume and continue our personal and family relationships. But I am resolute, and I am convinced about winning another wife.
Because I love my family, in-laws and all. Family is that important. Family is our foundation.
Family is worth struggling through turmoil, because family is worth the struggle.
I have expressed that I want to be in your life. However, for you who have already closed the doors, it is you who have to let me know that you want me in your life.
My heart is for bringing the family together. But I can’t beg for it, you have to believe it for yourself. With God, all things are possible, which is why I am hopeful.
It is my constant expectation and prayer that you will reopen a closed door, reconnect and be part of my and my family’s life.
Blessings and Shalom