As 2015 marched towards its end, I was still making strides toward accepting myself. But it wasn’t fully there. Consider this from my prayer back on September 5, 2015 (Month 6 Day 21), I asked: What will you share with me tonight? The Divine responded:
This I will share.
For me, I was grateful that there was something the Divine would share. The Divine continued:
My son great changes are upon thee,
Were they ever, those years were difficult. Now, I look forward. But back then looking inward, reflecting on everything, was the best I felt I could do, not knowing if I could or would become the different me.
So it was helpful that the Divine continued:
not big and scary,
That was a relief. The Divine continued:
big and important,
Yep, they were big and important changes. Since 2016 began, and I’ve gone back through “My Story” to share what I have experienced, I am capable of seeing where I began, where I moved, where it affected me.
The Divine continued:
a different man you are becoming.
And I did. Becoming that different man was not easy, not easy for me, not easy for my family, not easy for my friends. I lost some friends. I lost some family.
At the end of the discussion, they simply did not appreciate or approve the direction I was headed, in some ways they could not even bring themselves to have disregard for my changes.
The Divine continued:
No longer arguing with yourself,
That, perhaps, was the biggest issue for me – to find myself no longer in conflict with my own self.
I wrestled night and day for many years. I spent that time learning what was going on. I spent that time ascertaining what was happening. I spent time determining if that which I was experiencing was from the Divine.
Importantly, the Divine added:
but the fullness of yourself, you are not.
In 2015, I am certain that my different me hadn’t fully arrived. I was still grappling with my experiences.
But, it is interesting how things changed in me during this year of 2016. I determined to set aside fully any ministerial persona. I still share the Bible, but I no longer attempt to persuade anyone.
Why? The debate is internal. It’s a personal dilemma.
The Scriptures are adequate for faith. But to decipher and determine doctrine, oh my, that is more complex than many (most?) want to admit.
It is important that during 2016, I still had my moments of doubt. But as I penned “My Story” it was more than intriguing to me the number of consistent issues within those experiences.
For me, it finally, and I mean finally, became clear that I was not being led by some adverse darkness.
For me, it finally, and I mean finally, became clear that my life would be for the better by simply following the leading.
When, where, will it happen? I really don’t have a clue.
I have come to accept that others will always dispute the issue. Through my experience, I have tried to answer their queries, answer the objections.
I have learned that some simply cannot abide or believe that this is possible. For them, I can provide no answer that is adequate.
I have learned that some simply don’t care, live and let live. For them, my explanations are unnecessary.
I have learned that some are on a journey of their own, interested in learning from others about their experiences. I am learning that this audience seeks interaction.
I have learned to simply set aside what I think should be. Here’s what I mean.
Before this experience, I believed I knew how things should be – if people simply lived the “proper” way then things would be better for them and for society.
That is why I was a pulpit minister, but no longer.
I still seek knowledge of the Scriptures. I still share my knowledge of the Scriptures. But I encourage people to seek a deep, vibrant, involved prayer life.
Worship of the Divine is spiritually uplifting. Study of the Scriptures is spiritually encouraging.
But prayer life with the Divine is nothing short of vital.
One can give worship, one can study, and one can feel close to the Divine. But the thing I have learned is that worship and study, while components of our spiritual life, are periphery.
The other thing that I have learned is that worship leaders and leaders of Scripture study have constructed those two things to be the vitality of spiritual life, thereby confusing the periphery with the vital nature of communion with the Divine.
Another thing I have learned is that there are many seeking the Divine and a relationship with the Divine that worship leaders and leaders of Scripture study simply will not engage.
These people have personal questions that are critical to their lives, and significant to their spiritual development. But worship and Scripture study are so clinical and sanitary that worship leaders and Scripture study leaders feel dirtied and sullied when working with some people.
It is not the Divine who is afraid or fearful or restrained in reaching the creation. It is the created that hesitates.
So I am a different me, in all ways a better person, yet still learning and growing.
For certain, I know one thing – works of darkness do not have a consistent and persistent involvement in order to make one better in their spiritual life and their physical life.
But before I became the different me, I still had more changing to do. Consider a dream from September 14, 2015 (Month 6 Day 30). I wrote in my journal:
Last night, I went to bed asking for confirmation, not that I am doubting, not that I am looking for a fight, just some encouragement I suppose, [about the direction of marital life and Rachel]. So, as I [was] waking up from my morning snooze after Mary went back to work, I realized I was dreaming.
There have not been that many times that I have asked for things like this, but that night I did. Why? I needed either an affirmative or a negative about my life. So the dream that follows is, I believe, an answer to my inquiry. Here is the dream:
The dream involved me asking [a specific congregational leader] for a white garment, which in the dream I knew [the garment] represented some kind of special role or responsibility within [a specific congregation], and the white garment was hanging on a wall if I remember correctly.
All I know is that in the dream, I knew that [the congregational leader] told me I could have the garment, so I asked him for it.
After I asked [the congregational leader] for the garment, [a specific congregant of that congregation] took [the congregational leader] aside told him that it was not proper for [the congregational leader] to give the garment to me, I don’t know how I knew that, I just knew it.
After [the congregant] talked with [the congregational leader], [the congregational leader] came back over to me, and politely, sympathetically informed me that he could not give me the garment.
I remember telling him, “It’s alright. No worries.” brushing it off, letting him know that it really was no big deal.
Dreams, they are strange. Strange because you have them and in them you know things, but in the waking world you’re like “How’d I know that?”
It’s totally weird. In the dream world, you know that you know, but in the waking world you don’t know why you knew what you knew in the dream world.
Yet somehow I knew that the congregant didn’t want me having the garment.
In my journal, I wrote:
I took it to mean that the [white] garment represented purity, a type of blamelessness, and that because I will have two wives, I am not blameless before the congregation, because in the dream I somehow knew that the white garment represented some type of responsibility or role within the congregation.
Why [a specific congregant]? I have no clue, other than he represents the general congregant.
Why [a specific congregational leader]? I guess because he is the congregational leader. So I took it to mean that leadership responsibilities will be denied me within the formal setting.
So here are my thoughts. At one time, that specific congregational leader thought that I would become involved in leading that congregation. To what capacity, I don’t know. But that was prior to me experiencing these things about my marriage.
So remember the night before the dream, I asked for help to either confirm or deny the direction of my marital life and Rachel.
In the dream, that specific congregational leader and that specific congregant were used to represent my situation, one that I would recognize and understand.
In the dream, I approach that congregational leader regarding a possible leadership responsibility.
Importantly, that congregational leader had no issue with it, until a congregant approached the congregational leader. This represents that there are some congregational leaders who have no conflicts with me, but some of the congregants will. The voice of the congregant carried weight with the congregational leader.
Even though I could ‘potentially’ be part of the congregational leadership, a representative of the congregation either themselves could not abide with me being part of the leadership, or the representative of the congregation thought that other congregants could not abide me being part of the leadership.
The congregational leader willingly returned and spoke with me about the potential congregational possibility. The congregational leader was courteous and compassionate toward me but informed me that I could not have the responsibility.
My response? I accepted the outcome.
The outcome? I was not accepted for congregational leadership responsibilities. Why? Because the white garment could not be worn by someone that the congregation could not support.
Again, remember the night before the dream I asked for help with the direction of my marriage and Rachel.
For me, had I been permitted to wear the garment, I would have interpreted the dream as me not moving into a marriage with two ladies.
Why? Because I am very much a believer that the Apostle Paul does not intend for a man with more than woman to be a congregational leader (1 Timothy 3.1-13 – bishop/overseer, deacon/minister, Titus 1.5-9 – elder, bishop/overseer). I have written about this in other places.
In the dream, I was not accepted to congregational leadership responsibilities. That was consistent with my understanding of the Apostle Paul’s teachings in Timothy and Titus.
Does that bother me? No. Not in the slightest. There are plenty of other ways to aide the body of Messiah aside from congregational leadership.
So I am a different me.
I once aspired to be a congregational leader. I lived my life in such a way in order to be a congregational leader. I was a congregational leader.
I have the functional ability to be a congregational leader. I know the responsibilities. I know the Scriptures. I’ve ministered unto the grieving and the cheerful.
But, during that responsibility of congregational leader, I prayed for something more, more worth my efforts and life.
Why? I have itemized and described in many ways in various places. But I recap, and I will be polite.
First, even if I had been “called” to the work of a congregational leader, I prayed for something else, and the Divine answered that prayer.
However, I am not certain I was ever “called” to be a congregational leader, but it was something I aspired to.
Second, the work of the congregational leaders is unique. It has its unique challenges. For me those challenges pose a real problem, because I am not a man who can remain in a pulpit ministry position and remain a minister feeding infants and babes.
Certainly, not all in the congregation are babes, that’s not my point. My point is that the pulpit is a type of deacon, and that deacon serves the needs of the congregation. The congregation, it seems almost without exception, requires the pulpit minister to minister to the common needs of the congregation.
Therefore the lessons are often introductory material to the faith, introductory about God, introductory about life. On occasion there is some stretching of faith and knowledge boundaries, but it is rare that the congregation is ever challenged to mature into something more.
The congregation is a useful and wonderful place to be. It feeds many. It encourages growth. It is part of the Messiah. It is a wonderful work and bride. So I don’t disparage it, I can’t, I won’t.
But for me, the congregational setting limits dialogue, discussion, and discovery. For me, I cannot serve in that environment knowing that the Apostle Paul has imposed a limitation and that limitation is for meeting the needs of the people within the congregation.
Some will understand what I am saying. Others will not.
It is a difficult path to walk, being one who upholds the church and its characteristic congregational leadership, but then know within my bones that it is perfectly acceptable for a man to be a disciple of Jesus have multiple-wives and still be a Christian.
As believers, especially in the United States, we live in this weird social bubble, something that is completely unique, and the reality is that most believers don’t even begin to realize that what is practiced as “church” is completely foreign to the First Century, including how to be disciples and have a family consisting of one husband and his wives.
So I walk this delicate line, this delicate balance of awareness, experience, knowledge, perseverance, and acceptance that infants and babes need to learn of and find God.
There are plenty of men and women willing to help the infants and babes. The work of the congregation will not end, it might change, but it won’t end.
I sought more. That more took me into waters unknown. So be it. There is work to be done outside the safety and confines of the congregational space.
Living my life in a way acceptable to God has inherent limitations within the congregation. I accept that.
I still associate with congregations. I think I always will. But I know who I am. I’m different.
Once a congregational leader, but no longer.
Now a man outside the congregational leadership, outside congregational acceptance, but still a man of God, sharing the good word with anyone that I can.
I accept who I have become, limited though it may be in a congregational setting.
Blessings and Shalom