In this Installment I want to discuss some things from my prayer back on November 14, 2015 (Month 9 Day 1). I began my prayer: Father, I am here. The Divine responded:
Yes. Yes, you are.
A recognition that I was there, participating in prayer, yet consider how the Divine continued:
A contrast sounds like it is on its way. I was there, but was I? The Divine continued:
You really aren’t, and don’t want to be, in some ways, in some ways you can’t, in others you are, neither of which works for you, for you do not work for yourself.
So, I really wasn’t there. That sounds unpleasant, yet I was there. But it sounds worse, because the Divine conveyed that in some ways I didn’t want to be there.
Where was I in my life? I wrote in my journal:
This last week has been horrible. As of today [the date of the prayer], I told Mary explicitly, in very clear terms, that in no way, do I want two wives. Furthermore, I’m tired, and very frustrated.
I have not shied away from sharing that reality. That was where I was. No doubt about it. Before, I truly settled within myself with what I wanted, I wrestled with that concept for many months.
But no matter how much I struggled, there was part of me that needed to pray. I think I was hoping that prayer would reveal a different option. That is why I wrote in my journal:
Let’s see what I’m given tonight.
It was conveyed that I didn’t want to be there in prayer, and I suppose given my notes that was a sad confirmation of my state of mind. Yet, the Divine also conveyed that in other ways I needed to be in that prayer.
So I was turned, tossed about, pulled between two things, which is why the Divine conveyed that neither position -on the one hand not wanting to be there, yet on the other being there- of neither which works for you. Why? The Divine answered, because I do not work for myself.
That perhaps is one of the greatest truths I had to accept. You see, as long as it was the Divine’s fault or someone else’s fault, then I had someone to blame. When I blamed them, it meant that I was being acted upon by outside forces.
The prayer though was conveying that I was being reluctant to work for myself. And that is the issue.
Look, outside the church, individuals work for themselves, they obtain fame, fortune, and notoriety.
But that is not how Christians are taught to look at themselves. They go where God leads. They do what the Spirit leads them to do. Christians teach against doing anything without God’s leading. Christians teach against doing anything through human decision.
There is a place for that. But there is also a place for prayer, putting trust in God, listening to the prayer and leading, determining that God is leading to a path that is acceptable.
But there is another part to that prayer life that Christians don’t really talk much about – the human factor. After prayer, as believers, we have to be willing to do work to make the prayer come true. Consider Jacob’s vow (a type of prayer) in Genesis 28.18-22.
Yes, Jacob had experienced something previously that captured his attention (Genesis 28.10-17), but the point of the prayerful vow is that Jacob wanted God to protect him while Jacob journeyed and worked wherever he was about to go. Yes, Jacob prayed for provisions, and the ability to peaceably return home, but Jacob had to work in order to find that provision.
Jacob found himself within Laban’s house. Jacob worked, and worked, and worked. During that time he experienced disappointments and setbacks, yet he also found success, and ultimately was provided for and returned home.
But he would have found none of that if he took what seems to be a typical Christian belief structure of sit and wait on the Divine, if the Divine wants the Christian to do something, then the Divine will make it happen.
While Jacob did not live his life ignorant or apathetic of the Divine, Jacob did also work for himself, by working for Laban and in doing so obtained a house and wealth. Jacob prayed. Jacob traveled. Jacob lived. Jacob worked. Jacob found.
Jacob had, had, to do his part. He could not simply sit and wait, because living requires our own participation. That is not a worldly point-of-view. That is our responsibility being created with a creative nature, shaped in the image of the Divine. The Divine works, so must we.
Therefore, it took me some time to figure out that I had to work at finding out what I wanted in my life, and similar to Jacob, there would be disappointments and setbacks, along with success, in a word, life.
But back in the prayer, after conveying those things, the Divine continued:
That said, let’s move forward. Shall we?
And move forward, even though frustrated, I had to. Here I am, over a year later, I am ready, almost having completed the telling of “My Story”.
But back in that prayer, I was not too ready, but what the Divine conveyed was truly vital for me. After conveying that I needed to move forward, the Divine continued:
Now, hear me, and hear me well:
So I had better pay attention to what I had been given. The Divine continued:
you have chosen, and chosen you have.
Stated twice. Interesting, no?
Back during those months, while I was wrestling with myself and my choices, I had to accept that even though I didn’t fully understand how things were occurring, I had chosen what to do.
I am uncertain if I have shared this, but one of the ways I had chosen, is way back in late spring or early summer of 2012, I prayed about my situation. I was vocal. I was irritated. But I also didn’t have confidence in that pronouncement toward the Divine.
I remember being in a parking lot in downtown San Antonio, contemplating the events of my life. Having experienced a moment with another lady, I spent weeks, perhaps months, contemplating what happened.
The event was unique, in that experience I had no real dialogue with that other lady or interaction with her, beyond cordiality and limited conversations about church. It all remained platonic. Yet, things worked where I moved into a different social sphere of life, and we have never spoken again.
But that moment of life, opened me to ponderings that I had never experienced. One day, during that late spring or early summer of 2012, I prayed, and closed it with a pronouncement to the sky: You want me to be polygamous, you’re going have to change Mary’s heart, because I ain’t.
I kept my experience with that other lady quiet, because nothing happened. But I sure wasn’t ready to tell Mary what happened. Later that same year, and I have written about this (Installments 26, 30), events played out that Mary learned about what I had kept quiet.
Upon hearing those things, Mary listened, she was inquisitive, but also wanted me to confirm that nothing happened. I confirmed. She also wanted me to confirm that it would be just she and me. I confirmed.
A few months later, Mary changed. She no longer needed or wanted it to remain just the two of us.
What did I do to change her mind? Nothing. In fact, I did everything I knew to confirm monogamy for us, and spent basically all my time from that moment until January 2016 to confirm that. At the time of this prayer, it didn’t matter that I had interacted with ladies regarding possibilities of being my wife. Up until January 2016, just short of a divorce and self-termination, I did everything that I could think of to sabotage those efforts.
But you see, in this prayer from November 2015, the Divine said I had chosen. Had I? Hesitantly, I express, yes.
Did I fully understand that choice? No, no more so that when I said I do to Mary in 1992. I knew I wanted her to be my wife, though I had no concept that marriage would require so much, but I kept my commitment, because I had chosen.
Do I regret that choice? No. But I had to come to not regret the other choice that I had made. So, the Divine opened up Mary to polygamy. I fought it. But I finally accepted it.
The other choice that I made, I thought was a conceptual choice. It was made over several prayers, and those choices Mary had to reveal to me. To me, when they happened, I didn’t even realize that I had done what I had done.
But the choices were being willing to move forward, to accept two wives, to be committed to each lady, and to carry through on those commitments.
But, you see, I wanted to stay with Mary and only Mary and not follow through on those other things. Why? It is rather selfish of me, but I didn’t want to lose things in my life.
But as I have walked the last few years, I have spent time being honest with myself, honest with my life, and I find more value in the choices that I have made than the life I had before.
To come to that understanding took a tremendous amount of time, took a tremendous amount of self-reflection, and lots of dialogue with others. But it did reveal to me, what I should have seen much earlier, but was either reluctant to see or was blind to seeing it.
If I had to give a reason for why I have not seen this leading come to pass, it is that reason – I fought it, every step of the way.
So back to the prayer, the Divine continued:
These two ladies depend on you,
The two ladies? Mary (Esther) and Rachel.
Why do they depend on me? Because I had given the Divine my word.
Upon my prayer, my demand I suppose, the Divine opened Mary’s heart, and her heart has remained open.
Upon my prayer life, I have made commitments to take care of a family with two wives.
Why did I do that? For the same reason, I told the Divine that if I was to be polygamous that the Divine would have to change Mary, because I never, n-e-v-e-r, thought it would become reality. I thought it would be the ace up my sleeve, allowing me to be victorious, yet all the way through, one by one, I made choices.
When you give your decisions to the Divine, you have to make sure you make good on your word. Consider how the Divine continued:
it matters not how you feel, it matters not that you’d rather not, it matters only that you show yourself faithful, because that’s all that matters.
And that really is all that matters, keeping my word. So the Divine added:
Learn that and you’ve learned well.
I have learned. But let me clarify something.
I am not this reluctant, reticent, or restrained person who has to grin and bear with his decisions. No.
I wish, truly I wish, I had had this acceptance in my being years ago, for if I did, then perhaps, the writing of “My Story” would have covered a few brief moments and the transition into a new marriage.
Instead, “My Story” is one about struggle, wrestling to accept the Divine, and myself, and learning to move into that reality. Sad, really.
Instead, I am this guy ready to be taken to my new home, my new life. But it took a while to come to that, consider that in that prayer the Divine conveyed:
Now for something else:
With that, the Divine is switching gears, the Divine continued:
you my son presume you know yourself when you don’t,
I did think I knew myself. It is why I fought -can I say it? I will- so damned long. I thought I knew what I wanted. I was wrong, and created problems for myself in the process.
Oh, how I wish I had then what I have now, an understanding of myself, because I would have done things so differently, I would have approached things differently, because I would have been different. Over the last few years, that is my biggest regret.
Returning to the prayer, the Divine continued:
you don’t even know who you are, discovering yourself you are, but that is not knowing yourself.
In November 2015, I was still discovering myself, because I really didn’t know who I was.
Through writing “My Story” and by looking at all the experiences that I have had during the last five years, I can see who I have become. I now know myself.
Regrets, I have a few, but only because I didn’t know who I was when all of this began. If I had only known then, what I know now. But I couldn’t have. I had to find myself, I had to learn who he was, I then had to work in order to find this life.
Before the prayer closed the Divine had another thing to convey, the Divine added:
Now another and I’m through with you for today:
So there was something else the Divine wanted to give me, then we were finished with that prayer. The Divine continued:
life, my son, is choices,
And it is. Is it not?
Where will one go to school? Where will one work? What will one drive? Where will one live? Which church, if any, will one attend?
Choices. Choices. Choices. They are all around.
Some choices are not a big deal, like where to eat, or what to wear.
But some choices are huge, and you can’t back up from them, like once you choose to be a disciple of Jesus, no matter the outcome, you follow. This brings me to the next part of what the Divine conveyed:
but not, once chosen, choices must be followed through.
For instance, when one uses a car loan to purchase a car, one must follow through on the car payments, otherwise, that car will no longer remain with the one who purchased it.
The reality is that there are those who will not follow through. For whatever reason, they will find a reason to not follow through on their choice. It’s not that they choose not to follow through, they have chosen to become faithless.
Take for instance, three moments in my life.
I chose to home school my children. I had to follow through. I had opposition. I followed through irrespective.
During my pulpit ministry days, I made a commitment to a person that I would give them and thereby the congregation a two-year commitment. The situation continued to deteriorate, but I kept my commitment. I gave my word. I kept my word.
After leaving pulpit ministry, I made a personal two-year non-compete agreement with the congregation that I had left. I did that so they could recover. They needed to re-stabilize before I went public with why I disagreed with my religious heritage. I waited. Then I wrote why I left my heritage.
Why did I do those things? Because I am a guy who values his commitments. I am not one who gives up easily on keeping his word.
For instance, I do everything that I know not to have a relationship fall apart, like family or personal relationships. But if/when someone closes the door to me, trying to reopen that door, when it was they who closed the door, shows me to be faithless.
There have been several who have closed their door to me. Some closed their door to me when I left my religious heritage. Some closed their door to me because of what I have discussed in the last five years.
Yet before they closed the door, I did what I could (do what I can) to retain the relationship(s). If, however, the door becomes closed, it is they who closed it. That means since they closed the door, they are the ones who disfellowshipped me, they are the ones who disassociated from me.
To be faithful to their choice, I have to honor their choice. That means they have to be the ones to re-open the door to our personal and/or familial relationship. Why? Because if I was the one who tried to re-establish the relationship, I have shown myself unfaithful to their decision.
All of that brings me to the poignant part of the prayer, the Divine continued:
Thus life is not choices, but carry through, and carry through you shall. Amen.
If they close the door, all I can do is carry through. If they open the door, all I can do is carry through. Here’s what I mean.
During my time in my religious heritage, doors were closed on a routine basis.
Have a doctrine they disagree with? A debate might be permitted. But remain steadfast to a doctrine that they disdain, and the doors were closed to you.
My earliest experience with doctrine door closure involved: musical instruments in worship, and praise teams. But later it included disagreements about how to name the church, and roles of women in the church.
From observing those things, I knew that once the doors were closed, they were closed. The only way, and I mean the only way, that the doctrinal doors would be opened was for that person to recant their doctrinal position and step back into the doctrinal line of my religious heritage. Early, I learned not to step across the doctrinal line, so I maintained the line.
But then I went to Bible School, learned to study the Scriptures beyond the exegetical method that was so prevalent in my heritage. My religious heritage’s Bible School taught me Bible history, the literary nature of the Scriptures, the culture and society of the people found in the Scriptures, and taught me to study the Scriptures in context. That learning altered how I was reading those Scriptures.
After graduation, I openly challenged the conclusions that we had drawn. I was welcomed, only if I reconsidered my teachings and toed the line. I remained steadfast to context.
They closed their doors to me. The only way those religious doors will be opened is when I recant and accept their position.
I didn’t stay at their door, nor did I plead for acceptance, nor did I back away from the contextual insights that change our biblical understanding. That is something I cannot do.
To them acceptance is when you accept them, their interpretation of doctrine, doing church practices as they deem fit.
While there, I tried to have an honest, open, truthful dialogue. But like so many that had gone before me, the doors were closed.
Therefore to carry through on my word, I have to remain true to their decision. They see me as having “sinned”. But I didn’t. I disagreed. They, in turn, wanted me gone.
Musical instruments are not wrong. Praise teams are not wrong. Wearing a “church name” other than my religious heritage is not wrong. Women participating in church leadership is not wrong.
My challenges to my religious heritage: the Old Testament still has validity to church practices and polygamy is acceptable in the church.
It is they that have to change. They have to be willing to accept that they could be wrong about how one comes to understand doctrine. Context influences our understanding of the Bible. Prooftexting doctrine disregards context. I will no longer disregard context. They want me to disregard context.
But to honor them and the door they closed, I cannot continue to knock at their door. I have to walk away. It is they that have to open the door. To follow through, I can’t do anything to open those doors. A door closure was not want I wanted. The door closure was what they wanted. What they want, they get, and the doors were closed, and remain closed.
However, I also said “If they open the door, all I can do is carry through.” Here’s what I mean.
I hold no grudges. Why should I? We can disagree. We’re going to disagree. We’re going to misunderstand each other. As people, we have so much difficulty simply trying to understand each other, it is no small wonder that we have difficulty trying to understand God and the Scriptures.
The point is, when the relationship doors are reopened, I will do my utmost to retain open doors, but reopened doors do not come because I compromise integrity or truth.
Those are the two extremes – doors closed or doors opened. In a perfect world, I would want the doors to remain open, always. Sadly, with freewill comes the ability to make decisions that are not necessarily healthy. Some will say it is my fault. Some will say I am denying doctrinal realty. However, I didn’t and don’t want those doors closed, they just were.
So how would I interact with someone who reopened their doors to me?
Currently, there is only one relationship that truly I am not certain what I would do. If that person made the first move, from there, I would pray, and interact delicately, because for many years, he and I haven’t had the best relationship.
As for others, misunderstandings take place, difficult words said, sometimes harsh words, words we wished we hadn’t said, but were.
The point is, I don’t see any spiritual reason to close doors for any of the above mentioned topics, because none of them are unscriptural.
We process things where we are. We learn. We grow. We want to reconnect, but reconnecting can be difficult, because it requires us to revisit the wounds that caused the conflict and door closure.
So for me, I’m not going to hold a personal grudge, I’m not going to hold it against the person. They did what they did, sometimes for reasons only known to them.
When someone wants to reopen the door to having an interpersonal relationship with me, I will do my very best to maintain my integrity and my honesty, while discussing my understanding of the Scriptures and life.
But one thing on which I feel certain is that I am not going to berate them, belittle them or make them feel bad, because they have shown that moving forward into a better relationship with me is what matters.
Specifically about my life, my marriage, my prayer life, I made my choices, I will follow through. It’s not a lament. It’s part of who I am.
I gave Mary my word. We gave our marriage to the Divine. The Divine opened her heart. The Divine has given leading about Rachel. The Divine has led me to see that my life and my marriage will change.
I will follow through, because I am pleased to be able to show that I am faithful.
Blessings and Shalom