Installment 151

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I am so excited that I am nearing the end of the telling of “My Story” and that its telling is almost complete. But some might exclaim, “Finally! You verbose narrator.”

As my reader knows, it has been a rather lengthy telling, boring in places, exciting in others.

But I was telling Mary -just yesterday I think- that I feel there is no possible way for me to have made it more compact. Why? Because to condense it down further, would be to remove items from the narrative that are important.

Yet, I am also reflective, and can’t help but ask: if it were actually ever published, who would read such a lengthy book? Few, I suspect.

So if nothing else, then the telling of “My Story” has been beneficial to me. And doing so was worth the effort even though I never suspected it would take so much time. So, personally, I am quite excited to be nearing the end.

In this Installment I want to share a prayer from January 16, 2016 (Month 11 Day 5).

But before I continue on into the prayer, allow me to share the note I wrote into my journal. I wrote:

Mary and I had an in-depth conversation over the course of the week about me and my hesitation to become polygamous. So, in a way, I have been, again, struggling with this.

So again, back in the first few days of 2016, I was really torn, and was discussing these things again with Mary. So for me -at the time of writing this Installment in December 2016- considering that the journal entry revealed that I had been struggling, it is of no real surprise that my note also included:

I’m not sure why, but I am really nervous about [praying] tonight.

What’s more, it doesn’t surprise me that I made that note, when I consider how the previous few prayers went and what they discussed.

In that prayer, I began: Father, please help me.

The Divine responded:

My help is always there my son,

That, my reader, actually was a tremendous encouragement. The Divine continued:

but you are your own worst enemy,

But that is not the kind of help I was looking for.

Odd, is it not, that the last few prayers have given me ‘help’ in ways that I would rather not receive. I mean think about this, when one is feeling overwhelmed and confused, we don’t want talk like that. Instead, we want understanding, we want sympathy, maybe even an out. But that is not what I received.

Instead, I was given help, very plainly. Yet, I don’t like thinking that I am necessarily being my own worst problem. The Divine continued:

always making things more difficult than need be.

Really? Has the Divine been in my shoes? Quite frankly, no.

Throughout the telling of “My Story” I have expressed my concerns and issues with what I was experiencing, so I won’t even recap it. But for me, the issue might as well be as insurmountable and as I believed it inconceivable.

To complicate matters, the Divine added:

‘Am I to write her?’ ‘I won’t write her.’ ‘I hate her.’ ‘She’s mean.’ ‘She’ll reject me.’

The Divine providing five different self-reflective thoughts as if they were coming from my own person, all with the point of getting me to consider my own situation, to consider how I was being my own worst issue. The Divine continued:

And you know what? You’re right, because that’s how you carry yourself.

Oh! What? Want to know something? That, quite frankly, sucks.

I am not one for giving or receiving “dating” advice, because I am not one for “dating” and I am sure not one who goes out looking for another woman. In my thoughts, it happens naturally or it doesn’t happen at all.

When I met Mary, it was natural. It felt right, even though it took me what seems like -and Mary would agree- forever to ask her out.

So when it came to this whole experience of the last five years, very little felt natural. Even when I composed my letters trying to converse with one lady, it was like I was talking to an empty auditorium.

How does one imagine the audience? A crowd of negative criticism, that’s what I did, as I have done for most of my life.

I am one who takes criticism quite personally. It’s not because I hate criticism. It’s because I push myself to be better, because I cannot accept a lesser version of myself.

Consider that during my life I constantly sought feedback about public presentations and then later sermon preparation and presentation.

I have almost always done public presentations. I took Speech in High School, and Communications classes in college and Bible School, learning how to prepare and present speeches, public addresses, and various public presentations.

I have made sales pitches. I have made presentations to corporate. I have made personal presentations. I have made presentations to churches. I still make public presentations. Public addresses have been a part of my life for so long I can’t really recall when it began.

So when you’re taught to envision the audience, you receive lots of ‘advice’ on how to envision that audience.

When you make your presentations, you receive lots of feedback, both positive and negative criticism.

Somewhere along the line, all of that sets in your being.

Want to know what I have learned?

After all the preparation and all the criticism, it all finally, at some point, became clear: people expect to hear certain words, and people expect to hear the presentation progress in a certain way.

What that means is that people expect a presentation to match their personal expectations. Therefore, when the presentation does not match their expectations, they express their ire through negative critical feedback.

But here’s the real lesson I have learned about public presentations.

Be yourself, whether boisterous or self-reserved. But do your best. Study. Research. Constantly refine. Learn. Grow. Adapt. Be well balanced in your vocabulary. Have multiple methods of presenting your thoughts. Present your information.

And -I feel a vulgar expression at my tongue and finger tips but I resist- forget ‘em, absolutely forget about the audience, because you are not there to convince them or persuade them. They are there for their own reasons. That is why they either will accept your presentation or they won’t. Simply share your thoughts, even if it’s your account of your own life.

Furthermore, as a speaker, a public presenter, I am not required to meet anyone’s expectations. Nope. Not at all. The audience does not set the parameters for my presentation. Why? Because each person builds their own expectations from their own personal idealism, and nobody’s idealism will ever be met.

So back to me being my own problem, I had constructed in my head an audience filled with rejection. I had convinced myself, things about myself, things about this situation, and then had convinced myself about any potential woman, and thus I had constructed a mindset for failure which would invite failure.

Importantly, reflectively, failure is what everyone expects, from my parents to my extended family, from my friends to my religious associations. They want me to fail. They need me to fail.

Why? Because they expect failure for what they cannot accept.

So I had permitted myself to be inundated by negativity, and it was incredibly difficult to accept that that was how I was projecting myself.

In a very real sense, I had become my own worst enemy, because I had allowed critics to shape me and what I was doing. Truth told, they don’t want me to succeed. It was I who had to determine that I would succeed in the face of their negativity and their myriad of criticisms.

Here’s the reality. If I speak to a woman about this type of marriage, and she says ‘no thanks’ she is not rejecting me, she is rejecting something that she considers impossible for herself, even if I would be the best thing for her.

So what that means is that she is comporting her world to her expectations. If those are the expectations she wants, then those are the expectations she receives.

We all do such things. We build our world based upon our expectations. How we expect ourselves to look in front of people. How we expect to speak with people.

Oh, there are those who defy expectations, wear a non-conforming hairstyle, wear their own unique style of clothes, or approach life in their own way.

But, when you are a Christian and/or brought up in a Christian environment (but the concept works for other religious environments), others expect you to match the expectations of the group, the culture, and other surrounding environs. So you train yourself to find things that match those expectations. So we accept and/or reject things based upon those values of what is expected. To deviate from the expectations is to fail yourself because you fail the community.

I have had to learn to accept that there will be those who choose to build a world that is not necessarily wrong, but is not necessarily healthy either. Because they are permitted to draw and attempt to meet the expectations they establish, whether those expectations be true, mostly true, partly true, or completely false.

So I had to face myself. I had to accept myself. I had to determine what I would present – to learn to present myself, not what others expected.

Based upon that then, consider how the Divine continued:

Now let’s really talk.

For those who take things too literally, that use of the word ‘talk’ was not referring to actual vocal discourse, no. The phrase ‘let’s really talk’ works as an idiom, meaning that the prayer was going to get to the heart of the matter.

With that in mind, the Divine continued:

You have in your heart, a need, a need that if goes unfulfilled, will tear you apart.

What? Plainly I tell you, back in those days of this prayer, I did not want to hear that.

Why? Back then I was truly wrestling with the concept of simply meeting everyone else’s expectations. The same people who, when I was a child, would tell me to mature, become a success, I could do anything, but the unstated was – as long as it meets our parameters. So, I truly felt stuck, not wanting to break with their expectations.

My need? I have expressed it thoroughly, I will state it anyway: that my personal life will not have reached its purpose if I do not share my life with two ladies, even though doing so does not meet others’ expectations because they do not have that need.

Now, I’m not so unwise as to try and achieve such on my own, no. When I was a young man, I ‘dated’ but quickly determined I did not like such, because there are too many games, but I knew I wanted a woman as wife.

So I changed my approach, when I did such -and I did not have nearly the personal understanding of myself that I do here in 2016- I relied on the Divine to assist me. In the proper time, the Divine allowed a situation to develop that permitted me to meet Mary. From there, we know the rest of the story.

I expect similar with my second lady. I rely on the Divine.

But back to the prayer, the Divine continued:

You don’t want to accept this, but you must.

Ugh! Are you kidding me!? No. The Divine wasn’t joking.

Accepting one’s self is an amazingly difficult thing, especially when accepting one’s self runs counter to how one is taught to view one’s self, Christian behavior, and culture.

That is why I have been so thorough to ascertain if what I was being led to accept was actually permitted by Scripture.

Others offered up all kinds of personal belief structures, opinions, preferences, and thoughts about why they think it shouldn’t be done.

I value these people, their thoughts, and their wisdom, that is why I was so candid with them about my life, and incorporated their thoughts into my analysis. But I found out that they are convinced of what they believe, and each will provide their reasons about why a husband cannot have two wives.

That was my social structure. That was my life. To lose that, well, was to lose my cultural and social everything. Consider how the Divine continued:

To accept yourself means losing everything you know,

I don’t know how else to express it, because that is exactly what I faced. But that is what I have chosen to do.

Why? Consider how the Divine continued:

losing everything you know means finding what you need.

In essence, what I need is not what they provide, because what I need sets in my unfulfilled need. I will provide more explanation as I continue through the prayer.

But after that, the Divine continued:

Letting go, losing, is the most difficult thing any human can do.

Why? Because it’s a type of death.

To move from one city to another, one has to leave the old city in order move into the new city, in other words – one must let go of the old and accept the new.

Consider how the Divine continued:

But you must if that which is in your heart is to come to be.

That means to accept my new life means that certain things cannot, because they will not, move forward with me. Yet, the things I need set where I need to be. For me, it’s akin to leaving your home to move to another home, because what I need sets in another location.

Consider how the Divine continued:

That doesn’t mean that you have forsaken your parents, forsaking is a trampling, and trampling you haven’t done.

My parents and I strongly disagree, but we are at a crossroads. I respect who they are, and what they believe. But I cannot remain who they expect me to be, and me be the one who I need me to be.

Consider how the Divine continued:

But to find your own peace, you must truly cleave to your wife,

Yes, the word ‘wife’ is in the singular, as the grammatical critics will point to it, but will do so at the expense of the context. The prayer will reveal the issue momentarily, but back during that time period, I was willing to set aside my wife, in the singular, Mary (because I had considered divorcing her) in order to make those around me ‘happy’ with me, because I was considering doing things necessary to meet their expectations.

Consider how the Divine continued:

you are drawn to your parents for proper reasons,

Proper reasons? Respect. Honor. Because without them I could not be. Without them, I would not have my education, my spiritual training, my upbringing.

But consider what the Divine added:

but that draw is becoming greater than your own draw to your wife, and you’ve never had that.

And that was a real issue, actually.

You want to know something? I never, and I mean n-e-v-e-r, had that problem. I respected my parents.

I respected that they had their personal preferences, like how to arrange things for holidays, when, where, and time to meet for family events and things. But my wife Mary was always priority. She was never second. While my parents, like all parents, had their specific preferences for how they thought we should handle things, what Mary thought took precedence.

So it is important that one sees that reality with Mary, and then considers how the Divine continued:

Why now?

A question for my personal reflection, and reflect I did, even as I penned “My Story”.

For the prayer though, consider how the Divine continued:

Well, it seems like to me you’re willing to build ties that never existed in order to prevent yourself from taking bride number two.

You know, sadly, until that prayer, I don’t think I had been aware that I was doing that. Let me explain.

I love my parents, and I respect them for who they are and the life they have led, and I honor them because they are my parents.

I offer no buts, because there are none.

What I have found interesting in the last five years is our interpersonal dynamics, the dynamics between a child and his parents, and to a much lesser degree parents to their child. Here’s what I mean.

When it comes to my parents, I have known them since, well, I was born. But I have never known them any other way. They are my parents. They were not my friends. And I certainly was never old enough to be one of their peers. So I have always interpreted them and interacted with them through the lens of being their child.

During the last five years, I have learned a ton of things about my parents. Some will pejoratively say that it was because I had finally matured and aged to the point to understand them. That is flat out not true. Here’s why.

My parents and I have developed a better relationship over the course of the last five years because of the very things that have happened in my life, from why I stepped away from pulpit ministry to why I can no longer associate with my religious heritage, to my discussions with them about taking a second wife.

These events created tension in our relationship, tension that I sought to alleviate, if that were possible. But I also sought their thoughts and their parental counsel.

I learned something during these years. I have come to appreciate who they are, and accept who they are, but they and I might as well, it seems, come from two different worlds. We do not see things the same.

During a recent visit, after a tiff with my dad that involved world events and social expectations, I later asked him: have we always had that kind of problem? Through his response, he affirmed that he and I have always had difficulty, not only talking, but seeing things from the same point-of-view.

That is what I am talking about. They and I are so different from each other it astounds me. I may be so different from them that they find themselves not only let down but also saddened.

Yet, from my earliest days that I can remember, there seems to always have been tension between us. Personally, I don’t think this is unique, at least in the United States. But it creates tension that can push either side away from the other.

For them, I feel for them. Hell, they grew up in a completely different United States than I did. So in a sense, we did grow up in two different worlds.

But I think the thing that bothers them the most is that I have not accepted many of the things that they accept. Those things range from how we interpret the Bible to how we view politics, from how we view world events to how we interpret what the news reports mean.

Those are not minor things. Those things are major.

Most families, at least the way I have seen it, think alike, vote alike, go to like-minded churches. That’s how family is done, even if it requires one to keep their mouth quiet and remain quiet in order not to create a stir, but not with us -or should I say- not with me.

You see, I was taught to defend what is right. I was told that truth mattered. I was taught to stand for what is right and to stand for the truth, even if I stood alone.

Who taught me that? I give my reader one guess. It’s a conjoined answer: my family and my religious heritage and and my culture.

So a type of coming to terms has occurred with my parents. I think they understand what I am saying, but they do not accept what I am saying, because -and I feel certain that I correctly understand them when I say it- they see me not just as unwise but as unrighteous.

So although we have come to terms with the situation and seem to have reached an understanding of each other, we also have reached an impasse. This is not where I had hoped we’d be.

Truly, I had hoped that they would not only understand what I was saying, but also accept what I was saying, and thereby accept me and my family.

In that situation, I truly was trying to find harmony with the direction my life was headed and how the relationship with my parents would work.

So intense was that for me that I was looking for anything that might hold me to them as family. This is why the Divine continued with:

You want peace in your heart, in your own being, sever the tie.

That sat heavy on me. Truly. That was not the answer I wanted.

The Divine continued:

This is not cruelty. This is not dishonor. This is becoming your own. Become your own.

About three days after that prayer, I wrote a Facebook note entitled: “A Parting of Ways” detailing certain things.

Since that prayer and that note, I have had interaction with my parents. At times, the conversation resumed (continued?) about two wives. But over the course of the months, we remain the same.

Considering the topic and their belief structure, they have been cordial and kind, and permitted me to continue helping my son with his project car at their house.

Months after that prayer, meaning much later in 2016, my mother wanted me to attend a family function. She truly wanted me to attend. Through the course of the conversation, she was trying to persuade me.

It’s my parents, and I want to support family. But I had to ask my mother a question: if I had my additional wife with me, would she be accepted at the function?

I knew what answer was coming.

So I had to express that if my additional wife would not be accepted at the family function, then there was no real reason for me to attend, when the only difference is the physical presence of my additional wife.

For me there is no difference: to accept the one is to accept the other. To accept my additional wife’s presence is to accept my thoughts. To reject my additional wife’s presence is to reject my thoughts.

The impasse, discovered in actual time, through a real event.

To her credit, my mother was cordial, and peaceful with me, but reluctant to accept that situation.

Then months later after that family get together, I was at my parents’ house to help my son or to work on one of my cars, when my mother asked me a very heartfelt and poignant question. In essence, she asked: don’t you ever feel a hole that needs family?

Yes. Of course, I do. But I had to gently let her know that to me family means something unique.

For me, and I am speaking in the broader context of Christianity, I think that family has to learn that there will be differences in thoughts about the Bible, government, the world, society, et cetera. Because of that family needs to find a way to do more than agree to disagree, family needs to do more than hold each other at arms length, family needs to do more than not speak of things that cause consternation to other family members.

In my opinion, family has to learn to accept other family members for whom they are as individuals. If we can’t do that, then what is family to do?

Over the course of the months and years, I have contemplated and examined the situation between me and my parents. I have given my efforts to work with my parents, and they with me. But we do not see things the same.

It seems that I cannot remain part of my parents’ family. But I have tried to make sure that my parents know and understand why I do what I have chosen to do. Perhaps in time, the Divine will permit me to reunite with them.

For the sake of building a family with two ladies, I have chosen to separate from my parents. When my wife arrives, it should be of no surprise to anyone. That is a place I have chosen to be, the place I need to be. It is the family I need to build.

But the prayer has one other major section. The Divine continued:

Now as for her, [Feminine Name],

Like in Installment 143, I keep the feminine name private because I want to know how this plays out into my actual life, if this name refers to an actual feminine person.

But the Divine continued:

time is ticking, not fast,

Time from when? From the date of this prayer back in January 2016? Ticking from the date of this Installment of December 2016?

At least though, the time is not ticking away at a fast pace. Whew! As I wipe sweat from my brow.

The Divine continued:

but she’s, she is, watching, waiting, wondering what you are going to do.

The question I keep asking Mary is: why would this lady be watching, waiting, and wondering about me? Why would this lady be reading my Installments?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. I simply accept, on faith, that this lady is doing the very things that the Divine conveyed.

Consider how the Divine continued:

This is important. She broke from her family. You must break from yours.

So it is important that she is watching, waiting, and wondering. And it is important that I determined what to do with my family.

In my heart, I cherish family. So, I don’t walk away from my parents with ease.

In my heart I know that to find my life, I have to do this, to have my second wife means I walk away from my parents. I have to say goodbye to say hello. I have to move away from home to find my home.

Why? Because the one cannot be had with the other.

I have chosen to be with my wives, and together we will build our family.

Blessings and Shalom