To be a Christian polygamist, and especially the man (patriarch) of the family, demands as an absolutle job requirement that elusive virtue called patience. If you're an impulsive sort of person who doesn't know how to patiently wait on the will of Yahweh, forget the whole enterprise. Mark it down as something that is likely to explode in your face and leave a lot of hurt people in its wake. In fact, don't even ask me for advice because I won't give it to you...except to leave it.
The other day I received a heart-warming letter from a man in the United States whose first wife had abandoned his first marriage and run off with someone else. He was, understandably, very hurt indeeed but never raised his voice in anger but showed her forebearance and love, whilst reminding her that what Yahweh had joined together no man could tear asunder. He reminded her of her covenants, blessed her, and patiently waited twenty years for her return. He never gave up hope.
Twenty years later she tearfully returned, told him how she had never had peace in her adulterous relationship, how it had broken up, and how she had remained single for many years. They eventually met again but by this time our friend had married again. Adversity, her husband's deep love and patience, and her need for peace with Yahweh enabled her to accept Christian polygyny and be reconciled. You should read the joy in that man's letter to me - O, how the wait was worth it. He is now loved and cherished by two godly women and who also love each other. He is one of the happiest men I know.
I know personally how he feels for I too regained a lost wife this year (2000) and this has brought me great happiness too. I had to wait six years. But I have been waiting 15 years for my first wife whom I also lost in my spiritually less mature days. And I shall continue to wait until she comes home. And I know just how that home-coming is going to be. And my most recent wife I had to wait ten years for even though we were betrothed all of that time.
What a wonderful illustration Christian polygamy is of our Heavenly Father's relationship to His Bride, the Church/Messianic Community. There are so many prodigals out there but He lovingly and patiently waits for them all to come home, scanning the horizon of hope in order to catch a glimpse of a truly repentant child yearning for the warmth of his accepting arms. It is said that the angels rejoice - have a great celebration - everytime a sinner repents and genuinely receives Christ as his or her Saviour.
This is one sort of patience - but there's another kind all polygamists have to learn, and to learn it fast. That is, learning to live with the weaknesses and deficiencies of his wives (and they with his). For many of us it takes age to make us patient and more long-suffering. It ought not to be so, but alas the flesh is not an easy beast to subdue and bring under a tight leash. I am always, in particular, concerned about young polygamists - those entering the principle for the first time (no matter what their age) for it is to easy to tread on all the wrong toes at the wrong time. And it is equally easy, because of a lack of experience, to misunderstand and so misjudge (as well as sometimes to harshly treat) the fairer sex.
Lesson 1: Don't rush into polygamy. Carefully weight the options, listen keenly to the Spirit of Yahweh, and make sure you really know the women you intend to marry. Spend time making them your friends in Christ as brother and sister, and just as much time making sure they will be friends - sisters in Christ - with each other.
As a Patriarch you will find yourself possessed of an energy most monogamists do not enjoy which you will want to set into motion. Learn to contain it, and save it, for you will need it at times you least expect. Do not rush forward with the throttle completely out. Be wise, or you'll suffer burn-out. Neither be idle nor procrastinate what you must do, but also let no-one hurry you beyond what is expedient. As the head of the family, you must balance the various forces around you, whether wives or children. Know that you are a mortal with a limited capacity. Though polygamy may at first seem to have been made for supermen, it wasn't. You need only the strength of one man so long as you have order and discipline in your life. Polygamy is not, in any case, to be seen as the husband on one side of the scales and all the women on the other - its not male vs. female. It's an equal partnership of all with the husband as team-leader. If you try to make yourself the 'potentate' or the 'master of the harem', be prepared for failure, a decline in spirituality, and great unhappiness.
Lesson 2: Give everybody lots of space by not rushing into marriage presumptuously, even if you know it's right. In our community marriage follows a three-fold path called Dedication (equivalent to Engagement), Betrothal and Marriage. Use Dedication - a committment to better know each other as brother and sister - to cultivate a spiritual relationship with Christ, and make sure that's absolutely number #1 priority. Then use Betrothal - binding marriage without sex - to cultivate your heart-relationship. Finally, marry properly - unite in body, heart, mind and spirit. If you follow this process, which admittedly may require a lot of self-discipline for some (especially those splashing around in testosterone - or oestrogen if you're a lady) but it will set the right spiritual standard for the rest of your life and enable you to live polygamy to its fullest possibilities.
Lesson 3: Show patience with everybody's character flaws. We all develop at different rates in different areas and we must be willing to show grace where such is needed so that nobody feels 'forced' to be what they are trying to become but somehow can't quite be that all in a day. Yahweh will ensure that the right circumstances prevail for everyone's benefit.
I wish the wives to realise these things also, understanding that their husband is like the pastor of a properly running local church or messianic assembly. It's all one Body with different functions. The husband is the head of the family, and the family - wives and children - parts of the rest of the body. When our own physical bodies get ill we are forced to be patient while the recovery process gets to work by either resting or taking medication, or both. And as you know, if you have a headache, the Aspirin or Paracetamol affects not just the head (where the pain is) but the whole of the body! We must therefore shoulder one another's burdens both as a local Church/Assembly and as a polygynous family.
Polygyny requires great patience on the part of its practicioners. But it is most assuredly worth it.