Life can't give me joy and peace;
it's up to me to will it.
Life just gives me time and space;
It's up to me to fill it.
I don't know who the author of these immortal lines was: what I do know is that they contain an astonishing depth and breadth of wisdom in a single little verse. Any life - including marriage - that is based on waiting for someone else to say or do something, is a life that will never be lived. A life that is dependent on someone else's movement will never move but remain still and go stagnant. That little package called our body contains a life principle all on its own that only we can move.
The Christian/Messianic life, and Christian/Messianic marriage in particular (whether monogamous or polygamous), operates on the basis of a very, very simple paradigm. Demonstrating divine genius as one would expect of the Son of Elohim (God), Yah'shua (Jesus) gathered the Ten Commandments together, condensed them, and expressed them as two basic over-arching rules:
The nature and quality of that love is, of course, determined by the Ten Commandments and all the other commandments given by Yahweh through His prophets and finally His Son. They explain in more detail what the Two Great Commandments actually mean. Thus we know that monogamous and polygynous marriage is an estate where love can be perfected, whereas polyandry and polyamory are states where it cannot. Thus we know that honesty, edification, and integrity are states of being where love can multiply and wax strong.
- 1. Love Elohim (God) with everything you've got
- 2. Love yourself and then love everyone else.
(Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27)
I've titled this essay after a classic novel written by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations. It would be untruthful to say that we do not have these. Every living soul has great expectations - grand dreams, hopes and designs. Some are realised, and some aren't. We all have standards - some high, some low. And we would all like our friends and family to be a 'certain way' so that we can feel 'comfortable'. Every soul lives in a real world and every soul dreams of the world that he or she would like. Our heads are usually full of different kinds of models of how we would like things to be. These we may have had taught us by our parents, our peers, our schools, our churches, or even have invented them ourselves. The models can be good or bad, workable or unworkable, but we don't know until we've tried them. Along the way of our experimentation we pick up cuts and bruises, and sometimes severe injuries. Life tells us that so very many of the paths that people advocate as being the best way to live are far from the truth. The débris of shattered and hurting lives ought to tell us that not all paths lead to Elohim (God), not all paths lead to happiness, and not all paths are equally valid. Common sense alone should write on the pages of our experience telling us that the grand expectations of so many have, in truth, come to grief. And we usually learn these things as we get older. When we are young we are starry-eyed and naïve.
King Solomon wrote an entire book called Ecclesiastes which recounts his life of experimentation. In the end he concluded that he had been a fool. He summarised his entire life experience in an immortal sentence which we have inherited and should pay attention to if we are wise:
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear Yahweh and keep His commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man"
(Ecclesiastes 12:13, NIV)
The word 'fear' here means to hold in deep awe, respect, and adoration - in short, to love.
When a marriage or a family conforms to Yahweh's blueprint, then self-esteem is available for everyone. The family was designed by Yahweh to have a specific purpose and function; and when it operates as intended, the emotional and physical needs of husbands, wives, and children are met in a beautiful relationship of symbiotic love. But when that function is inhibited or destroyed, then every member of the family experiences the discomfort of unmet needs, and the more so the bigger the family, and exponentially so in a polygamous relationship. Polygamous marriage is the most complex and difficult relationship there is on earth partly because multiple adults can make for multiple expectations, some realistic and some utterly unrealistic. And that is why echad is so very, very important for it, not just so it can survive but so that it can thrive. Who, after all, wants to enter a marriage simply to 'survive'?
When we are unconditionally loving Yahweh and unconditionally loving each other with that love which is defined by Torah and not by our own expectations and concepts of 'love', self-esteem - a lack of which is the #1 killer in marriage (see Understanding the Emotional Factor and Unconditional Love, Unconditional Submission) - is available for everyone. And when that self-esteem is available - romantic aspirations become satisfied - loneliness, isolation and boredom are abolished - sexual fulfilment rises - the marriage is bound together in fidelity - the children are provided with security - parents are given a sense of purpose - and all of this contributes to self-esteem even more in one endless cycle. The chain has no weak links. It reveals the beauty of Yahweh's creation, as does the rest of His universe. But it can be spoiled, just as mankind has fouled the air and contaminated the water which Yahweh designed for us. When the family is polluted through sexual permissiveness, or selfishness, or incredibly busy lives, then disease replaces health and despondency sits on the front doorstep.
In our family my wives carry around a little card that was designed by one of my wives as a result of a some personal counsel I gave one morning. On it is a summary of our 'expectations' of one another. It's a list of everything we need to know about one another to be happy and satisfied:
Yahweh loves me
Yah'shua* loves me
My husband loves me
I am loved
My children are loved
(*Yah'shua = Jesus)
The first thing you will notice is that there are no expectations. They are simply affirmations of what is. I have my own card too:
Yahweh loves me
Yah'shua loves me
My wives love me
I am loved
My children are loved
Each of us in turn, as moved by the Spirit, can then say how we love one another. We honestly say how we love one another and share how we understand that Yahweh and Yah'shua (Jesus) love us as individuals. And we simply ask that our affirmations of love are accepted. As husband and father it is my duty to explain what Yahweh's love is and to invite everyone to explore that and commit themselves to imitating that love in the family. My job is to explain Torah and for them, through their own study and prayer life, to find out the truth for themselves.
You may be asking how long we have been doing this and the answer is since today. I was having a long talk with one of my wives and she was expressing all her fears and insecurities to me. She told me how she was constantly looking for affirmations of love when she did certain things. Sometimes I noticed and sometimes I didn't, for so many of the expectations were unspoken. And unless one is telepathic, one can never know what the other is expecting. But knowing that there are 'expectations' and that likely many are not being fulfilled is, to say the least, very stressing, because you never know whether you have met enough expectations or not. Likewise, to be constantly expecting things of others is equally stressing and unfulfilling because we 'know' that we are not fully known, even if that is the goal. Expecting and having expectations is a must frustrating, unfulfilling and - ultimately - debilitating way to exist.
As I was listening to my fourth wife talking and telling me how she was constantly measuring me and others and herself (because this was the way she was brought up) and getting more and more frustrated and miserable, the Spirit suddenly fell on me and I said to her: "I have a free gift for you and I'd like you to accept it". She looked at me puzzled. "It's a ruler, and it's to be the rule of your life. On the top side is written, 'Yah'shua loves me', and on the reverse side, 'My husband loves me'. I want you to carry it with you wherever you go."
Her countenance instantly changed and I sensed that a huge load suddenly disappeared from her. Suddenly she was excruciatingly happy. It was then she went out and made cards for myself and all her sister-wives.
She also wrote me a note which she asked if I would include in my diary. I agreed. And here it is:
And in case anyone is tempted to believe she is worshipping me (she has asked me to add this), it is human love that she is talking about here. Yahweh is her - and my - first Love and Standard.
I shall no longer look at your actions and ask: 'Does a lover do such?'
You are my lover, thus I know that when I look at your actions I see what a lover does! That is how I know what a lover is - you're my standard - always.
I love you intensely.
Kisses and hugs ...
A sister-in-Christ in the United States (she eventually became my sixth wife) prophesied that something wonderful would happen this Pesach (Passover) and I remember believing her when I read it. Today is the second day of Chag haMatzah or Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits), the day on which Christ was raised from the dead. 'Great expectations' must go. Comparing people has to go. We must simply let people be and love. If this is just the beginning, then many wonderful things are surely yet to happen!
What do most women want from their husbands? It's not a bigger home or a better dishwasher or the latest car. Rather, it is the assurance that 'hand-in-hand we'll face the best and worst that life has to offer - together'.