Hell is One Word
I wanted to be in Stan's arms as much as I could in the remaining hours at Raj. We took long walks together in the garden and by the fields, saying very little, or sitting together on the sofa in the living room holding hands and embracing. Sometimes some of his wives would join us just to partake of the atmosphere. All seemed to want to "feel" me out, to discover what having me as part of the family would be like, because all knew there would have to be readjustments when I moved in. As Sarah-Jane had no children as yet, I was assigned to share her apartment upstairs when I returned, and I was happy about that.
Everything was fine until I learned that an English girl called Molly was due to arrive at Raj three weeks after my departure and then I began to be unsettled. Up until now everything had revolved around me and the thought that someone else might be coming straight afterwards kindled a twinge of jealosy and this provoked the carnal and devastating thought that this whole business was all somehow just a cattle-market. It spoiled, in my own mind, my last hours at Raj. I wanted, in my egotistical mind-frame, which I had thought was now so spiritual, to be centre-piece. Everyone had adapted themselves to serving me whilst I was in Lublin and now, suddenly, for the first time, I was confronted with the reality that maybe I might have to give something of myself.
This self-discovery shocked me even though Stan had warned me that I still had to go through my inner Peniel. The rudeness of this discovery opened a closet full of skeletons which I wished had never been there. After the paradise of heaven came a trip into hell itself.
Stan had announced Molly's arrival at supper time, deliberately, as it turned out, for he had known of her arrival at least a week before but had kept it from the family. Hearing about this stranger was like watching icicles forming on his lips. I froze inside, not so much from the fact that she was an unknown quantity, but for some curious reason I had subconsciously convinced myself that as Stan's seventh wife-to-be I was to be his last. It was a stupid thought because I had been told that others would come, and that this was why the family would eventually have to leave Raj. Little did I realise that in the euphoria of my romantic opening I had allowed myself to drift out of a Christ-focus and into that piece of enemy territory called "I".
I knew what the New Testament taught about crucifying the self so that Christ could live in me, and I really believed I had done that. But then, suddenly, the illusion was popped. Worse, I was leaving for home without having worked through it, for I supposed that Raj was the best possible place to do it in. Then I remembered - Peniel was not home territory for Jacob - he was on the east side of the Jordan when the awful truth of his sin-nature confronted him, and I, too, would have to cross to the west side of the Atlantic to face myself like Jacob.
Suddenly I became scared. Really scared. Why must the battle with the sin-nature always be so violent? Couldn't the Lord just sit down with me and talk it through? Couldn't I just sit down with Stan and his wives, confess my feelings, and work it out? I remembered the struggles of the Biblical Patriarchs - the agony Abraham went through when Pharaoh took his wife, of Isaac suddenly realising he was on an altar of sacrifice, of the grief of Jacob when he was lied to by his sons about Joseph being killed by a wild animal. In the lives of everyone there was apparently meaningless suffering, yet those who were in the Lord came out of it better men and women.
Instead of being with Stan that evening I deliberately went over and talked to Anna. I tried to push the feelings I had about Molly away. I knew nothing about her. What if I didn't like her? Shouldn't I be a part of the decision process of her coming into the family? But I wasn't part of the family yet - I was only dedicated, not betrothed. I began to wonder if Stan had done this deliberately, afraid that I might veto Molly's application. Not that I had such a right since the final decision was Stan's anyway.
And so my mind began to drift out of a Christ-focus and into the flesh and by the time I went to bed I was a whirlpool of confused feelings and thoughts. In the space of a few hours all the joy and peace was gone. How could that be? Was it all a dream - an illusion? Was Sarah-Jane right in telling me to just listen to my heart? Here I was listening to my heart and it was now telling me the very opposite. I was in the gall of bitterness.
Stan had often warned us that we were all a hair's breath away from hell, irrespective of our situation. He had reminded us of the congregation in Ephesus which had grown into such spiritual maturity, even to discerning false apostles, and yet in the process was close to falling. It had lost its Christ-focus, forgetting its first-love. Stan had said:
"People get this foolish notion that once you're in Christ that all temptation disappears forever. It doesn't. For the rest of your lives Satan is going to tempt you and try to destroy you. He's like a roaring lion awaiting to devour its prey. And one of the easiest temptations to fall into is to fall out of love with Christ and fall in love with love itself. It is one of the most subtle yet pernicious idolatries - to worship the gift instead of the giver of the gift. And it can happen so easily.
"It's how Satan fell. He assumed that all his powers, knowledge and light was something that was naturally his - that somehow he had "earned" them and that he was an independent being who could do without God. So he rebelled in the pride of his heart, and great was his fall! He convinced billions of angels to do the same thing. And when they saw that Yahweh did nothing to restrain them in the first centuries of their rebellion, they grew conceited and over-confident, inspiring yet more angels to follow suit. And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, they and their nephilim descendants were deluged in water. Their vanity and rebellion was erased in a matter of hours.
"Remember this always because this is how God treats us too. He allows us to do our own thing, even to convincing ourselves that we can get away with our rebellion when He doesn't intervene with His chastening rod immediately. But then, quite suddenly, your whole world can collapse leaving you almost no time to be shocked. Never assume that the Lord takes away your free agency, and never assume that He swoops down to punish you the moment you sin. He is generous in giving space for repentance, but when that space of time is over, woe unto you if you get caught up in the swiftness of His wrath. Aren't we warned about this in Scripture? Didn't Yah'shua say that the vengeful Day of the Lord would come as suddenly as a thief in the night when least expected? Thus we are commanded to be constantly on the alert, waiting for His return, with lamps trimmed so as not to be deaf when He orders His people into arks of safety, and so not be overwhelmed by the coming deluge of fire."
I never forgot that..until I was in my hell, wrestling with my sin-nature, because all I could see was a big "I". Not only did I know nothing about Molly but in my dark soul I was assuming that Stan would make a wrong judgment along with his wives and admit someone into the family who would make me unhappy. The illogic and absurdity of it all never occurred to me in my bitter darkness. It never does when you are focused on self.
I didn't sleep much that night. All hope had departed from me. When I arrived at breakfast the next morning I must have looked like a ghost. Everyone knew what had happened. Indeed, they had discussed me late into the night after I had gone to bed and joined together in prayer for me. The war for my soul was on.
I left Lublin feeling even more of a rag than when I arrived. One part of me wanted to stay and the other part to flee. Then, when I knew I couldn't stay, I wanted Raj, Stan and his wives to all cease to exist. I imagined in the absurdity of my carnal nature, that they were all demons. And then, to make sense of why they appeared to be so nice, I had to invent even more absurd fables. The love was all fake, they were brainwashed, and didn't know what they were doing. The women were being subtly manipulated into being sheepishly meek and obedient. They should all throw off their shackles and be free like I was. Free indeed - I felt as though I was in Alcatraz.
I wanted to look at them and be shown a heavenly vision of the truth of my wicked conclusions. I wanted to see the masks drop off and to see glaring devils underneath. But my vision of the family, most of whom had caught the bus down to the station to see me off, was of tear-filled faces full of love. Stan had not come to the station - he knew that in my mind he had suddenly mutated into a Beelzebub. I hadn't even said farewell to him, or thanked him for his hospitality which I, as a wronged Christian so-called, ought to have had the grace to do. But I had no grace - I was in the grip of hell.
The train journey to Warsaw was miserable. A more pitiable site I could not have been. I wanted to tell everybody to beware the monster Królewiec but thank God nobody could speak English. People must have thought me a little kooky muttering obscenities under my breath.
I don't remember much of the trip back to Missouri. I slept most of the way, utterly wrapped up in my misery. Sometimes a ray of light would break though and I would kick myself for being so stupid. But little did I know then that a demon had entered me and had begun squeezing me for all I was worth. Not only did Satan want to keep me out of Christian polygamy but he wanted to recruit me as one of its sabateurs. I was already scheming in my dark mind how I would expose polygamists in the media. I thank God I never did. I don't think I would ever have dared. I would have had deep pangs of guilt as the Lord reminded me that the people I wanted to persecute actually loved me.
The slide into darkness was so rapid that it took my breath. I learned one important lesson about remaining true to covenant - the higher you climb, the lower you fall when you turn away from the Lord of love. Satan's fall must therefore have been catastrophic in its proportions. From suddenly being the No.1 archangel, he must have found himself in the very abyss of hell in a matter of seconds. And then to think that Christ had done the same thing, only voluntarily and in purity, in order to rescue sinners like us, was enough to break the heart of any sensitive soul.
The day after I got back to Kansas City I had to go back to college and to work. But the jet-lag, coupled with the exhaustion caused by my internal war, sapped all the energy out of me. I slept for 26 hours, getting up only to eat a cookie or drink some water to stave off my hunger. I remained in my room for three days, not seeing a soul. I refused to answer the door. In the end one of my mates got the warden who unlocked the door, fearful that I was seriously ill or that something worse had befallen me. My best friend, Sandy, stayed with me after the warden and other friends had left. But I didn't want to talk to her. What could I tell her? All she knew was that I had gone on holiday to see friends in Poland. She imagined all sorts of terrible things must have happened to explain my terrible state, from robbery to rape, but I lied to her and said that the food had disagreed with me and all I wanted to do was rest. She swallowed that but I could see she had reservations.
On the fourth day I returned to English literature classes. When Dostoievsky appeared for study I was reminded of Kasia and of her warmth and sweetness upon first arriving. I giggled at the cocoa incident, of the silly conversation Sarah-Jane and Kryztina had had in the kitchen, of the children - one memory after another of the trip kept flooding in. One moment I was in ecstasy as I remembered the moment in my room when I had realised how deeply I loved Stan and how fond I was of his wives, and then the next I was suddednly seized with jealosy and blind rage. I felt I was becoming a schizophrenic. Was it possible that I could have two such contrary natures in myself? How could God permit that? Wasn't He love? Didn't Christ take care of all this on the cross? How could I be saved when I was having such evil thoughts? One moment I wanted to make love to Stan and the next to kill him - or his wives, but usually the mysterious Molly. How could I wish dead those who had loved me more than anyone else in my life apart from my parents? I could see that I was being presented with a choice - to go with the one nature or the other. I could not wrestle indefinitely - I knew I would be the one who got killed.
I was, at times, tempted to deny the whole thing and even entertained ideas that religion was a scam and that all this guilt trip I was having was an artifical psychological condition. Most of my classmates were of such a persuasion and asking for their advice gave the predictably unhelpful result. Most advised I adopt a sinful lifestyle and join with them in their partying - most had lost their virginity. None of them seemed to know where they were going. I at least had my Saviour.
I went back to Grace Baptist Church to worship. The contact with fellow Christians helped. The first Sunday Pastor O'Reilly preached a good sermon and for a while I found solace. He reminded us that charity is the greatest (1 Cor.13:13) and was the sure sign of a Christian. I meditated on love. I thought of Stan and his wives one by one and asked the Lord to help me love them, and when I did I felt an inrushing of the Spirit. If it was so easy to love them, why was it so easy to hate them also? I told my feelings to be quiet and began to look at the whole thing objectively. I recalled what Stan and the others had taught me and determined that I would check everything up in the Bible. If could keep a Bible-focus I would be alright.
When not doing college work I spent all my time in the Bible. I cut out the feelings I had - both the love and the hate - and decided I would let the Word of the Lord be my arbitrator. In pauses this deep, deep longing would come and my mind would wander back to Raj - then I'd remember Molly - but who was Molly? Who was this woman I had demonised in my mind? No, I had to keep her out of the picture. I remembered Stan's warm embrace and I wanted to be there again. I remembered them all - they kept flooding back into my mind. I couldn't concentrate.
I pushed my Bible aside and went out to the movies. I don't even remember what it was I saw - some romance, but it was all so fake and fleshy. I drifted into the world of monogamy and yearned for a one-woman man. A one-woman man - hadn't I read that in one of my Bibles?
After the film I rushed back to my apartment on Campus and thumbed through my Bible. I'm was sure it was in Timothy. There it was:
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife..." (1 Tim.3:2, KJV).
"Aha!" I exclaimed triumphantly! "I knew it!" I saw a cross reference:
"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife..." (v.12).
But what was Stan? He claimed to be the Pastor of his family, and a Bishop was a pastor or an Elder according to my Greek lexicon. So Stan was an adulterer, plain and simple!
I started looking at the cross-references in my Bible. My Baptist commentary said:
"Both bishops and deacons (1 Timothy 3:12) must be monogamous and permanent in their marriages, in accord with God's primeval command, as reinforced by Christ (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-8)".
Right. That made sense.
The next day I went into the theological faculty at College and asked to use their library. I was determined to arm myself so well that Stan wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I started working through the commentaries.
"lit. 'a man of one woman'. Four meanings have been attributed to the words: (a) The presbyter is not to be a Christianized Jew, who, in accordance with the law of Moses, had previously taken two wives".
Uh oh, what does that mean? I read on.
"(b) he is not to take a second wife after the death of the first. (c) He is not to marry again while his divorced wife lives. (d) He is to be faithful to his wife, 'a man of one woman,' and 'keep himself only unto her so long as they both should live', whether it were a first or a second wife."
Gee, which one was right? I wondered to myself
"The last is probably the right exposition, as set forth by Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret. In any case the presbyter or bishop is contemplated as a married man." (The One Volume Bible Commentary).
'Probably' the right answer. Doesn't he know? How can there be four possible meanings? It was the first possibility that confused me. Is he saying that Pastors couldn't be Jewish converts solely because the Law of Moses permits more than one wife? I thought the Gospel was for Jew and Gentile and God made no distinction between them. And didn't Paul say that all those who become believers were adopted into Israel? It sounded to me as the commentator was trying to explain something away by blaming the Jews and the Law of Moses in some way. But what of the other explanations? Two of them suggest it isn't even a question of monogamy vs. polygamy but about being faithful to one's first wife, or the one who was alive.
I looked for another commentary which said pretty well the same thing. David Stern's remarks interested me:
"My own view is that the phrase "husband of one wife" allows for single or married pastors and allows remarriage after being widowered or after divorce for either of the two specified reasons. But my rendering, "faithful to his wife", reflects my belief that Sha'ul's point here is not whether a leader may or must marry (or how many times), but the importance of his fidelity in marriage." (Jewish New Testament Commentary).
"My own view", "my rendering", "my belief" - "My, my, my," I thought to myself, "doesn't anybody know? And what about the word "one" - what right does he have to drop it? He's just giving his own subjective opinion!"
Then I remembered Stan saying something in his book about this passage having nothing to do with how many wives a pastor should have but with matrimonial faithfulness. He had argued that Paul's thrust was that the pastor must be faithful to his first wife as opposed to one wife. There was nothing for it, I'd have to check out the Greek for "one" and see. It seemed to me all I was reading was personal opinion and interpretation of something ambiguous.
I got a hold of Zodhiates' Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible and quite by accident turned to chapter 2 in First Timothy thinking I was in chapter 3 and read: "I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men" (KJV). The word "first" was underlined and I remembered something about Stan saying in his book that "one wife" should be translated "first wife", implying that a pastor had to be faithful to his first wife before taking on any more - he couldn't just dump her. Zodhiates had "first" numbered as 4412 so I thought I'd check his Greek concordance: "4412 prótón, neut. of 4413 (prótós) as adv. (with or without 3588; firstly (in time, place, order, or importance): before, at the beginning, chiefly, (at, at the) first (of all)."
I thought to myself, if Paul used prótón in 1 Timothy 3:2 the issue is settled in Stan's favour. I hurried over to the next chapter, but Zodhiates hadn't marked the word. Bummer! I checked verse 12 - no such luck! I got irritated with the man. Then I noticed he had written a commentary. He gave the same old arguments and opinions as the other theologians but added:
"One of the meanings of this expression, but not the principal one, is that the bishop or the deacon should not be married to more than one wife simultaneously."
How many meanings could there be to a simple expression?
"The expression mias gunaikos is known in Greek grammar as an attributive genitive, which is equivalent to an adjective, and would have been better translated as "a one-woman's husband", not a ladies' man, in other words. The total context speaks of the moral conduct of the bishop and the deacon. He should be one totally dedicated to his wife and not be flirtatious. Paul brings out the same thought in the similar passage in Tit.1:6 where the expression is exactly the same, except as pertaining to a woman that she could be one man's woman, not flirting with other men."
I thought about the logic of this. If the primary issue is that the bishop isn't a flirt, then what would that have to do with either monogamy or polygamy? A polygamous bishop would be expected not to flirt either - to "flirt" meaning "to behave or act amorously without emotional committment". Stan never flirted with me - he didn't even make romantic overtures to me! He left everything in the hands of the Lord. What Zohiades seemed to be saying was that a monogamous man wouldn't make romantic gestures to other women because he would be irrevocably committed to one woman because of the monogamy limitation. But is that what Paul was saying? Paul was concerned about morality. Polygamy was never immoral in the Law otherwise God would have legislated for something immoral, and Paul says that the Law is good and holy. Sheesh! What are these guys up to?? A polygamist would be faithful to all his wives!
But the problem was that the word was mias and not prótós - that meant the word had to be "one" and not "first". Stan had lost. The bishop had to be a "one-woman's husband" just as a wife had to be a "one man's woman". I closed the Bible and gave a deep sigh of relief and at the same time sorrow. But something was still niggling me. I had to check up all the words where mias was found. If they were all translated "one" then the case was settled.
I asked for a book containing every word of the Bible with its Greek and Hebrew renderings. The librarian returned with a huge book that weighed a ton and I started my search. I looked under "one" - feminine, mia. There were the passages in Titus and 1 Timothy, and lots of others. I looked up "first" - arché, proteron, próton, prótos, and......MIA!!! There it was, in Titus 3:10 - "A man that is an heretick after the first (mia) and second admonition reject" (KJV). It had to mean "first" because "one and second" wouldn't make sense. That meant that mia could mean either "one" or "first", just as Stan had said. So how did the translators know which translation to use?
I went back to the desk.
"Excuse me, but is there anyone here that can understand Greek?"
The librarian looked suspiciously at me.
"You could ask Professor Dewar, he's just leaving the library now," she said pointing at a tall lanky man heading for the revolving door.
"Professor, do you have two minutes?" I asked hopefully. He stopped in his tracks and turned to look at me.
"I guess," he replied, "how can I help you?"
I showed him what I'd been researching. "How can a translator know which English word to use if the original Greek can mean more than one thing and the context doesn't clearly indicate which should be used.?"
"You can't," he said. "You just have to use your common sense and apply your knowledge of the subject matter from what we know about history and social customs."
"So mia gunaikos could mean either "one" or "first"?"
"Yes, I suppose so, but everyone agrees it means "one"." He paused: "Are you one of my majors? You're not Cherrie, the girl writing a thesis on..."
I interrupted him, chuffed that he could have mistaken me for a Greek scholar when until today I hadn't known a word of Greek: "No, sir. Just doing some private research."
He peered over his glasses, I thanked him for his help, and he left.
I was elated. But now the hunt was really on. I went home and got out my notes and tried to piece what was going on. I returned to Zodhiates' translation and substituted "first" for "one": "a first woman's husband". Would that make sense? Simply stated, a bishop or deacon would be faithful to his first wife whether he had only one wife or lots. Stan's first wife had left him but he remained true to her and sought to win her back. He demonstrated that he was a "first woman's husband", that he didn't dump anyone no matter how rottenly they might treat him. And that was consistent with the Law of Moses which said that a man was bound to his wife and couldn't get rid of her unless she committed adultery, or substitute her for a younger, prettier wife - he had to take care of both of them! That's what had happened to Isabel - she had left him but remained chaste, and as soon as she wanted to come home, the door was open for her.
After that discovery I re-read Stan's book. I couldn't argue against it. He had remained true to the Bible. There was nothing in the Bible that forbade polygamy, neither in the Old or New Testaments. In fact, monogamy and polygamy weren't, I concluded, directly discussed in the New Testament at all. Stan was in the clear.
Which left me with my own dark heart. I forced myself to think logically, forcing my feelings to be quiet. I could carry on believing the Bible and Stan could defend polygamy - now it was simply a question of getting right with God. I could argue that polygamy was not for me but I couldn't deny what had happened at Raj - here my heart proclaimed polygamy and my mind rebelled, but that rebellion was at an end. The issue wasn't polygamy at all - it was naked jealosy.
I felt ashamed. Why hadn't I felt jealous over Stan's other wives? Why only this unknown English woman? As I analysed the situation, dismissing the excuse that she was "unknown" whereas I knew the others - after all, Stan seemed to have chosen all the others beautifully, so why should he make a mistake now? Maybe he wouldn't even choose her! Conclusion: I had wanted to be the centre of attention. I was selfish, egotistical. That was the problem.
Now that I had a handle on my problem, my work at college picked up. Six weeks had gone by and I hadn't heard a word from Stan, nor had I made any attempt to contact him. I had concluded that he had written me off as unsuitable and I was too scared...and proud...to approach him. Not until December did I get a short but moving letter from Sarah-Jane wishing me a blessed Hanukkah. I tore it open.
May our beloved Lord Yah'shua bless you and keep you this Hanukkah as we remember the Light of the world.
We think, talk, and pray for you every day and miss you terribly. You filled us with your gentle love and sharp wit and made a lasting impression. We really do hope that you will come back in the spring and share in the happiness which we all feel for one another and for the Lord.
Stan misses you a lot and sends you his love. Please write when you have a moment.
I choked up inside as I read these words. "Dear Sarah-Jane, how I miss you." I lowered my head and prayed quietly: "O Lord, take me home..."
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
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