The Joy and Dilemma of Motherhood
On September 12th, Sarah-Jane gave birth to a little fair-haired boy whom Stan named Shallum, which in the Hebrew means "recompenser", because he was a reward for her patience. We were all thrilled to pieces, none more so than Sarah-Jane, of course.
By this time we had put together a little surgery room in the mansion which Władysław had helped us set up so that we could have medical facilities commensurate with our economy and needs. We had discovered, somewhat belatedly, that Michäela Åkerstedt had once trained to be a nurse but had given it up to marry Bengt and work on his farm. She had not qualified but had completed over two-thirds of the course. When Stan learned about this, he at once encouraged her to go back to nursing school even though some twenty or so years had elapsed since her first training. Using Władysław's connections we arranged for her to continue her training at Borlänge with a view to specialising in midwifery. It was there that she had met a young twenty-two year-old trainee nurse from Pori in western Finland called Hanna Haavikko of mixed Swedish-Finnish extraction whom she befriended and shared the Gospel with. Hanna became a regular visitor to Kadesh-Naphtali and seemed fascinated by our community from the beginning. She completed her training in the summer after which she replaced Ingrid as our visiting midwife, Ingrid moving to Västerås with her husband who had changed jobs. She would deliver all five of Stan's latest children.
Anna gave birth on November 6th to a little boy called Lech, and Andreea to a second girl on December 20th called Filippa. A lot of cooing went on in the Królewiec household and the children were all thoroughly excited with the three latest arrivals. Stan was as proud as a father could be and hardly knew which one to cuddle. I have a photograph of him with all three on his lap sitting on the sofa grinning like a Cheshire cat that has just got the cream off the milk, with Sarah-Jane, Anna and Andreea standing behind him. I shall always treasure that picture. All three births were without complications and all were delivered at Kadesh-Naphtali. The Lord truly blessed us.
Hanna had been raised as member of the Worldwide Church of God but became disillusioned with it along with her parents after that organisation began its shift to classical Protestantism after the death of its founder and leader, Herbert W. Armstrong. Her family had wandered from denomination to denomination unable to find a spiritual home. She had arrived in Borlänge a year before meeting Michäela but had only found a Lutheran Church to worship in and had felt very cut off spiritually. Meeting Michäela in June had therefore come as a breath of fresh air and she had at once taken to her easy-going and friendly manner. Though getting to Kadesh-Naphtali was an 80 km drive that took her the best part of an hour-and-a-half, she soon became a regular attender at our Sabbath-day meetings on Saturday morning. As she settled in more and more with us she started spending the whole weekend at Kadesh-Naphtali, staying overnight at the Åkerstedts.
This had been very much to Karl's liking who was not slow to appreciate her beauty though found her Finnish temprement, which is radically different from the Swedish one, hard to come to grips with, notwithstanding the Swedish blood on her mother's side. Maria Królewieca did not like this weekly "intrusion", nor the fact that Hanna would be in the same house together with Karl in whom she was becoming seriously interested. Karl, however, had maintained a romantic distance because of Maria's worldly tendencies and was awaiting signs of spiritual maturing before encouraging her in the direction of romance. Karl had also made it plain that he was seriously considering polygamy which Maria was dead set against inspite of her upbringing in a polygamous family. There was, therefore, a kind of Mexican stand-off between the two. But Maria was determined to have him and it was probably this stubbornness that kept her at Kadesh-Naphtali ... for her own good, I dare say.
Karl's amorous approaches were not, however, reciprocated by Hanna which created a triangle of tension that showed no signs of being solved. It was fortunate, therefore, that Hanna should start befriending Sonja, and after a couple of months of visiting eventually accepted an invitation in August to lodge at the Engströms at weekends instead. It was there that she finally realised that our community practiced polygamy, though she had been suspicious of it earlier, which caused no small stirring within her, and she began to feel uneasy and uncomfortable at the Engströms around two plural wives. Though Sonja explained the patriarchal lifestyle to Hanna she did not meet with much success in persuading her of its holy character. It was fortunate therefore that she at that time befriended Bente Nilsson who was ten years her senior but still young enough to be able to identify with her. And so it was that for three weeks Hanna spent her weekends at the Nilssons where she settled down, as it were, glad to be around their children within a monogamous setting. Over a period of time she gradually grew to accept that some families were polygamous and some monogamous and simply left it at that.
Stan's preaching held her enthralled, as it did so many true seekers, and it was primarily this which kept her coming to Kadesh-Naphtali again and again. There had been a two week absence during the Christmas period when she had returned home to Finland to her family for two weeks. It was on her return in January that I started to get to know Hanna myself and she would spend alot of time with me and started opening up about her past, and her hopes and fears. This was only two weeks before my own birth so she found this a convenient way to monitor me at the same time.
I was left with the very clear impression after our first Friday evening together (for she had by then decided to come after work on Fridays so as make the weekend last as long as possible) that she was an earnest seeker after truth. Though the Armstrongites had inculcated her with many false doctrines, there were many things about that Church which impressed me, not least of which was their observance of the Israelite festivals, their keen sense of economic stewardship and morality, and their zeal for evangelism. When Tkeach succeeded Armstrong he had reversed most of the Israelite observances and moved the denomination into mainsteam Protestantism, causing the Church to split a hundred ways. The only other Sabbatarians her parents had found were the Seventh Day Adventists, for there was not the same variety of groups in Finland as there were in the United States. They had ended up fellowshipping with the Adventists a while but became disillusioned with them in a number of areas. Learning of the Nilsson's and Åkerstedt's baptism in the SDA Church had helped her make the transition to our beliefs relatively easily. Her family had eventually given up with the Adventists and started their own house fellowship, like so many other disillusioned WCG members. It had not been successful for they were unable to attract others who were interested. Her father was not much of a theologian or a leader, had held no ministerial position in the Armstrong Church, and so lacked the giftedness to organise and push forward something new. The family had effectively stagnated. But they worshipped together every Saturday and held regular Bible study meetings.
Hanna had written home and shared much of what she had discovered about our Order, which had interested her parents, but she was careful not to discuss polygamy which she was sure would completely turn them off. She was also sitting on the fence herself over the issue which had caused her to delay being baptised.
By the second Friday that she came to talk with me I was close to birth and feeling very, very tired. She had wanted to talk to me but I had not felt very much up to it. Something was agitating her. I asked if we could talk about it after the evening assembly the next day but she was reluctant to wait so long.
"Let me have a rest after supper, and then we can talk, OK?" I suggested
She nodded. Every evening the whole community gathered together for a fellowship meal and a short service. One of these was, of course, the Sabbath, the day of the week varying dependind on the first new moon of every month. On the Sabbath evening we would partake of the most important meal of the week, the Sabbath Meal. It would be in our large dining room this week. The Engströms prepared one week, the Nilssons and Åkerstedts the next, and the Królewiecs for the next four weeks, making a six-week cooking cycle. The room was always jam-packed but the atmosphere was wonderful. When new members joined the colony, we would move into the Conference Centre Dining Room which could cater up to a hundred people. With Hanna there were now 31 guests on Sabbath night, a major catering operation. Of course many others helped to clear away afterwards, especially if the cooks had small children to care for. Organisation was of prime importance in such a large community and it was not before long that three women were assigned kitchen duties on that day. We were fast moving towards the threesome team in our own home alone!
Everyone assembled at 6 p.m. and sat around the table dressed in their best clothes, the emphasis being on white. Stan rang a small golden bell and everyone fell silent. He stood up and the candles that filled the room were lit and the electric lights turned off by those whose responsibility it was to do so that day. It was like entering into another world of dancing shadows and flickering lights. I could see that Hanna was mermerised by the beauty of it all. It was one of my most treasured moments of each week. The solemnity and ritual of the occasion spun an other-worldly atmosphere which I could have drunk in for hours on end.
Once the candles were lit Stan summonsed the three other Patriarchs - Björn, Lars and Bengt - to stand up and face him, and with uplifted hands said: "May Yahweh bless you and make you like fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in Yah'shua's Name. Amen."
After they had sat down, he then bade all his sons to stand up and face him, or if they were too small, to be lifted up by their mothers. As they did so, he raised his hands and said out aloud: "May Yahweh bless you and make you like Ephraim and Manasseh, in Yah'shua's Name. Amen" and the boys sat down again. Then Björn did the same to his boy Jakob as he was held by his mother Misha, Lars to Petter and Johannes, and Bengt to Karl. Then Stan signalled for the daughters to stand up or be lifted up, and said with upraised hands: "May Yahweh bless you and make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, in Yah'shua's Name. Amen." The other Patriarchs followed suit in their turn as well.
Next the wives all stood up and faced their husbands as Stan read from the Bible:
"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from, afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears Yahweh is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate" (Prov.31:10.31).
A Wife of Noble Character
Then a wife takes it in turn each week addressing the husband. On this occasion it was Suszana:
"Blessed is the man who fears Yahweh, who finds great delight in His commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures for ever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered for ever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in Yahweh. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures for ever; his horn will be lifted high in honour. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing" (Ps.112).
There were other scriptural combinations which were occasionally used too.
Stan then blessed Yahweh and the Sabbath meal and all sat down and feasted. The Sabbath supper, at the end of the Sabbath day, is always the best meal of the week which all the children look forward to enormously. The Sabbath is the one day in the week they are allowed candy. After the meal Stan gave a closing prayer. If Stan was ever away during the Sabbath, Björn would take his place as patriarch over the whole assembly, and his (Stan's) eldest present son would then face Stan's wives and bless the children, a responsibility that fell upon Władysław when he was there. Little Stanisław, Jr. would courageously do it when Władysław couldn't make it.
Hanna sat next to me the during the whole meal and joined in small talk but was obviously waiting for the meal to be over so she could talk with me at length about more personal things. We retired to my room and closed the door and sat in a couple of arm chairs. She leaned towards me with a very serious look on her face.
"Hélène, you're about my age and I think I can talk to you openly - do you mind?"
"Of course not," I replied, "feel free to say what is in your heart," wondering what was about to come.
She shuffled a bit in her chair, and put her hands together. It was then I noticed how beautiful she was and so elegantly dressed in a white embroidered blouse and blue silk dress that reached down to her ankles. Her fingers were long like Suszana's, though not quite as tapered, and bespoke a careful and sensitive nature. The Finns, I learned, had a reputation for being bad-tempered and indolent, and had a sense of humour that no-one else seemed to understand, but she did not seem at all like that. Perhaps the mixture of Finnish and Swedish blood had a unique effect on her genes, I don't know. She did not smile a lot, but when she did, she radiated light all around her. Now she was serious - dead serious. And her questions took me completely by surprise.
"What if all this is true?" she said staring deeply in my eyes. "What if you really are God's people? Would you realise what it was you had?"
I didn't know what to say - what could I say to such a question? I found myself speechless but that did not seem to bother her in the least and she continued. I had to continually remind myself that she came from an Armstrongite "one-and-only-true-church" mindframe similar to the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.
"What if polygamy is from God? And what if this colony you are building is a model of the world to come? Then the Millennium will be completely unlike anything other Christians groups and churches are teaching!" she said emphatically and lifted her head triumphantly.
"Er, yes," I hesitated, "I suppose it will be." I was still speechless, not following her drift, if it could even be called that..
"If what you are doing is true, then you can't have Christianity without polygamy, because it wouldn't be true Christianity any more."
She stopped and seemed to be staring beyond me at some distant scene.
"It hit me the other day - and I was reminded of it again when your husband blessed the other patriarchs to be like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at supper. I remembered that Paul said that believers are the sons of Abraham, and Jesus taught that we should do the works of Abraham. Well, he had at least three wives, didn't he?" She waited for my reply.
"Yes, he did," I replied, more sure of myself now.
"Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah."
Again she paused.
"Paul said that Sarah was like the New Jerusalem, and Hagar was like the old. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - Abraham and Jacob were polygamists, Isaac was a monogamist. In a way, Isaac was the man in the middle, wasn't he? I mean, he was just a bridge between Abraham and Jacob - Abraham started it all off, and Jacob created the twelve tribes."
I listened fascinated not knowing where she was leading to. Her mind didn't work like the others I knew.
"Well, don't you see?" she said, her eyes flashing with enthusiasm.
"All blessings are in the Name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - He's never called the God of Moses or the God of Adam, is He?"
No, I supposed He wasn't.
"He starts with polygamy and ends with polygamy, but the two polygamies are bridged by monogamy."
I really was confused at this stage. She started getting excited again.
"Isaac's a funny sort of man," she insisted.
"Was he?" I thought to myself. "I always thought he was perfectly normal."
"Isaac doesn't fit. His name means 'laughter'. Abram means 'father of a height'. Jacob means 'following after' or 'supplanter'. Abram and Jacob had their names changed - Isaac didn't. Abram was changed to Abraham which means a 'father of a multitude', and Jacob was changed to Israel which means 'ruling with God.' The monogamist Isaac didn't have a name change - he stuck with monogamy, and that's a big laugh, isn't it?"
My head was spinning. What was she talking about?? Was she teasing me? She seemed serious enough.
Hanna seemed to grow a little impatient with my slowness. "Don't you see? As Christians we are adopted as sons and daughters of the 'Father of a Multitude', and as Christians we are grafted into 'Ruling with God'. Are we adopted as sons and daughters of Isaac? Do we become grafted into Laughter? Sarah's laughter was in disbelief. Isaac the monogamist's name literally means 'disbelief'!"
The light slowly began to dawn on me. Goodness, this girl might have stumbled on a secret that none of us - not even Stan - had ever seen before.
"It's amazing," I exclaimed. "What you're saying is that polygamist Patriarchs are fathers of a multitude of seed and will rule with God. They are Yahweh's millennial leaders, just as Stan has always taught. We must tell Stan, Hanna!"
She seemed to go into a panic: "Oh, no, no, no! Not now, not now....." Her voice seemed to drift away.
"Why not?" I asked, incredulous. "What an unsusual young woman," I thought to myself.
"And you mustn't tell him either - you must promise me, please!" Her voice rose at the end, as though this were some terrible secret that Stan was not supposed to hear about. I felt as though I was expected to undertake an unjust oath.
Hanna seemed nervous. "This is so very difficult. You must trust me..." She began to fiddle with a ring on her left hand.
"Alright. Well, you know my name means 'grace' and that the Biblical Hannah was married to Elkanah which means 'God is possessing'?"
I didn't...as usual.
"His other wife, Penninah, wasn't very nice - her name means 'coral', by the way. She was hard and prickly - nasty to Hannah because she had chidlren and Hannah didn't, a bit like Hagar was towards Sarah. But Hannah was a prophetess - she's the first person ever to mention the word 'messiah' in the Bible, isn't she?"
I didn't answer because I hadn't a clue, but I took her word for it.
"Well, your husband Stanisław has an old Polish name meaning 'camp glory'. Your name Hélène is Greek and means 'the bright one.' You're the Bright One in the Camp Glory. So I'm telling you because you'll understand."
I must admit that after this conversation - if it can be called that - I thought that Hanna had a screw loose in her head. What I didn't realise was that she had fallen in love with Stan at first sight - or to be more accurate, 'first hearing', for it was when she first heard him preach that she realised he was the man she wanted. But like all women raised in a monogamy-only Church, she had huge inner conflicts, and didn't know how to handle the situation. It had always been her dream to marry a minister in the Worldwide Church of God and she had turned down every advance made to her because none had been ministers. That was why she wouldn't even look at poor Karl. I knew that Armstrongite biblical exegesis was a little weird and it seemed as though Hanna's scriptural interpretation was in the same mold, especially the bit about herself, Stan and me. I eventually figured out that she was struggling to find some way to approach Stan on the subject, concluded wrongly that I was somehow Stan's No.1 wife, the 'bright one' in his 'camp of glorious wives', and though she could somehow make her approach through me. Yet her observations about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were fascinating, if a little unorthodox. I became convinced after a while that there was, after all, something in them.
I have learned a lot over the years about handling those coming out of different cults, that you cannot change their thinking patterns in a day. Much patience is needed and a lot of saturation with the true Word of God. The bigger picture, the doctrines that mould your soul, take a long time to percolate in. Stan had been patient with me and I, in my turn, had to learn to be patient with those coming from different backgrounds. The Holy Spirit acts by attraction, not by compulsion - Yah'shua said He would draw men to Him, not reel them in on a fishing line with hook and bait. I could see that Hanna was a very sensitive type. Though her thinking was a bit off beam, I sensed a genuineness about her. There was love in her heart and that was the most important ingredient of all. All she would need was time.
Poor Hanna was very anxious about my reaction to her comments. As I said, I didn't imagine for one moment that marriage to Stan had been in my mind, so I suggested that we leave the matter and talk about it again the following week and she could then decide how she wanted to take this further. I promised I wouldn't tell Stan for now but that I couldn't keep the promise indefinitely because of the transparent relationship we had. She agreed, asking me to keep it to myself until at least the New Year. Evidently she thought that her intent could be made known in an agreeable way by that time.
We never did make our follow-up conversation because she went away to Finland for her Christmas holiday and by the time she arrived back in Sweden on January 3rd. I was going into labour. She was summonsed from Borlänge almost as soon as she got back to see me through the birth. Kryztina was with me most of the time, bless her soul, taking it in turns with Kasia, with Stan dropping by every now and then inbetween assignments. You can never really know how painful labour is until you have actually gone through it, no matter how many times you may have heard about it from other women. I remembered thinking in pauses between contractions about our spiritual beginning in Christ which is likened to birth: why did Yah'shua compare spiritual birth with physical birth? I concluded two things from those brief meditations both before the pain took hold of me, and also after the birth: (1) That once the birth starts, it will come to completion as a matter of course; and (2) it must be very difficult. I thought about the nine-month long gestation period, the anxious waiting, and then the speed at which labour started.The passage from one world - from the womb to the outside world - isn't easy, yet it happens without the baby really knowing much about it - it's the one giving birth that suffers - Christ's suffering for us. I suppose we'll never know how the baby actually feels about it.
Tom Holtz Królewiec was born at 3 p.m. on January 4th without complications though I required some stitching up afterwards. Tom, I want to mention here, is not the abbreviation for Thomas, which is a Greek name meaning 'twin', but a Hebrew word meing 'upright' or 'integrity', a nice solution to the problem of finding Hebrew names that would not stick out too much in a gentile culture, where obviously biblical names were becoming less and less popular. Scandinavians were at this time reverting back to old pagan names like Tor just as Americans were besotted with New Age ones like Crystal, Maia, Nirvana, and the like.
One of the problems I faced when getting pregnant was explaining what had happened to my parents who still did not know I was married. I had returned to Kansas City once since emmigrating to Europe and had had a happy reunion with family and friends. They were all surprised by the changes that had taken place within me and especially by the loss of my American accent which I was starting to pick up quickly again after only a matter of days. They all said I had spiritually matured and their witness was reassuring.
I told Stan that as soon as I was pregnant I would have to inform them that I was married so as not to give the appearence of evil - that is, of getting pregnant outside wedlock as they conceived of it. As Baptists, of course, wedlock meant a state-sanctioned marriage, which was not a doctrine we accepted. Marriage, we believed, was a family affair and had nothing to do with the government except for tax purposes. And so, like all of Stan's other wives, we left the state out of it ... assuming it would ever have let us enter into more than one marriage contract in the first place!
I had postponed this difficult issue until the very last. The moment it had been agreed that two weeks should be given over to me to get pregnant, Stan and I began to knock our heads together. The best solution we had found to date, which did not involve disclosing our polygamy, had been the one we had worked out with Andreea's family in Romania. So long as Stan's polygamy did not become public currency, the solution would remain in tact. It was a far from ideal solution but was the best in the circumstances. I still had my mother's health to consider and I wanted the news of my marriage to be a joyful affair and not a cause for mourning and stress. If only the Christian world would wake up and just accept what God's Word says! Hanna's Abraham-Isaac-Jacob theory, which incidentally Stan was suspicious of when he first heard it, though became more sympathetic to much of it later, played on my mind.
From initially seeing Isaac's name as something negative, as Hanna had suggested, I saw it more as a prophetic fulfilment of Ishmael's mockery (Gen.21:9) though Stan pointed out that the name in all probability had a dual prophetic fulfilment in the disbelief of his mother, Sarah, at getting pregnant, as well as the wicked laughter of the cursed seed of Hagar. Stan did not like the idea of Isaac being seen in negative terms because he was undoubtedly a great man - weak men do not earn the appelation "the God of Isaac". He was always against attempts by some polygamists to look down on monogamy as something negative as a means of justifying their own polygamy. Monogamy was, in any case, as important a part of marriage as polygamy was, and the majority of the human race could never be expected to practice anything else. Better, he urged, to see monogamy as a condition of the pre-millennial world, which was defective only in the sense that there was as yet no proper separation of the wheat from the tares. Isaac therefore represented a bridge between two ideal patriarchal dispensations in which it was important that other processes mediated by Yahweh take place. Hanna eventually accepted Stan's modification of her theory which she conceeded had been a little off-beam at the beginning.
In studying the missing biblical Book of Jasher I discovered that Isaac had not been an ignorant 'victim' of the intended human sacrifice but had given his consent. If this was a true account, then it certainly elevated the spiritual stature of Isaac considerably. Like his mother Sarah, his wife Rebekah was barren for a long time, a full twenty years. The same process was to repeat itself with Rachel, wife of Jacob. All three women were deliberately kept barren in order to demonstrate Yahweh's sovereignty, showing that He is not limited by natural conception processes, the apex of this demonstration of divine power being the virgin conception of the infant Yah'shua. In some respects it looked to me as though Isaac's monogamy was in some way a necessary restriction to sort out the mess of Hagar and Ishmael, yet even in monogamy the problem persisted when two sons were born who were antagonistic towards one another. And like his father, Isaac stooped to deception in order to prevent his wife being violated by an amorous pagan. Jacob was the fruit of all this deception and antagonism, and was himself a great deceiver. The curse was only broken when he finally wrestled with his carnal nature, depicted as a fight with God Himself, and overcame. From thence he was no longer Jacob the deceiver, but Israel the prince.
I began to see in this picture of three generations a means by which deficient polygamy is redeemed. Both Abraham and Jacob made errors in their polygamy - Abraham yielding to pressure from his wife Sarah to hurry up and get the promised seed through a concubine in an attempt to bypass Yahweh's Plan, and Jacob refusing to understand that marriage has as its purpose not just the gratification of personal desires but the birthing of an elect seed. In his carnality Jacob could only see Rachel, whom he loved more than Leah who was forced upon him by an act of trickery by his father-in-law, Laban. Polygamy in Christ, I saw, repairs the defects of these early polygamists - it first of all accepts that marriage is by providence, which was the example of Isaac and Rebekah. It corrects the false idea that only monogamy is acceptable - in the Genesis story Isaac and Rebekah quarrelled over Jacob and showed anything but the kind of marital unity that is the ideal of monogamy. There were other major faults in that marriage which I will not go into here. Polygamy in Christ also accepts that a life in the Spirit must take precendence over our own physical chemistry - the attraction of the sexes - that God brings together the most unlikely men and women who subsequently discover, to their surprise, just how suited they are to each other after all, another aspect of marriage by providence. Christian Polygamy is not, therefore, initiated by carnal attraction but by divine prompting. And I concluded finally that that was why the Królewiec family was so successful...at least, now, for Stan admitted that he embarked on his career of marriage with anything but wholly spiritual thoughts in mind. We are all initially young and naïve.
Most Christian commentators see in Isaac's marriage the ideal, with Abraham and Jacob, great though they were, participating in abberant forms of wedlock which God winked at at a time of great ignorance. Some, like my former Baptist pastor, saw polygamy as being permissable simply because it was culturally acceptable at the time, as though culture decided what was right and wrong!
But I saw Isaac's monogamy as divine therapy - an attempt to correct the defects of the earlier polygamous marriage of his father which demonstrated the disaster polygamy can be if not lived properly. Not everyone in the family agreed with me, and if Stan did, he never showed it. He preferred to remain silent over issues he wasn't sure about, or which he thought wouldn't profit from discussion. Jacob's polygamy was an improvement in that he both married within the covenant and didn't try to pre-empt Yahweh, but it was a failure in that he, at least at first, showed partiality towards his wives. The fruit of such partiality was seen in the treatment of Joseph, son of Jacob's favourite wife, who had to suffer slavery, imprisonment and separation from those whom he loved. Even so, the Lord turned a disaster into a blessing, showing time and time again the Messianic principle that is so dear to His heart.
What I think is important in the Isaac-monogamy saga is the fact that monogamy is not a solution to sin, anymore than polygamy is itself a sin in the eyes of the monogamy-only mindframe. Isaac's monogamous marriage was still beset with the same kinds of problem as the marriages of his father and son Jacob. I believe, and Stan I know agrees with me in this, that Isaac was chosen to live a monogamous marriage in part to show us that the two forms of marriage - if 'forms' is the right word - do not preclude sin or trouble. Sin lies in people whether they are a part of monogamous or polygamous marriage. Isaac was deceived by Jacob and his wife Rebekah as much as Abraham deceived himself into believing the promised seed could come naturally through an Egyptian concubine or try to deceive Pharaoh and so save his own life by saying Sarah was his sister. Jacob deceived his brother and father.
Stan thought my view of the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob phenomenon was a more balanced and reasonable one than Hanna's who was in any case using a theological truth she had discovered to get into our family by the back door, as it were, because she was afraid to humble herself before the whole family. But more of that matter later.
We decided the only real options open to us was to approach the problem with my parents in the same way that we had done with Andreea's and leave the matter up to the Lord to sort it out, or to say absolutely nothing at all.. The main difference was that when Andreea announced her intention to marry she hadn't actually done so whereas I had been with Stan now for two years. I would probably end up lying when questioned more thoroughly about the marriage, which is the last thing I wanted to do. Furthermore, Mom and Dad weren't as poor as Andreea's and so had the possibility of visiting Sweden, and I could hardly turn them back. What would we do if they came? Pretend to be living monogamously in another house? The whole thing would be an outright deception. Stan felt that I had really left it too late now and I reluctantly had to agree with him.
If ever I experienced hell in polygamy this was it - not the actual polygamy itself but not being able to tell one's own parents for fear that it would would bring emotional turmoil and even physical death to them. What was worse was the fact that even though it was their own blindness and prejudice that prevented them from sharing in our joy that I nevertheless felt guilty- guilty for the pain I knew such a revelation would cause them. Then there was the possibility that they might persecute us and make the whole family suffer.
If I kept the whole matter a secret I would never be able to share their grandson with them. How would they feel if they ever discovered they had a grandchild but that I had concealed it from them? There was no solution - none at all!
I realised, of course, that all of these reactions and guilt-trips were no different from any number of differences I might have had with my parents. What if I'd become a Moslem, for example? That would have been just as bad though there would have been some hope that I could be converted back. But once you have got married and have a child, there's no turning of the clocks back. I realised that this was one of life's insoluble dilemmas. I also wondered how Stan would cope with his health if we were persecuted again? He had already been through a lot for us and for his faith. We were just unfortunate in the fact that we lived at a time, however, liberal, where a western society like the US had not made the psychological transition from monogamy-only to accepting polygamy. We knew that polygamy would be legalised eventuually and though that would help somewhat, no legislation ever changed a heart that passionately disagrees with something.
Whatever decision I made I would be the loser. If I chose not to say anything, I would still have to answer questions like: "Well, when are you going to marry and settle down, Hélène?" or "Haven't you met anyone since you've been in Europe whom you've been attracted to?" or similar questions. They might even start asking more embarrassing questions. I didn't know how long they would live either - I might have to maintain the illusion of singleness for another 20 years for all I knew.
Stan sympathised all the way - he had been through this seven times before.
"My love, I cannot give you the comfort or hope that I so desperately want in regard to your parents," he had said kindly. "You know that I always tell you things the way they are, no matter how painful..."
I knew. I always knew where I stood with Stan. Sometimes I wished he would create a fantasy for me but in the end I realised that this wasn't what I really wanted. I was committed to Truth, no matter in what form it came, whether it brought joy or pain in its wake. Stan might take things slowly and tread carefully over sensitive issues but if we asked him directly what he felt we would always get a straight answer. He admitted that he did not want to say things directly always - he would rather have everything nice, peaceful and harmonious - that it was a struggle for him to say something he knew would hurt.
To give you an idea of the sort of man Stan was, Suszana once told me an amusing as well as horrifying story about him when he was courting her. Stan was deeply in love with Suszana and had wanted her with every fibre of his being yet even then as a young man he had called a spade a spade.
"We were sitting down together on his sofa in his flat in Białystok. He had been courting me for some months but I was not that interested. I loved him but not romantically - but he was crazy about me. He pursued me relentlessly, with the kind of zeal that is peculiarly Stan's ... you know, when he's made his mind up about something, he does not rest until the object has been reached."
Oh, yes, we all knew the passionate Stan. And yet he did not show it in any great display of romance. He would buy flowers, write cards, and say nice things, but he was not the sort to go overboard - he was clearly no Latin like Andreea, though latterly Andreea had begun to bring this out in him a little, which was a new experience for all of us. Yes, I know, the French in me was of that disposition but it seemed well balanced by the Germanic.
Suszana continued: "He put his left arm around me, and looked me deeply in the eyes. I knew he was desperately in love with me, and I was expecting some passionate profession of that love for me in some flowery eulogy. What he said hit me harder than anything anyone had ever said to me, or since."
"What did he say?" we had asked almost jumping out of our seats, for several of us were chatting together.
Suszana blushed. He said in a quiet, controlled and utterly sincere tone: 'Suszana, you are one of the most selfish girls I have ever met in my life.' I was speechless. Those words went straight through me like a bolt of lightening. But I don't think afterwards they made too much of an impact on me because I was a self-centred young woman in those days, and Stan had seen right through me. If he had hoped to win my affection that was the last thing he should have said - indeed, no suitor should ever say such a thing to a worldly woman. But he did. And I never forgot it."
Yes, that was Stan alright. As far as worldliness was concerned, a complete and utter contradiction. But you always knew were you stood, and because you did, you felt really secure. Yes, that's how I would put it - SECURE. That's not to say that sometimes he didn't go over the mark of acceptable Christian conduct - like the rest of us, he would occasionally get carried away - but it is to say that he was, and is, transparent. That, at least, is how I felt about him.
Kasia did not feel that way, and some of the others occasionally felt the way she did. But it was inevitable that there were sides of him none of us knew, for whilst in this fleshy encasement we cannot know everything about our spouses. Some parts of us are never expressed, and others are, quite simply, inexpressible. Much in human beings is latent but never expressed in life because we never enter those situations that would enable those characteristics to be revealed. That must be expected. You think you know everything about a person but, as some of the others maintained, you don't. Perhaps my position derives more from faith than from knowledge and certainly the others would agree with me that one should always think the best of those you love. "Love covers a multitude of sins," Paul said, and that is surely how it should be.
Stan and I decided, after a lot of discussion, prayer and heart-wrenching not to tell my parents in the end. I don't know for sure still whether that was the right decision but it was the answer we kept on coming up with after weighing all the factors in the scales, as so many people had to be taken into consideration. Andreea felt bad about the decision for she naturally wished me to be in her happy situation though she knew only too well that everything could suddenly go sour. There is a point beyond which it is futile to keep on agonising over such questions because it only drains you of energy and destroys your inner peace. A decision has to be made and stuck with, even if it turns out to be the wrong one. In such circumstances, there is no absolute right or wrong - it's one of those notoriously dangerous and unhappy grey zones in life. A mature character learns how to live with them and not to allow itself to be weighed down by artifically- inflated guilt.
I knew there was the risk of going through the hell that Kryztina did. Stan knew it was coming because the Lord shown it to him in a vision. Everyone had suffered terribly. She considered the suffering to have been worth it even though her parents and family were firmly against polygamy and would never let Stan cross their threshhold. But they learned through regular visits that Kryztina was happy and at peace, which is the most important thing for the majority of parents. Her nominally Christian parents considered she was living in sin so the religious divide was complete. It did hurt occasionally though when her mother referred to Kryztina's God as "your God" as opposed to "the God" or just "God". It was a childish reaction on their part to be sure, but when you are hurting, childish, immature and illogical reactions must be expected. Stan had laboured long and hard to reason with them from the Scriptures but even he, for all his giftedness and anointing, could not persuade people, who imprisoned in their own traditions, against their will. He had learned many important lessons from that encounter which had been as painful for him as for everyone else.
"If people don't want to understand, they won't," he insisted and he was right. You can have the Scriptures under your belt, you can be the sweetest, most loving, most patient saint in the world, but if the person you are reasoning with doesn't want to know the truth, nothing will change them. Such is the simultaneous beauty and horror of free agency. Stan, ever the neat and tidy one who hates loose ends, had had to learn the hard way that earth is a far from perfect place where things rarely work out the way you want them to. Accepting that limitation and reality makes life a lot easier.
"The more sensitive and puritannical you are, the more you see the faults in yourself and in others until in the end you go stark raving mad," he said. "I just could not accept that a human being could not see the truth and I was, in my youth, prepared to verbally ring their necks to make them see the truth. As I have grown older, I have realised the futility of such idealism because it is based on the false notion that man can save himself - or worse, save his neighbour. Our duty is to plant the seed, water it, and let Yahweh take care of the rest. You can't force a seed to grow by yelling at it or angrily attacking the ground with a spade. The yelling is of no effect anyway and the spade is likely to destroy the seed or seedling. You just have to wait. You water the soil by being the best Christian you can - loving, forgiving, patient, and all the virtues Scripture teaches us to seek after - whilst at the same time being strict and not compromising. Today I accept that God does most of the work - our responsibility ends at a certain point. The wise man doesn't try to do God's job for him or he'll end up committing Sarah's error by seeking a solution from a false source."
The decision, then, was made and Stan insisted we live by it unless Yahweh should break through in a dramatic and unmistakable way and tell us to take another course. That enabled me to focus on the birth. In the end the Lord did show me how to share my joy of Tom with Mom and Dad - I simply wrote to them and said that a little boy called Tom had been born to a member of our Church and told him how wonderful he was. That way I was able to express my emotions in some way and convey to them my happiness at being where I was. I also told them about some of the other children without saying much about the parents. I learned to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. Though I could not tell them that they had a grandson and a son-in-law I could still tell them about some wonderful people whom I dearly loved in Christ and with which they could relate. That way I could be open and share bubbly, enthusiastic and free letters with them which I knew they enjoyed. As Christians they cared a lot about my Christian life and this proved to be a wonderful way to do it.
One problem, therefore, seemed to be solved for now. But what was worrying more now was Hanna. Something wasn't quite right.
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
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