Tag Archives: marriage

37. Grounded (hope)

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The last two days I’ve been laid even lower than normal by some difficult emotions. Empathetic angst goes straight to my poorly body, and even my zombified existence is harder than usual. Where on earth to find hope? But also during these two days, hope has been grounded in friends joining me in prayer for someone I love, and in the wonderful person to whom the above feet belong (he hates having his photo put up anywhere, so this is all of him I could get). He comforted me and said all the right things, reminded me that my empathy and general wobbly nature goes along with my creativity, and did not laugh when, as the radio got to a crescendo in Holst’s Mars, I stumbled into the kitchen after an extra sleep, my hair all over the place, my pjs askew, looking very unlike the god of war, to announce that the cat had been sick. This is how we do spiritual warfare in our house. He was and is just generally a great shoulder to lean on. I feel blessed in him, and his survival against great difficulties, and his tenacity and bad-ass stubbornness inspire me to hope. This, on top of his ability to somehow continue to support West Ham, show me there must be something worth hanging onto.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

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Veil of Tears 85: Polygamy

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Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah.” Genesis 25:1 NIV

Whatever you may think of the furore around same sex marriages, there is huge precedent in the Scripture for polygamy and if we stuck to the Old Testament patriarchs we wouldn’t have too much trouble arguing for its return. Joseph Smith did exactly that of course very successfully within Mormonism. So many of the men in the Bible took more than one wife, and the richer they were, the more they had, as though women were indeed chattels, possessions, trophies. Solomon in his wisdom had over 300 wives and concubines, but more often than not, it was two or three.

The trouble caused was endless and deeply painful, and quite clearly patriarchal, for there are no instances of women taking more than one husband. It begins, as every mistreatment of a human being or animal, with those with souls being taken for things. In Genesis 2, when the human being (“ha’adam”) is created male and female, Adam and Eve recognise one another as equal halves, as one flesh, neither one subordinate to the other.

Under Mosaic Law, adultery and coveting of another man’s wife are both such important rules for living that God gave two of the ten commandments over to them.

But when a people or an entire gender become seen or defined by those who enforce the rules as less than, other, lower down, not as human, they can be used, manipulated, abused, downtrodden, and even made to partake in their own oppression. If it serves the purposes of men, women can become disposable, replaceable or even part of a collection. More offspring, more pleasure, more variety, more power, these are strong motives to bend or break God’s moral code.

But over and over again we also see the pain and confusion of women feeling as though they need to compete for the love of their husbands. That was never part of the plan. It leads to a smaller existence for both man and wife, than God wanted for us. Thankfully, monogamy has long been the accepted norm in western society, but there are far more “open relationships” and certainly serial relationships now, and in many other cultures, such as tribal Africa, it is still commonplace for a man to take more than one wife as a sign of status. I come at this from my own cultural and religious standpoint of course, and I am sure a lot of those wives are happy and would defend the system. But I see from the biblical accounts that this causes deep jealousies and competition between women, often sisters, and that seems humiliating and wrong from my belief that men and women were made for equal partnerships.

How can it be right for a male chief to take a teenage bride in addition to the wives he already has? What possible hope is there for the redemption of God’s Edenic plan for two halves to become one where that kind of inequality is ingrained and implemented? There will always be a Leah who is heartbroken, a Peninnah who is jealous, a Hannah who feels less than whole, an Abigail (clearly David’s equal) who deserves better than to simply become another of the King’s concubines.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

54: Two by Two

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They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.” Genesis 7:15-16

We can sometimes be forgiven for thinking or feeling that there is little place in life (and perhaps especially in church) for those who aren’t part of a couple. “Two by two” seems to be rather a mantra in a lot of church families I have known. Single women and men are sometimes seen as subtly undermining the status quo, and if they have chosen to be single, looked upon as rather odd. If on the other hand they are looking for a partner, they can be frowned upon as a distraction or worse still, a threat. I have known attractive single women who have been made to feel very uncomfortable, as though they must watch their step and their dress so as not to upset or tempt any of the males in the congregation.

Widows and widowers may meet with more patience, but are still seen as different, and those who are divorced or separated (often through no fault of their own) can feel so isolated and judged as to feel almost like pariahs. Obviously this is only in extreme cases, but the sense that singleness is not quite right is subtly palpable very often, and probably partly a reflection of the way society urges us all to pair off, partly a natural inclination to want others to be the same as the majority, and partly impressed upon us by teaching from Scripture. And yet, at the same time as celebrating marriage, Scripture is actually tremendously supportive of the single life.

Many great prophets stayed single, as did Jesus of course, and his Apostle, Paul. Paul even tells us that the single life is a superior state (1 Corinthians 7: 32-35). We are told in no uncertain terms to be kind and generous to widows (and widowers by default, we must remember in Biblical times women on their own had no respectable way to support themselves) and God uses and blesses the unmarried just as often as those with spouses. In truth, though we might think of Adam and Eve, and of the animals heading into the ark two by two, there is a greater variety of comings together and fallings apart going on in the Bible, since it is, amongst other things, a history of humanity and the behaviour of God’s people is possibly more often a warning than it is a prescription!

The truth is that every kind of relationship status you can think of is present somewhere in the Bible as it will be with us, and we need to be more realistic about the different forms families can take and less prescriptive about pairing people off. Neatly two by two with the door carefully shut behind us isn’t going to happen, nor is marriage everyone’s ultimate goal.

Perhaps we would do better to embrace and celebrate singleness and family in all its forms and advantages, without perpetuating yet another divide in God’s household. I feel that diversity is something to be welcomed. I know it can feel very challenging to our dualistic mindsets, where some of our comfort and certainty comes from defining ourselves against things, or setting up norms and calling things “other,” but I wonder if part of us all becoming true community means that we need to drop our severe outlines and instead embrace the whole spectrum of what it is to be a human being, loved by grace.

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

photo from morguefile