How can I possibly answer that question?
Am I married?
That’s a straightforward question, right?
I’m not talking about waking up in Vegas with a hangover and blurred dream sequences hauntingly pogo-sticking a thumping head. That would be easy to determine in a short amount of time. That would be easy to fix. A day or two later the question wouldn’t exist. Criticism and whispers followed by laughs, lawyers, and more alcohol are the worst of what follows that scenario.
Not heartache, angst, hope, worry, fear, and thoughts of our future. Not the decision to be alone or bound together forever.
The question I’ve been asked is not so easy. It’s not “did we get married?” That question has no significance to our soul. It won’t fundamentally shift the binding of our hearts and minds like my question does.
‘Am I married?’ means we must have an understanding of what it means to be married. Legality has little to do with it. That’s a process. For some, it’s part of demonstrating our commitment. The piece of paper makes it binding. Until it’s discarded.
So what does being married look like? What is required to be considered married?
My girlfriend and I lived together as much as possible over the last 9-ish years. Take off the first nine months of our dating, several years of working in a different state, 11 months in jail (case dropped), and the last year apart by choice as we navigate the storm of our love. That leaves somewhere around four years of sharing the same space.
Both of us had been married before. It was okay with me that marriage would never be an option for us. She made that clear from the beginning and I accepted it as truth. But the marriage she spoke of was the legal act. Not the binding of heart and soul that comes through commitment, caring, growth, and love.
She believes we have been married for years. That our marriage is stronger and more meaningful than any she has ever known. She believes God put us together. We believe we were made for each other. So where’s the issue? Why are we separate?
I am devoted to Christ. She is not. She is working so hard to understand my relationship but doesn’t feel she’ll ever accept Him as her Lord and savior. She believes God is a feminine presence. That is her experience.
Because of my beliefs, “Am I married?” has tremendous implications for our lives. If we are married in the eyes of God, then I am free to stay with her. If we are not married in God’s eyes the Bible says a believer should not be with an unbeliever. I would have to leave her. Answering the question “Am I married?” will determine the fate of our lives. Forever.
How do I find that answer? I could go with what my heart feels or what my mind thinks. I can say that God is loving, merciful, and kind. He wants a man and woman to be joined forever. I can choose to believe that our commitment to each other is marriage in God’s eyes. Pastors we’ve asked concurred.
I could go with guidance out of the Bible because following what the Bible teaches is pretty straightforward for believers. It could be determined, as several pastors have, that we haven’t been married, but living in sin as fornicators. That means we need to continue our celibacy until she becomes a Christian. She doesn’t see that happening. I won’t give up hope.
Why are some reluctant to follow the guidance of the Bible? It’s a matter of trust. We have to first be able to trust that the Bible is the Word of God.
That means we trust the way the canons were accepted came from God and not the heart and minds of men, because men and humans in general, are fallible.
That brings up areas of gray for us both.
The first book of Timothy was written by Paul. I don’t think he clearly claims for that letter to be God’s Word, or even to be inspired by God. I read his opening statement to say that he’s an apostle by the command of God. I’m guessing, based on my knowledge of the five keys for determining what goes into the Bible, theologians agree that because the letter came from an apostle of Jesus, it is accepted to be inspired by God. That would make it the truth.
What Paul writes to Timothy, in Chapter 2:11–12, doesn’t seem to fit well with the behavior of Jesus. It appears to me that it conveys Paul’s thoughts. The influence of his previous life as a Jewish Hebrew scholar is evident to me. Women should learn in quietness and full submission? As a man, I have a problem with that. Imagine how that sets with a feminist!
Statements like that block some from accepting the Bible as truth from God. My girlfriend argues that men wrote the Bible. And, because of the dominant paternal nature of the time, the Bible is skewed. She says Jesus respects and loves women so much that He made it very clear by putting himself into dangerous situations in order to show His love. She says that is evidence the Bible can’t be trusted to be God’s Word.
Where does that leave us?
We will go our separate ways. Or not. It’s too big of a question to rush into answering. For now, we are separated by miles as we do our best to put together our lives. We both pray and fervently seek answers. We both hurt and hold onto the hope of a promising tomorrow.
We look for insights from others. We will make a decision impacting our lives now and forever. It would be foolish to do it alone.