Saturday, March 15, 2008

On polygamy and insufficiency

I have never understood the draw of polygamy. Why would multiple women want to share the same man? And moreover, why on earth would a man want to try to keep more than one woman happy?

My incredulity at why any dude would choose such an arrangement has mushroomed since I have been living with four fair ladies.

Maybe a polygamist takes pride in being surrounded by beautiful women, accepting people’s compliments on their loveliness as if he deserved some credit for it. That’s what I do. For a man with multiple wives, loneliness would not be a problem—unless it’s the loneliness of sporting the only Y chromosome in the house. I can empathize there too. Maybe these guys enjoy the diversity of their various wives, basking in the glory of how so many different women could be married to him, the way I love pondering the contrasts among my daughters. Maybe it’s just about bragging rights with the boys, a chance for back-slapping and jokes about the absence of TV in the home—the kind I get when people see all my little girls and hand me coupons for cable.

But whether a guy is cursed with multiple wives or blessed by a wife and multiple daughters, both the polygamist and I end up with one thing in common: many, many bosses.

Sometimes I count all the bosses I have at work. Our head counselor quarterbacks the department, but the assistant principal is our real manager. Sometimes teachers tell us what to do when it comes to placing kids correctly. My principal ultimately rules the fiefdom of the high school where I work. What she says is law—until a big-wig from the district comes on campus and she kowtows like the rest of us. Sometimes we get mandates straight from the counseling gurus at the district level, or even the Governator. At the same time, I like to think that the students and their families are my real bosses--and often they act like it.

Though these many chiefs may have disparate ideas about what this little Indian should be doing at work, most of the time they let me do my thing.

My four delightful chiefs at home are a different story.

Sometimes their conflicting instructions come because they can’t agree. Ashlyn orders tofu for breakfast, but Brielle wants oatmeal. Melía insists on grits. Brielle wants to read Green Eggs and Ham, Ashlyn begs for Curious George, and Melía wants me to play wedding. Other times it’s their agreement that puts me in a catch-22, like when all three want to sit in the back of the minivan or on my lap. And there is always my dilemma over which list to neglect: the Honey-do or the Daddy-do.

Along with this is the role confusion I wrestle with as a Christian father. On the one hand, Christians tell me to be the leader of my home, to be the head as Christ is to the church. And yet Christ led by serving. I love this. But when does that mean laying me down to fulfill the requests of the family God has given me, and when does it mean saying “no” in an attempt to lead the family in what I see as the best direction, or just to keep from frying myself?

To say that I feel insufficient understates the thing, leaving me to resort to adverbs. I feel grossly insufficient, terrifically insufficient, spectacularly insufficient.

When I focus on this, it starves my love for my awesome foursome of womenfolk with whom I share a home. My eyes dart nervously from demand to conflicting demand, and my heart feels like my house often looks after a day of preschooler play—undersized, disheveled, disordered, confused…and dangerous. When will I ever get things together, weak and insufficient as I am?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This is my only hope.

Have mercy, Lord. I need your all-sufficient grace. You know I am weak. Please let your strength be what shows up as I lead and serve my family. I choose the awesome diversity of their wants and needs. You know how this feels, God, Father of six billion needy, greedy children. Let it make me humble. Give me love and wisdom--and the courage to live these out.

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