I stumbled on this writeup by Leke Alder and feel the need to share it. Feel free to comment.
Dear Jack, I honestly don’t get it. You fell in love with this lovely girl. You’ve dated her for years now and thinking of marriage. And then your mum “took her name” to the Pastor who “examined the matter” spiritually and declared the marriage accursed.
Based on this strange progression, you’ve decided to break up your relationship. Your mum, of course, is recommending another girl… “from a very good family”. “We know them well,” she says. I don’t even know where to begin! There are so many issues lumped together. Let me address the doctrinal issues first.
I think people sometimes mistake Christianity for traditional African religion. They are obviously different. The practice of “spiritual examination” of suitability of marriage partner by a pastor has no basis in Christianity. I don’t know where the practice came from. Can you point to one instance or one case study in scriptures? Once you take your life outside the word of God you’re on your own. And that’s a dangerous place to be. No coordinates. You’re a Christian. If it’s not in the Bible don’t subject your life to it, no matter how popular.
And you’re confused about the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament the prophets consulted God on behalf of the people. In the New Testament, God democratized his Spirit in man and gave everyone access through Jesus. You have direct access to God. Why are you going to the Pastor as intermediary agency on choice of marriage partner? You already have a faithful High Priest in Jesus Christ. He’s your intermediary. These practices are not biblical. I’m not saying your pastor can’t counsel you, or pray for you on choice. No, don’t misinterpret the import of my letter. Neither am I saying that your pastor can’t warn you against perceived danger in the ordinary course of life.
I’m talking about asking the pastor to consult the auguries like a voodoo doctor in traditional African religion. I’m saying EMPHATICALLY that transposing traditional African belief system into Christianity is NOT biblical. Your pastor is under-shepherd. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Good Shepherd. Ever read in the gospels where anyone went to Jesus to “spiritually examine” the suitability of a spousal candidate? He wouldn’t even get involved in settling issues of inheritance. And did his apostles ever do such a thing? That a pastor made your spousal choice for you or endorsed it doesn’t give it any leverage before God. This is a hard saying.
The ecclesiastical imprimatur doesn’t guarantee success either. You still have to work on your marriage. What I’m saying may not be popular, and I know it goes against the grain of practice in some locals but truth is truth. And when we modify the truth of the Gospel we create consequential traditions of men. If you can cite scripture for these practices I’ll be most grateful.
And please no generic stretches of credulity. This is not saying you shouldn’t ask for blessing on your marriage from church. We’re talking about choice. If you think you’re not spiritually developed enough to make certain decisions, there’s a scriptural shade: “The integrity of the upright shall guide them,” Proverbs 11:3 says. Just do things with integrity of heart. God will hold you responsible for your marriage however your choice comes about. It’s your responsibility. When people choose a bride for you and you acquiesce, it’s still your choice. You gave them power of attorney. And this takes us to the larger issues.
You want to marry but you vacate your responsibilities for your mum. Isn’t this the same mum you’re supposed to leave to be joined to your bride? Or are the scriptures in vain? “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” If you can’t even choose a bride for yourself how can you fulfill this biblical injunction? I see your mum dominating your marriage and that makes me sorry for whomever you marry. How can your mum choose a bride for you?! How can you allow anybody choose a bride for you? They don’t know you! They know ABOUT you, they don’t know you, and can’t know you.
There are the intimacies of heart no one can know except you. Your mum and your pastor can’t know. 1 Corinthians 2:11 says: “For what person perceives, knows and understands what passes through a man’s thoughts except the man’s own spirit?” Your mum thinks she knows what’s best for you. Why, are you kindergarten? Haven’t you outgrown your breeches? What does your mum know about your hidden thoughts – the kind of woman you want, your sexual fantasies… Your mum is looking for someone she can control; doesn’t realize you’re trying to avoid someone like her. She thinks she’s the quintessential wife; yet your dad knows better, and you know better too.
Anecdotal evidence is often cited about the success of the old ways – when parents chose a bride for their son. In those days, a family would post a photo of a bridal prospect to their son in the city, or say studying in England. Based on the visual presented, and relying on the judgment of his parents the son took a bride. What I often hear is that this old method was efficacious in producing successful marriages. Really? Funny how people bandy syllogistic conclusions without statistical premises. We often cite orphan “facts”. So, all those men who married second wives… who are they? To what generation did they belong? All those battered and abused women… women who hung on to marriage “for the sake of the children”… Whose wives were they? And all those men who fathered children extra wedlock… I guess they came from Mars! And all those bitter and unhappy children… some have sworn never to marry… Who produced them?
Of course some of the marriages succeeded. The laws of probability dictate some MUST. But there were also catfishes. Solomon says, ‘“Don’t long for “the good old days?” This is not wise’. You can’t make a marriage decision based on someone else’s judgment and determination. It is not wise. Your spouse is going to live with you, not them. When something goes wrong, all you’ll hear is, “We thought she was ok.” And they will say it with exaggerated pursed lips and a sad face, to the accompaniment of a resigned hand gesture.
If I seem a tad brusque in this letter, understand. You’re setting yourself up for unhappiness, depression and regrets. If this girl is as you described in your letter she’s worth fighting for. Your mum doesn’t know what you know.
All I’m saying young man, Take responsibility for your life!
© Leke Alder 2014