The Wo/Man I Married Is Not my Husband/Wife PDF download by Harris Spence

The Wo/Man I Married Is Not my Husband/Wife

A r a w a k publications
Publication date: April 2012
Digital Book format: PDF (DRM-Free)

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themes:
A biblical perspective
• Was it just a ceremonial marriage?
• The search for reasons and solutions
• The fear of recognizing truth
• In silence I travelled
• The victim or abuser
• Spousal abuse
• Marital conflict resolution
• The church and Christian marriage
• Is marriage workable?
• I love you… but
• Speak now or never
• A recipe for disaster
• Is she my wife / Is he my husband?
• Living a lie • Closet relationship
• The church and marital problems
• Blinded and enslaved by tradition
• As long as we both shall live
• Until death deliver us
• The quest for a deeper knowledge of God and self
• Are you happy now?
• The healing process
• Forgiveness is not easy
• The problem of choice


review:
Book Review of Harris Spence’s publication
The Man/Woman I married is not my Husband/Wife
published by Arawak Publications, Kingston, Jamaica.
Prepared by the Rt. Rev’d Howard Gregory, Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay
(March 2007)

… Harris Spence’s publication, The Man/Woman I married is not my Husband/Wife, has a rather eye-catching and intriguing title which will of itself attract the attention of potential readers. There is, however, much more to the book than eye catching ploy. One unique feature which lends credibility and substance to its content is the fact that it is written by one who has served the Church as a priest, has counseled persons prior to, during, and after the breakdown of a marriage, and is himself one who has had to travel the road of marital breakdown and divorce.

In this work he poses various challenges for the Church, but from the perspective of many within the leadership and rank and file of the Church, he has nothing to offer of credibility precisely because he brings this background of personal experience of marital failure to the dialogue. The position of the Church he implies is one that is informed by tradition and theological perspective which do not give weight to the experience of “spousal abuse and marital conflict” and the private suffering of those who are reluctant “to scream loudly for fear that someone outside may hear”. It is almost as if there is a conspiracy of silence to maintain articulated ideals and traditions. So the invitation is offered for the church and state to come down from “the bleachers and grand stands of life’s arena” and meet the real players… “in order to get a better sense of their struggles, their pain, the reason for their tears and their fears”.
The book begins by taking the reader into some real life scenarios that arise when couples are confronted by the challenges of marital pain and conflict, scenarios that are as realistic as any, and which those who have exercised a ministry of pastoral care and counseling would readily recognize. Against the background of these cases he tries to present a faith-based perspective on marriage which reflects the biblical, theological and liturgical traditions of the Church, especially that tradition in which he is grounded. While it is not of the nature of this work to provide a systematic biblical and theological foundation for marriage he attempts to get to the essence of marriage devoid of its contemporary trappings and concludes that:
The marriage occurs the moment a planned consensual physical union takes place between a man and a woman, who by prior commitment to each other, consciously agreed to be partners together in marriage.
He goes on to suggest that marriage is a vocation to which some are called, and that it is through the submission of one’s life to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that one will be able to make the right choices in marriage and work towards the ordering of life as marital partners. Without this dimension the marriage may be only a “ceremonial marriage”. In addition, in support of this position, he points to the fact that the church recognizes the importance of “intention” on the part of the partner as playing a pivotal role in determining the validity of the marriage ceremony. Where these things are not fulfilled and persons remain in the marriage, either because of their loyalty to the institution, the Church, or the fear of public revelation, one may see married persons living what Spence calls the “married single life”.
Within some sections of the Church there is a perception that marital failure reflects frivolity, superficiality, and a failure of persons to take marriage seriously. In the case of Spence’s treatment one cannot but be struck by the sense of pathos and sensitivity with which he discusses the issues, whether it is his treatment of the sense of helplessness which besets those facing their unworkable marital relationship, the psychological pit stops along the road to the resolution of marital conflict, or in the presentation of the predicament of the pain of the abused person who is forced to wear a mask to hide any possible source of scandal from the society. In the end, the decision that the abuse must stop is one which comes at the end of a long, painful journey, and not the cop out which some ascribe to it.
Spence is not pandering to contemporary notions of marriage which leave it only to the individuals and their understanding of love and marital satisfaction. He therefore addresses such a perspective as follows:
When physical and emotional satisfaction are perceived to be love, marriage in that situation is doomed to failure. It must be borne in mind by all persons who may consider marriage that a hot and steamy sexual relationship is not love in its fullest sense and therefore should not become a reason for entering into a marital relationship.

At a point it must be recognized that what appears at first to be a challenge to the Church and her teaching is in fact a call to the Church to take her teaching seriously as it is being practised in the contemporary world and to hear the stories of real persons in their attempts to be faithful to their marriage vows. So Spence affirms the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage by asserting that:
When God calls two people to be united in marriage He empowers them with His love to live as one in a marital union. When God so joins two people together, no one can separate them. It is then a mystical union made by God like unto the mystical union between Christ and the church.
Where Spence challenges the church in terms of her teaching is in the definition of sin which he offers in terms of marital relations which are geared towards the “living of the lie” in order to project the desired image of the church or the society. Here he says:
Living a lie by behaving in public as though the marital relation is healthy while at home it is a practised marital single life style is a sin (my emphasis).

Spence speaks directly to those who have the painful and unfortunate experience of marital breakdown and divorce. First he issues a word of caution as follows:
…all persons who would seek healing after a traumatic period of marital conflict and spousal abuse are vulnerable. It is therefore necessary to exercise due caution in their entire encounter with sympathizers and well-wishers along the healing trail.
He also suggests that the decision to marry and the decision to end a marriage should not be taken lightly:
...the choice of a partner for marriage is not easy. It requires a dynamic Christian faith, perseverance, spiritual listening skills and a strong dose of the desire to walk in the path where God leads. Let us not forget that we are frail human creatures who are capable of making terrible mistakes. If therefore at any time we should discover that we made a mistake in the process of our listening and following God’s leading, we must ask for His forgiveness and also for the spiritual perception to follow His guidance as He leads the way out of the life of error an its attendant difficulties.

Spence’s final appeal is not so much for a change in the teaching of the church but the exercise of its ministry of the care of persons in marital conflict and breakdown by its priests and its membership with appropriate care and sensitivity to human pain as follows:
Quite often the pastors are left with the burden of caring for persons whose marriage is either in trouble or has ended in divorce, while at the same time trying to keep them from the destructiveness of uncaring members of the congregation. Again I must submit that unless pastors and members of our church fellowships recognize the church as a hospital for sinners, they will never become capable caregivers in the church of God.


About the Book:

THE WOMAN I MARRIED… provides a unique opportunity to examine some of the traditional value systems and religious practices that have fuelled the continuance of the institution of marriage amidst the prevalence of the breakdown of marital relations and escalating rate of divorce.

It explores the Biblical definition of marriage as well as the complex issue of the conservative socio-Christian approach to marriage, marital problems and divorce. All this, combined with the negative effects of the lack of understanding and concern displayed towards individuals who have not had a stable marriage, is discussed in a practical way. The problem of choice is also addressed, especially against the background of our modern society.

There is the perception in some circles that couples who participate in the traditional marriage ceremony are joined together by God and will remain immovable amidst socio-economic pressures and the daily encounter with the influences of a decadent society. In this regard the reader’s attention is drawn to the fact that not everyone who stands before a marriage officer and goes through a marriage ceremony is indeed “joined together by God”, nor is the matrimony lawful.

Behind the seeming provocative title of the book is an unquenchable desire to learn much more about the very practical issues that have contributed to the general breakdown of marital relations and the spiraling rate of divorce, especially so in modern times.


ISBN: 978 976 8189 55 4
ISBN: 976 8189 55 X

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