How about some good news?!
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” C.S. Lewis
Let me begin by expressing my ongoing grateful thanks—to all my friends, prayer partners, financial supporters and anyone else who has taken an interest in my life and work in recent years. The Courage/Post-Courage work has always been a privilege and your support has enabled me to be available to help a great many people facing all sorts of challenges in life, most especially the kind where they cannot find much (if any) support from their churches . . . due to circumstances where they are deemed unacceptable for one reason or another. I could not have continued with this pastoral care work these past eight years (since Courage finished in 2012), without your friendship, gifts, encouragement and prayers.
Bren & Tim get married!
15th August 2020
To bring you up to date with important developments since my last newsletter of September 2017: you will recall that Bren & I decided to live in separate homes in 2012. This was an extremely difficult but essential step that would enable me—and Bren—to begin to lead more authentic lives. We had always enjoyed a great friendship, but one that was more like a brother/sister relationship really, not the kind of marriage-relationship-as-God-intended. From 2012 we then had seven very testing years of adjustment, when we supported one another as best as we could, not knowing what lay ahead.
We had done our best to live, love and work together in what today is commonly known as a mixed-orientation marriage. We had put love, duty and commitment at the forefront of everything. But, excellent though these qualities are, we had missed the crucial fact (as so many others have done) that marriage, as created by God, is not just a case of putting a man and woman together, then doggedly trying to make it work—come hell or high water—as the divorce rate in our times attests! There has to be the foundational basis of sexual attraction and mutual desire also, without which a marriage cannot really be complete or be the blessing that God intended (except in certain exceptional circumstances which I don’t need to go into here). The trouble is that Christians, whilst claiming to be seekers of truth, never like to talk about desire, least of all sexual desire. It is one of those rather dodgy commodities best avoided in polite conversation, the assumption being that such things “take care of themselves” if you just follow the rules! Sadly, the great irony is, that if love, commitment and duty alone become the be-all-and-end-all, in a strange way these wonderful qualities can end up producing a kind of travesty of marriage! But, along with so many other people of our generation, we just had to learn this the hard way.
My knight in shining armour!
You may remember me telling you of my new relationship with Paolo, my young “knight in shining armour” from Naples! Well that lovely relationship has been going from strength to strength. Somehow though, I still felt some disquiet; I could not accept that this situation could be turn out to be such good news for me but bad news for Bren! It had become clear enough that I could not be the one to meet Bren’s needs for companionship. But I passionately believed that if God was concerned for my needs, then God must be every bit as concerned for Bren, if not more so, because she had become the more vulnerable person in this situation. The only answer was to pray that God would bring a new man into Bren’s life who would be that companion, and to whom she could be the kind of wife she needed to be. In the meantime I felt I must give her every bit of support possible, to maintain her morale and ensure that she could believe that she would indeed meet someone one day. As years of pastoral work has shown me, again and again, it can be incredibly hard for a woman in this kind of situation not to lose hope!
Well the answer came, quietly but decisively, when Bren met Tim in the summer of 2019, and they hit it off really well straight away. Within a couple of months, the possibility of marriage began to be mooted. This meant that we realised the time had come for closure. After seven years apart divorce was easy, although I would have preferred the route of annulment, because divorce implies that our relationship had irretrievably broken down; which it had not! We just had to recognise it was on the wrong foundation. But under English law, annulment was not an option.
Anyway the almost fairy-tale ending was that on Saturday 15th August 2020, I walked Bren down the aisle of her local church to give her away to Tim Starnes. Paolo made a video of the whole occasion so that there would be a record available to all the friends and family that could not attend because of the restrictions on numbers. While, at their invitation, I was one of the witnesses on the marriage register.
At the reception, Bren invited me to speak. I was aware that perhaps some people present maybe thought it rather odd, if not downright inappropriate, for Bren’s former husband to walk her down the aisle. So I explained that it was not for lack of love that we parted, but that a mixed orientation marriage is not honest or authentic and does not properly regard the needs of either. Today, nobody could be more delighted than I to see Bren happily married to a man who will love her as she deserves. So really this was a truly amazing occasion and a beautiful way to bring closure. Tim & Bren’s wedding day was the celebration of a new life and relationship that works well for them both, because they have married on a solid foundation of mutual desire. Thanks be to God.
Our ministry of reconciliation
As Christians, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)—reconciliation with God, reconciliation with ourselves, and reconciliation with one another. So it could hardly be more fitting that we should work together to conclude those difficult years on the basis of mutual love, acceptance and forgiveness . . . concluding with all of us becoming the best of friends.
Now it is our turn!
This is Paolo & I dressed for Bren & Tim’s wedding. Now we are going to get married—next Saturday at the United Reformed Church in Guildford. Ours will be their first same-sex wedding! The minister there seems as excited as we are! Of course we can only have 15 participants: as the lock-down prevents international travel, almost none of our family can be with us. Three of Paolo’s brothers had booked flights from Italy, but now they cannot come. We shall make a video of the day to be available for close family and friends. I shall write again soon to tell you all about the day.
2020 is a year none of us will ever forget!
I thought 2016 was a watershed year after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump entered the White House! But I guess we could all feel a little distanced from the far-reaching consequences if our lives did not seem to change all that much, at least not quickly. This year, nobody escapes the effects of COVID-19! If they have not been sick themselves (and I am pretty sure I had it back in January, although I haven’t paid for an antibody test to be sure) we must surely all know someone who has been, by now. Some of us have lost loved ones through the virus, and everybody has been affected economically, some people drastically. And with countries all around the world having printed money like there is no tomorrow, very soon the life we have known will never be the same again. Yet even in times of such great adversity, we can still find the greatest hope and joy—as we learn to love, accept and forgive one another: Jesus Christ has revealed the way.
Jeremy Marks, 18th October 2020