People should marry after exploring relationship, says Abam
At a time when marriages are broken down due to irreconcilable differences, the senior pastor, Guiding Light Assembly, Abuja, Barrister Israel Abam and his wife, Dorcas, are celebrating 25 years of marriage, and in a celebration mood, lawyer-turned clergyman, who answered the divine call seven years into the marriage relayed his marital journey to BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE. He also addressed problems of failed marriage, especially among Christians, and how to make marriage work.
Yours 25 years in marriage, how has the journey been?
The past 25 years have not been all roses. There are days you are on top of the mountain, there are days you are down in the valley and there are days you are in between. Marriage is not as many people imagine; it requires a lot of intentionality. You have to be deliberate about it. The past 25 years have taught us to know that you cannot take anything for granted. You have to work to get what you want. The first three years of our marriage was a total battle. I am not the type that insists on order; I can let you have your way. I am not for too many details but my wife likes to play by the rules. As a result of these differences, you know that conflicts are evident. At a time, I actually asked God to kill my wife since I cannot divorce her so that I would be free from the marriage but God did not answer me immediately.
After about a week, I was praying over something else and God said, “son, do you know that you will die before your wife? I screamed and said that I will not pray that kind of prayer again. I prayed to God to change my wife but God changed me rather, because in my liberal life, I could be very resentful and judgmental. I had pride issues and I was always judging and condemning my wife. But God changed me to know that I cannot change her. He taught me that the woman is meant to receive, the man is meant to give. If I give what she wants, she will receive and multiply back to me. That was the lesson I learnt in the midst of those pains and I stopped judging her.
There are some times I don’t feel like getting married. There are times I don’t want to see my wife or hear what she wants to say. There are times she doesn’t want to see me too. So, we fight too, but we have a fundamental understanding that we must never touch our marriage. We are pastors, what governs us is the word of God. We are mindful because we know a few things – if you open your door and you go and sleep, thieves will invade your house. And we know the secret thief who has come to steal, to kill and to destroy, and we know his functions. So, we do everything in our power to resolve our issues. It may not be fully, it make a day or two but we are mindful that we have to resolve it before the thief enters to steal.
There is rising in cases of broken marriages. What in your opinion are the causes of failed marriages in spite of the growing number churches in the country?
What is happening with marriages is sad. It is one of our pains as a couple. We took a decision to model our marriage in our local congregation. You cannot preach what you do not practice; people are there, watching you. So, there is a deliberate and intentional approach in modelling our marriage. Our home is opened to every member of our church; I don’t know protocols. They know who I am at home and in the church. I am a singular person; there is no split, multiple personalities. And I call upon my congregation to emulate us. The increasing number of broken marriages as we see today are most times, as a result of tradition — not wanting to follow the God they profess in the entirety of the word of God, both men and women. And one of the major factors that break the home is money. Money is god to some people — both Christians and unbelievers. When you allow money to rule your heart, it becomes superior to your spouse. Also, many people enter into marriage out of pressure without knowing each other. So, like the bible posits: “If the foundation be faulty, what can the righteous do?”
We preach to people not to marry until they are friends. It is not the marriage that should bring you together; it is the friendship that should bring out marriage. When you are both friends, you can always disagree to agree. You will not keep anything away from each other. But if it is the marriage that brought you together, when the marriage scatters, there would be nothing holding you together. Friendship should be the basis for marriage. Tradition is on both ends, the man is the lord but the women also have an opinion. She is a human being with her head upon her shoulders. But tradition says she has nothing to contribute other than lie down for her husband, wash his cloths and take care of the home. It should not be so; tradition should be adjusted with the times. Give respect to your wife. In our 25 years, we discovered that a man must give his wife her rightful place and the wife must also give her husband the rightful place. And what is the rightful place? My wife before me; my husband before me. When you put the other person as priority in everything, you will live for that person and two of you will live for each other.
Did you get married as a pastor?
No. I was a practicing lawyer in Lagos before the call came to me to become a full time pastor.
What has been the impact of your pastorship on your marriage?
Because of the peculiar experiences we went through together, it was easy to have her by my side although the changes that were inevitable. Of course, I was earning more as a lawyer than a pastor. The opportunities I had as a lawyer were more than the ones I now have as a pastor. But we knew that if God showed himself faithful by calling us into the vineyard, it is only a matter of time. We would make the relevant sacrifices but time shall come when we would be able to live as we used to live before and even above that. And it has been 18 years we have been full time pastors.
Your advise to Christian couples
My counsel is that they should not just be church goers. They should practice what they have been taught and read about in the bible, because going to church does not make one a Christian. It is when you live the life of Christ that you qualify as a Christian. Marriage is a platform that God has given us as couples to preach the love of Christ. You don’t just get married by emotions or societal pressure. There is a bigger picture of marriage, and that is the kingdom. So, marriage is not about you or your spouse first, it is about Kingdom. As such, married couples should go through the words and practice what God asked us to do concerning marriage.
There are challenges everywhere in marriages, but when you remember that it is first about God, even when you are angry, you will remind yourself that you are in it on an assignment to glorify God so that your marriage can bring healing, light, deliverance and a source of light to your generation. To achieve this, we should not think to be wise but as the scripture says, we should become fools in other to be wise. I have to put down myself to accommodate your partner. It will take each partner playing the fool to accommodate the other. You must play the fool to keep your marriage because at the end of the day, we would be asked what legacy we left behind. Part of our success in marriage could be attributed to our spiritual father, Wale Adefarasin. His marriage was an inspiration to us. His life was an open bible we can read. He played a major role in our lives, marriage.
What was it like convincing your wife to support your divine assignment?
It was something I could not have done myself because she did not marry a pastor. She had no intention to marry a pastor, but God helped me, we were both born again in the same church. Also, she saw the hand of God upon me. However, I did not just respond to the call. It took a fight between me and God. It was a battle and she stood with me through the experiences and God met us at the point of our needs. God proved himself that he called me and as such, both of us were satisfied. As a lawyer, you would not want to leave what is in your hand to go into the ministry in uncertainty, but he proved himself that this is an appointment for my life and both of us were convinced and we went into it together.