Category Archives: Spirituality

A Pebble of Gravel

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I can’t properly express what has been going on the last few months with me. I’ll try.

I never really reached a comfortable state when we were in London. I always felt unsettled. Sure, it got better after we had been there awhile, but my guard was always up. Church was stressful rather than edifying. I never found a good rhythm for myself. I was troubled about my dad’s health.

With another international move, all the upheaval, all the change, huge life transitions, my dad’s death I have really been put through the ringer. My reserves of strength– emotionally, mentally, spiritually– have all been tapped. I am at the bottom of those reserves. I have been very sensitive, vulnerable, fragile. I am not taking the hits well.

Shortly after we moved to London I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. It’s main theme was tapping into the faith that I knew I once had. I was having a hard time feeling the spirit. I wanted to. I was holding firm to the fact that I had had spiritual experiences in the past that I was then relying on when I felt less connected with heaven. This wasn’t a new experience for me. I have had several times in my life that I had to rely on the fiery testimony I had before but didn’t feel at the time. But more than a year was a long time to feel that distance.

Then I lost my dad and I really had to put that faith to the test. It isn’t testing well. Even Christ said to God, “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” Even Christ felt alone. But I am not a demi-God. Why am I being left alone? The foundations of my faith in heaven and earth have shaken. Have I been telling myself stories my whole life? Were those good feelings just placebo chemical reactions. Did I just want it all to be true so badly that I made it so for myself? Will I ever see my dad again? Is there really a God? Does he really care about me? Because I am being left alone with this more than I can bear. I am tired of just surviving. And I am not even sure I know what the purpose of me surviving is for anymore.

I wonder whether this fantastic story about Joseph Smith is true. And if it isn’t–oh God!- if it isn’t?! then my family was fragmented growing up for nothing. My dad didn’t get to see his sons and daughter get married, one of the most special moments in his life, for nothing. I went far away during his most trying time for NOTHING. How could he possibly know how much I loved him when I chose so many times a faith, that is abandoning me now, over him?! For all I know, this weeping is for nothing. I have found myself contemplating alternatives that never once entered my logical explanation of how things work. Maybe Dad is gone for good. Maybe this life is all there is. Maybe I am alone. Maybe my ‘blessings’ are the result of natural consequences and a imposed frame of reference. Maybe my life has been a calculated sum of the choices I have made, absent of tender mercies and divine intervention.

People who have said the Gospel helps us so much when we face the death of a loved one or other staggering trials have not experienced these depths like I am. Or maybe they have. Maybe the foundation I had built my testimony on, “the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God” is helping me not fall. I am hoping with some time and patience I’ll be able to see that I had to build foundation on that Rock not because house was going to take a hit but because the foundation was. Maybe that foundation needed to be the Rock so that as it chipped away with each blow there could still be something left–even if it was just a pebble of gravel.

I want so much to believe and be strengthened by the faith that supported me for years. We are praying as a family we are doing amazing at reading scriptures as a family. We are attending our meetings and attending the temple. I was doing better at personal prayer and scriptures before (I could always be better) but now I am afraid. Afraid the next time I really pray alone, I’ll find out once and for all that I am alone. And I can’t be alone in this. I CAN’T. My ward knows (I bore my testimony? last month about my desire to believe and my commitment to live the gospel in the hopes I will feel its truth again). I have received a tremendous amount of support. Chad has given me blessings. I just feel so desperate. I will do anything Heavenly Father wants me to. I am trying to. But I am getting so tired. I am grasping at strings. I feel like I can’t trust myself.

Thanks for giving  me a safe place to pour out my tortured thoughts. I apologize for overwhelming you with all of this. Unfortunately, no one can fix this for me. No one can give me answers that I haven’t actively taught others before while I was a missionary. But if you could keep loving me from afar and think of me when you pray I would be grateful and humbled and honored.

Two Schools

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Matthew 13:13 warns:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Many of Jesus’ teachings were meant not to be understood. His parables were famous for disguising more than they revealed. I believe that hidden meanings are a pattern that is required of all Gospel teachings.

Life is full of hard truths. You can’t be a mature person unless you have learned a lot of pain and misery. The paradox is that God wants us to be mature, but he will only bestow on us love and joy. The resolution of this paradox is the doctrine of the adversary, which has been around since the Garden of Eden. God allows an adversary to introduce us to the pain and misery that God himself will not create.

The Gospel intends to teach people how to turn sorrow into joy, and it does that by teaching about the joy but not about the sorrow. The teachings only make sense to people who are already familiar with sorrow. An innocent person (as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden) is incapable of comprehending either hard truths or Gospel doctrine. For that reason, someone can hear the same Gospel messages their entire life, and then suddenly understand a new meaning in them as soon as they have been prepared by negative experiences.

Parables like those in the Bible presuppose the presence of opposition but don’t educate us in it. The messages of the parables are hidden to the innocent. The way to unlock their meanings is to interpret them through the lens of personal injury and injustice.

Every inspiring lesson should follow that pattern. It should teach about God’s love and joy. The message will only be appreciated by those who need it, and it will be enigmatic to the rest. Teachers should not take it upon themselves to inflict fear or to exercise negative influences on their students, because that would be doing the work of the Devil, even if their intention is to help them appreciate mysteries of the Gospel. Instead, teachers ought to be patient for everyone to be exposed to their own hard lessons naturally when the time is right. (Sunday School teachers eschew this advice more often than you might think; the offending lesson is frequently a question that starts out, “Do you really believe that…”).

The way to progress through life is to attend both of earth’s Two Schools. First, learn about pain and misery, through the power of the adversary. (Hopefully this happens by accident and not by seeking out evil influences). Second, learn to appreciate the Gospel teachings that can dispel the pain and misery. Then repeat.