Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happiness --

2 Ne 2:25 -
Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.

In many ways the restored gospel has never brought me joy. Not consistently. I have had many good times and short periods where I felt like I was with the program, but for the most part I have felt inadequate. I think most people feel the same way. There are a few people who manage to rise above perfectionism, and there are many who are smugly self-righteous, but most people in the middle feel like they just can't do enough to "lengthen their stride".

The sad thing is this is largely cultural rather than doctrinal. The Book of Mormon is full of imperfect people relying on grace. What I have read of early church history reminds me of a people working through tough situations, with no illusions of their "worthiness".

I think the creeping perfectionism most LDS suffer from is a creation of the modern church. The church is run by overachievers who have bubbled to the top, and they are trying to drag the rest of us with them, despite the fact that most people are not overachievers.

One of the things I realized yesterday is that I have not been happy most of my life. I have been part of systems that reinforced the fact that, in a deep fundamental way, I have not been good enough. From the military to the church, I just didn't measure up.

As I have stepped away from trying to be the person the Ensign wants me to be, I think I'm finally learning to be happy. I have come to appreciate that God made me with the imperfections I have. They're not necessarily weaknesses. In many cases they are design features, regardless of what others may say. Just because I don't express my feelings the same way or feel the spirit the same way doesn't make me inferior.

I have a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that the Lord cares more about my faith than about whether I stumble over my words trying to tell people about the church, or whether I make a decision in my calling that I should have referred to someone else, or whether I remembered to bring my copy of the stake calendar to a meeting.

I don't have to be perfect enough to be considered for major callings in order to have value in his eyes, because I am what he made me to be. I am a child of God, not a part in a celestial parts bin, only of value to the extent I contribute to the functioning of the Mormon machine. I can glory in the risen Lord and in my relationship with him, regardless of my relationship to those in the church, or even in my own family. Together, Christ and I make up a complete whole.


wife of bath said...

"Come unto me, all ye that are heavy alden, and I will bring you rest"

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light"

"Be ye therefore perfect"

How often Christ asks us to come to him, lay down our burdens, and be refreshed! How often he tries to let us know that by submitting, we have much to gain, and that he loves us as we are. It's hard to reconcile that with the message that we should be perfect, and many speakers, in and out of the LDS church, fear that people will take license to sit back and do nothing if they are not exhorted on to perfection. Some of us just need to know that we are accceptable to the Lord as we are, without losing weight, the facelift, the new wardrobe, or other metaphorical changes to ourselves. God loves you! and Me!

Jane Austen said...

CF, I would like to recommend a book to you. It was published by Deseret Book in 1995 and is probably no longer available from them, but is available on half.com. I read it years ago and loved it, and am rereading it now and finding it even more helpful in my current state of questioning. The book is "The Holiness of Everyday Life" by Joan B. MacDonald. There is an entire chapter on grace which I think you will enjoy. While there are references to LDS scriptures, culture and rite, there are also many references to other faiths and philosophies which infuse the writing with a broad and well-rounded perspective. And, I don't think there is one reference to Joseph Smith! Let me know if you read this and what you think. You're doing a great job with "The Fork in the Road."