Friday, September 19, 2008

I Am a One, Why Does No One Come After Me?

When I served a mission for my church, we had a few small pamphlets which we could stamp with our contact information and leave in the boxes or under the doors of those who were not at home. We often used them as sorts of business cards. I believe they were 5.5x8", folded in thirds. On the cover of the yellow version of this pamphlet was a question mark. It contained text asking if there were questions in the reader's life which they could not answer. Such questions included, "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What is the purpose of life?" There is a question which has come to the forefront of my mind many times in my life. In the parable of the ninety and nine, Christ tells of a shepherd who left his flock to search out the one which was lost. I feel that I am one who is lost, why does no one come after me?

At many times in my life, I have felt cut off from the flock. Once, when I was fourteen, I was actively rejected from it. I have failed to really connect with a ward since returning to Utah after serving my mission. The feeling of failure and of being failed has at times become overwhelming. As a result of my estrangement, I have come to rely more and more on my Savior, knowing that He will never leave me comfortless. Once the tears are spent and I can calm enough to listen, He has always been there to comfort me. It took a change in my approach to realize that He has always been coming after me, just not in the ways I expected.

I have often been tempted to stay home, or even at times to leave altogether. "There is no reason for me to attend Church," I think. "I can feel the Spirit more strongly by serving those who really need it, or by a quiet walk in the woods." Although I have felt the Spirit many times in such circumstances, I know that they cannot replace the need to struggle and fit into the body of the Church.

In response to my desire to simply quit trying, the Spirit has also gradually whispered to my mind the understanding that I cannot allow my salvation to rest on others' shoulders. I cannot permit the actions and behavior of others to come between me and my God.

The final thing I've been taught by my feelings of estrangement is a realization that I've been holding others to a standard I can't match. Not only am I not reaching out to others the way I wish they'd reach out to me, I am expecting other people to read my mind and somehow discern what I need. There is a reason God advises us to ask, knock and seek. I have not been asking others for help, I have not been seeking help. The Spirit can prompt others to help me, true, but if I am not willing to humble myself and ask, I cannot expect others to give to me. The Spirit will not often take up my slack. When I have been willing to open my heart, there have been special souls waiting to soothe it. It has built far stronger connections than I could have imagined, sometimes from unforeseeable quarters.

There are many waiting to help, they only need to be shown how to do it. And, in the end, if you are truly alone on earth, you will never be without comfort if you are willing to accept it.

D&C 61:36-37: "And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you; and inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours."

12 comments :

  1. Sadly, I have often found that when I have asked for help, no one hears me. I was recently accused of being a liar in regard to my talking about rejoining the Church. This person wrote in an e-mail to me "I know...KNOW that you have NO interest in rejoining the church. That's all [expletive omitted]." It's comments like these that make me feel I would never be welcomed back into the fold. I, too, am one, and no one comes after me.

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  2. Just to say I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. Not meaning to give a cliched answer - I was in the Celestial Room a couple days ago - it was painful for me to leave and go back out into the world - they don't call it lone and dreary for nothing. Sometimes I have wished that it all be over, I've felt so tired.

    Best to you, Ms Rain. Hang in.

    ~

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  3. SR,
    Much in the curving path of this post is very familiar to me. Most of my life was spent cut off from the flock. I could have easily written; There is no reason for me to attend Church, I can feel the Spirit more strongly by serving those who really need it, or by a quiet walk in the woods. I know this experience well and I am thankful for it, for the strength it brings to my relationship with the Lord and the knowledge that he is available to me. I didn’t always know this; I was one he came to retrieve. Asking, knocking and seeking do not guarantee a quick response, the Lord seems to have his own timetable for each of us.

    Again you have touched me with you words; a clear reflection of experience.

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  4. I think we have all felt this way at one time or another. Know that you are loved.

    And kalola and others, I'm sorry to hear that you have felt that way, too. If there is way to communicate that I would desire to reach out to you if I knew you, and try to even through this medium, I hope you can know that people can and do care. It's just hard sometimes when we don't feel it when we need it. Very hard.

    It's also hard to realize that in the end, all things must fail, including the people around us. We all have to go through times when we have to lean on God completely. That is hard for me, because I'm the type that benefits a lot from human touch, voice, listening.

    Mortality is a difficult journey. And as my hubby sometimes says, "The Church would be great if it weren't for all the darn people!" Sometimes the people can be our greatest trials. But that is part of the program, methinks.

    Still is hard when we are hurting....

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  5. Silver, you seem to have found some good answers. Our personal relationship with the Savior is more important than our relationship to our Church units.

    Still, I think that the responsibility to go after the one who is lost rests on us all. Reach out to those who are even further away and try to invite them to feel the love of the Savior. That probably would give a deeper satisfaction.

    I myself am awkward with people and have poor communication skills. I have the will to be more personally interactive, but I keep reading people wrong and they're exasperated (including often my sweet wife).

    I think I know sort of what you're talking about, except that we have a local unit that always has "need of willing men (and women)". Hence, my challenge is tailored to my personal flaws - I guess to help me feel a more urgent need to overcome. Anyway, I don't like everyone, but I have to work at getting along.

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  6. Velska is right, our personal relationship with the Savior is more important than our relationship to our Church units.

    Connecting with church people can be a challenge sometimes. I remember a chance encounter with a priesthood leader who revealed in the course of our conversation that he is a closet bigot! This really shook my testimony until I realized that God works through whoever happens to be available, warts and all.

    Ward level doctrine can be pretty frustrating; the correlated gospel served with NutraSweet and bring-your-own faith promoting rumors. Sometimes I really wonder what I’m doing there. But, the audience includes a very wide range of attitudes, testimonies and levels of spirituality and the church doesn’t want to offend anyone.

    When I first returned to the church I expected to find a spiritual peer group. There are a few people I can share a deeper understanding or prompting from the Spirit with. But mostly I try to keep quiet these days for fear I will wake the sleeping or frighten those with a death grip on the iron rod. I see the church as structure wrapped around the gospel for the purpose of facilitating our personal relationships with Christ. The value I find in attending comes from taking the Sacrament, spiritual nuggets buried in some of the talks and connecting with others who have the Spirit.

    For the past four years I have followed the Spirit, it is an easy way to live but at times a very bumpy road to follow. My SP promised if we take notes during our meetings the Spirit will speak to us through our notes. So now I pass the time by taking notes but only when prompted. SP is right the Spirit speaks to us through those notes.

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  7. "The feeling of failure and of being failed has at times become overwhelming. As a result of my estrangement, I have come to rely more and more on my Savior, knowing that He will never leave me comfortless."

    Reminds me of a quote by Elder Holland that "some of the hardest lessons are some of the best education we can get". Certainly to bear any cross to draw closer to the Savior usually ends up being worth the cost.

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  8. The Right TrousersSep 20, 2008, 3:06:00 PM

    I had an epiphany regarding the Saints while reading the title page of the Book of Mormon recently. In it is a warning against condemning the "things of God" because of the "mistakes of men". It occurred to me that the Saints, individually, because of the covenant, belong to Christ and thus are the "things of God" as much as anything else that's been consecrated. You yourself are one of the "things of God".

    Failing to connect, not having the energy to try, not finding common ground, and even outright bigotry are the "mistakes of men". Sometimes a situation demands so much that we can only just hang on. I admire you for doing so.

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  9. I don't have anything insightful to add, but I do want to tell you what a wonderful post this is. It really is something everyone needs to read, and the part about recognizing the double standard we often live when we are in pain is profound - deeply profound.

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  10. This seems to be related,I apologize if it's a stretch.-

    Last Sunday we were once again berated in Sacrament Meeting to love others, to reach out to the one. It was hard to keep my seat. We are constantly told that if we love someone enough they'll change, they'll repent and come back to church. That is a lie. We should love people, but not because we want them to come back to church. We first should love God, He will help us love others more perfectly and in His time He will shepherd them home, perhaps through us.
    Therefore if a sister I visit teach never shows her face at church again, I am not a failure as a saint or a human being. If I love her, I am a success no matter the outcome.

    As always thank you for the great post, for your honest view of the gospel and it's many facets.

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  11. Thank you for your honest post and thoughts. I also appreciated reading the comments, especially the last one by jendoop.

    Reading this reminded me of my recent study on humility, and how being humble also means long-suffering. Bearing our afflictions with patience is so hard, but they are part of this life's test and the "character building" we go through.

    Here are the two articles I wrote on Humility:

    Reasons Why We Need Humility

    How to Have Humility

    Thanks again!

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  12. Thank you, everyone, for your comments on this post.

    Kalola—It hurts me that you are in this situation. I have felt that way on many occasions. I can only advise you to lift your chin and find strength in your God, and offer a listening and unjudgmental ear should you ever need it. I often speak of my convictions and ideals here, but I am not a person to expect that others agree with me, or act upon my own notions of what is right.

    Thomas Parkin—thank you for your kind words.
    Storms may come,
    and storms may go,
    But God hears me.
    This I know.


    Howard:—It helps to know that others feel the same. That is why I wished to write this post, so I could share what has strengthened me when I feel alone. Your words are wise, and definitely worth reading over and over when one is frustrated.

    M&M—Thank you for your words of wisdom. I can always count on your perspective.

    Velska—what you say is certainly true, yet sometimes it is difficult to find those who need you and the structures which exist to help you in this reject you. It is only life, and people are only people, in the end.

    Clean Cut—You are right, of course. Every so often, however, it is hard not to pray for ignorance just a little longer.

    Trousers—Thank you, too. When in doubt, hang on. I've found that useful advice multiple times.

    Papa D—I think you did add something useful. Thank you!

    Jendoop—Insightful! Often it is easier to love someone for some sort of gain. It is hard to realize that God does not love us only if we behave a certain way, but unconditionally. He is more pleased with us, of course, should we turn to Him, but He loves us regardless.

    Rachel—Thank you for your comments and links. I would recommend both articles to anyone.

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