Friday, February 3, 2012
After the Manner of Happiness
"And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness."
—2 Nephi 5:27
I haven't been writing as often lately. I have been turning inward, rather than outward, in my contemplation. I have reached a new level of peace from what I have had since my life fell apart, but the nature of that peace is not something that I feel will help anyone else going through a similar journey. Each of us have to reach it on our own, and in our own way.
For me, it is like diving into the undertow I have fought so long, and that is not a course of action I would recommend generally.
When Nephi wrote the above scripture, he wrote it from the end of his story. He had succeeded in helping his father bring their family across the sea to the new land. He had tried to fulfill the blessing the Lord gave him to teach his brothers, only to eventually have to flee them when his father died. He knew what it was like to feel like a failure, weak and ineffectual in fulfilling the commandments of God. His people were the only ones in the land with the gospel of the Lord.
It is important that he didn't say "we were happy." He said they "lived after the manner of happiness." I don't think this means that they pretended to be happy. I think it means they followed the gospel, living the Plan of Happiness.
My rebirth, like any birthing, has been neither gentle nor peaceful. But as many who have attended a birth can testify, the peace, beauty and gentleness comes after the screaming, after the pain, after that weeping moment when you don't feel you can do it. Every baby is born in blood. Every star is birthed in chaos and destruction. Every disciple must be washed clean in the blood and death of the Lamb of God. And it is not a linear progression. It comes in spurts with moments of rest in between.
I was asked recently if I was happy. Truthfully, I hadn't given myself the time to consider it. I knew I was happier and more at peace than I was when I was married, and certainly more than I was immediately afterwards. But when they asked me, I realized that I hadn't considered happiness at all. But as I have thought about it, I have felt certain I am more deeply and enduringly happy than at any other time in my life.
Often, people shriek and run for the hills when they see rain. They duck and cover. But when it rains, I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to lift my face up, to feel the raindrops on my face. I don't necessarily like being cold and wet. But I know that rain means life. Rain means cleansing. Rain means a chance to start again. That is why I dance in the rain, why I rejoice in it.
I am far from perfect. But I have found the path of happiness. My happiness is not dependent on being pleased with every aspect of myself, on perfection. It is found in forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself, and of others. Not because they deserve it, but because I do. Mostly because the Lord does. He deserves all the forgiveness of myself and my fellow children of God that I can give. It is also found in love. Love of life, love of the messy chaos which we children of God create. Love even of the bad, as well as the good.
Loving even my mistakes, though they have been many as I have been born again from the ashes of myself.
That is happiness. The Atonement. Forgiveness. Every day, a chance to start again.