Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Female Power and Reaching for Perfection

Some argue that men and women are essentially the same, that only a happenstance of biology categorizes them as one or the other. But to me, that same happenstance of biology gives men and women a unique perspective on this mortal life.

Whether or not there is something deeper than mere genes that determines gender, I don't know. Indubitably, there is some gray area when it comes to our mortal bodies and how they express spiritual, eternal gender. That isn't a challenge I've had to struggle with in any significant physical sense. Though I was unashamedly a tomboy as a child, and certain aspects of my physiology make me distinctly unfeminine, I have never struggled with my identity as anything but ultimately female. Perhaps unorthodox, but definitely woman.

But it is not the liminalities of gender in this life across the eternities I want to discuss. Nor is what I write supposed to define how women SHOULD approach their gender relating to the Gospel. It is descriptive, not proscriptive. Perhaps I am self-centered, but this blog is to share my journey, and right now that is learning to explore and trust my perspective. Rarely do I feel prompted to tell others how to act.

This gospel is a gospel of perfection, when all is said and done. We go to Church to learn to do more, to try harder. (Which is why, weary from my own battles, I so often have a hard time there.) Trust Christ more, be kinder, more charitable. Do our genealogy, speak nicer to our kids, appreciate the hymns, minister to the poor, pray more, have more faith, be more grateful. Always more good, less "natural man." Fight against our instincts. Become like God.

My heart and mind have taken different paths lately. Until recently, striving for perfection was the core of my faith. I fought a good fight for perfection as a missionary, as a wife, as a mother, sister, daughter. I was so caught up in trying to do more and be better, I was entirely swallowed up in myself. There was reason for that.

I was afraid. Paying attention to others and trying to help them is the antithesis of perfection. You can never be perfect at knowing what to do for others, what to say, or how to serve. You can go through the motions, meet their physical needs. But that becomes just one more check on your list of perfection. Truly opening your heart to them and to God . . . there is no end to it. No measure of success. Even taking the Spirit for your guide, the pathway of ministry is fraught with offense. Look at the greatest Minister this world has seen: He was crucified for it. Literally. Because He dared to give people what they most needed, even when they thought they knew what they most wanted.

I have a few friends of various acquaintance I've tried to help through some difficult times in their lives. But, even having lived through similar times when I have felt a failure, broken, lonely even though I'm surrounded by people, with the entire weight of providing for my children financially, spiritually, emotionally, and physically resting on my weary shoulders, even though I know (as much as anyone can) exactly how they feel, I sense the depth of my inadequacy to actually help. Some have welcomed what I can offer, some have rejected it. My efforts are certainly not anywhere near perfection.

And yet, there is something about this. As little as it has anything to do with what I hear at Church, it is the essence of what happens at Church. Increasingly, I'm seeing that the Gospel is kind of like a rose. Some of the doctrines or practices of the Church are like the smelly, ugly, incomprehensible compost worked into the soil of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are unpleasant, but without them, you don't get the beauty. Perhaps that is why so many feel like there is something missing when they merely intellectually analyze them.

The Gospel isn't the doctrines. Wrestling with and understanding the doctrines (yes, and even the policies!) are what make the Gospel possible. The Gospel is us. We are the living record, the canvas upon which the Atonement is worked. And the process isn't perfect. It isn't even pretty. It's full of thorns, requiring painful pruning. It is worms and filth and muck. It's even spiders and earwigs and partially digested refuse.

Women have a special ability, because of their biology, to understand that glory is born from imperfection. The condescension of Christ wasn't just an amazing act of humbling Himself, it was a symbol of what He is. There is no other way the Atonement could have been worked, other than by God (all that is perfect) coming down to a messy, imperfect world, immersing Himself in it utterly, and reemerging like a phoenix from the cesspit of mortality.

Even if a woman never bears a child, her biology can teach her that pain, ugliness, misery, is potential. Her weakness, the sheer fact that she is often valued only for her physical appearance, can give her an insight, if she chooses to take it. That insight is a key to the power of God.

As I wrote in my last post, pain is worth exploring. Not because pain is wonderful. It is ugly, horrible. I don't want to be there any more than anyone else does. But that same pain, ugly, nasty, unpleasant and horrible, is an opportunity to create something glorious.

I'm no longer worrying about being more, being better, being perfect. Now, I'm trying to accept the opportunities the Lord has given me to face imperfection willingly, to realize that perfection/imperfection . . . it isn't the point. Consecration of my life, even the ugly parts, to God's will is. What matters is accepting the slime and muck of this mortal life, knowing that something beautiful will be born of it.

We can know that because Christ showed us the Way. Submission to God's will, humility, and charity will take us through some awfully rough and dirty times. It won't be pleasant. It won't be filled with "you can do it!" cheerleader moments. There will be times we are filled with despair, pleading for the cups we have been given to be taken away. But in those times, if we will recognize that the ugliness we have been given is but a small moment, that glory will come because of the work of God in our lives, we will be able to finish what the Lord has set for us, and realize our potential.

And there among the muck, perfection is born.

4 comments :

  1. Two days in a row; it -is- Christmas. :)

    I'm glad you're no longer worrying about being perfect, being more, etc, as it's really one more thing you don't need on your plate right now. The neat trick is that in just being you, you are growing and helping many others to grow and survive through these dark parts.

    Some trials pass quickly, others over years, some won't pass in this lifetime, and some may take more than one. They are all a part of us, and will all be healed, but they can all be used to the strengthening of ourselves and others.

    Keep moving that one step at a time, SR, and we'll keep cheering for you.

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  2. My comment is off-topic, so I apologize, but it is about how to fix your blog list widget so it will show titles of posts again as it should. I had the same problem on my blog. I went to the settings for that particular widget, and I checked all the boxes of what to show on the list, then I saved it and reviewed my blog with a refreshed browser screen. I looked to see if anything had changed and then I went back to the widget settings and started unchecking one box, then re-saving and refreshing and re-viewing the blog. Somehow, in the process, it started working again as it should.
    I hope this helps you, as you probably don't have time to research how to fix it.

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  3. Many thanks! I don't know if I would have noticed. *l* It looks like it's back to normal, now.

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  4. As I look over the writings I have kept over the years, I can see that my writing has changed. It might not be about different things, but it is better. Sometimes it is not much better, but when I pay attention the quality rises. Sometimes a sentence will be beautiful. That is the way perfection is. It is not possible to reach in this life and maybe not ever. But the steps of improvement still continue. Because we live in a mortal world we must learn to do the best we can in an imperfect state. A state of trial and testing. Then we have done what we can the only perfect person who ever lived will pay the price for our missteps and we will be perfected in him. It takes time and careful watching to notice how we change. But we do. Life gets better.

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