Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fairy Godmother

I am a relatively new mother of a seven-month-old girl. Lately, I've been mulling over things that I hope to teach her. This morning I compared it to the gifts the fairy godmothers give Sleeping Beauty at her birth. If I were able to grant her anything, what would I give her?

First, I would grant her charity. I don't mean the inclination to hand money out the window to the man on the street corner, or drop some change in the bell-ringers buckets at Christmastime. I mean true, empathic charity. I would hope that she could "mourn with those who mourn" and "comfort those who stand in need of comfort." I would bless her to feel joy for others' accomplishments. In short, I would grant her all the beauty of love for her fellow man that I cannot seem to acquire.

Second, I would give her the gift of self-worth. It isn't the same as the cliche buzzword "self-esteem." Self-worth involves knowing her place in God's plan. With self-worth, she would know unequivocally that she is loved and wanted. She would be able to see herself through my eyes and the eyes of her God. She would recognize her beauty. Self-worth would have her esteem herself as she esteems others. It would guide her charity to a greater understanding of her own worth. Faith not only in God, but in His ability to love and save her is part of self-worth. I would grant her the beautiful self-image that has always eluded me.

Third, I would give her intelligence. She would be able to understand how to help people, to know how the world works. She would be able to enjoy the beauty of the earth and of people's hearts. Her intelligence wouldn't draw her down into the spirals of analyzation and cynicism, but would spiral her upwards towards rejoicing in God's work. She would revel in the transient beauty of this telestial world and its inhabitants without losing excitement for terrestrial and celestial worlds. She would be happy here without being content. I would wish her the deeper understanding that brings joy in this life.

How do you teach your children values you cannot possess? How do I teach her to be happy, to love and be loved when I cannot do any of these things? I know they are possible.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Epiphany of Atonement

I have always had a propensity to believe in others' opinions over my own. For some reason, I believe in my heart-of-hearts that other people can somehow see more clearly and understand better than I can. I have struggled to meet the expectations of my father, my roommates, my teachers, priesthood leaders, my companions, bosses and now my husband. Any slight criticism is enough to send me into the depths of depression, feeling that I have failed in what I am Supposed To Be. Needless to say, this has led to a great deal of heartache as I have moved through my phases of life.

I have had few friends, and never anyone to talk to who accepted and liked me for who I am - bad and good. To everyone I have played an elaborate charade of personality juggling - a mask for every person, a play for every need. I have tried to live up to the values and standards of the church, the culture of the church and the world's expectations. I have tried to be righteous according to what I was told was righteous, and have tried to fill the needs of people I was told I needed to please. Unfortunately, I continually fail in this and know that I can never measure up to even one person's ideas of who I should be. I have often catapulted to the opposite extreme of belligerence and fierce independence. I fear that by trying to be what others' want, I have given the very different impression of being moody and intractable.

I do not wish to go into details, but it seems that my struggles to define self and to deal with my depression has put everything I value at this point of my life in jeopardy. I stand at the brink, looking into an incomprehensible abyss without knowing what to do or how to act. Feeling very lonely and frightened this weekend, I prayed. It was a wordless prayer, a formless seeking after a Parent's love and acceptance. The thought came to me that it doesn't matter what the man behind me honking his horn and flipping me off thinks of me. It doesn't matter what my brother, mother, father or sister think of me. It doesn't matter what my boss thinks of me. It doesn't even matter what my husband thinks of me. For that matter - it makes no difference what I think of myself.

There is only One person who sees me clearly. There is only One who knows and understands not only the feelings in my heart, but the patterns of my life. Only He has the perspective and understanding to love me as a complete self. It is only His opinion I need seek. That is why He is my Advocate with the Father. I am in no state to argue my position. I cannot plead for the mercy of the Father, knowing what I am and having such a deep feeling of failure. Christ can see me, and forgive me despite my failings. He can plead my case where I cannot. He can love me where I cannot. Above all, he can understand me when no one else can.

To me, right now, the Atonement is not a state of being at-one with Christ. I hope that some day I will be able to reach that perfection of being where my will, my actions and my understanding are at-one with His. For now, it must be enough to know that He can plead my case - not only with the Father, but with me. That no matter my poor understanding of my purpose and mission in life, no matter how the man on the street, my family, my husband or I see me, He understands and forgives.

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