Friday, August 7, 2009

All Things are Possible

"And [Jesus] went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."
Mark 14:35-36

The moments of Christ's greatest suffering are unrecorded, but this verse opens a small window into the deeply personal thoughts and feelings of our Savior at the time of His Atonement. It has brought me great strength to read these words at a time when I imagine I feel much as He felt. How often I have prayed to have the cup of my current situation in life taken from me, yet known by the Spirit that I have been called to drink it all—down to the very dregs.

Some wonder at the truth that God can take away pain, but does not. How could a loving Father see such suffering? I know as deeply as I have suffered of late, as broken as I have been, others—at least One Other—have suffered more, and He, unlike me, being completely innocent of any mistakes leading to that end.

Somehow, I feel I have been called to this work, to my life as it is now. I know the Spirit prompted me to make the choices which have led up to this. I hope and believe that the Lord has great blessings in store for me, that my suffering will be "but a small moment", no matter how deeply devastating it seems now.

Another of my favorite stories of the ministry of the Savior tells of a father who brings his son to be healed of what may be epilepsy. Any who have seen seizures know how frightening it can be to see someone shaking uncontrollably, especially a small babe or child. I can only imagine how it felt for that father to be so helpless in the face of his son's disease. It must have seemed like his last hope to bring his child to the Healer. Jesus does not only heal the boy, he takes a moment to heal the father as well, saying "all things are possible to him that believeth."

The father responds desperately, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." I have prayed at times, "Father, I am so weak. I want to be strong, I want to have faith in Thy promises. Please, help me believe."

And He has.

As I look into a grey future, filled with unknowable fear and difficulty, I waver sometimes. Sometimes I see my weakness, and know I can never do this. I plead with Him to let the cup of my calling pass, but in the end I am strengthened. Good friends have come to support me from both sides of the veil. The scriptures have been an unending support. And I feel my Savior standing there, watching over me and helping me believe that to Him, all things are possible.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Phenomenon of Projection and the Nature of God

I have had reason to think about how we, as people, tend to define our world as how we see it. I don't mean simply perceiving the world through our own eyes, but stubbornly and consistently recreating the world in our own image.

For example, if a person is a habitual liar, they will see those around them as liars and distrust everything, finding it difficult to recognize truth even when presented with it. If a person is generous, examples of selfishness are easily explained away or enter that person's sphere only with a strong shock.

I believe this is why many people find things in the Church, and with God in a more general sense, so difficult to comprehend. They find themselves leaving the Church, or abandoning God because neither fit their own world view.

If a person is convinced that killing is wrong under any circumstance, for example, they will have a hard time with the passage in the Book of Mormon where Nephi kills Laban. If a person believes strongly in tolerance at all costs, they will find it difficult to reconcile the guideline of tolerating a person without tolerating their behavior.

This realization has led me to a great deal of self-reflection as I ponder over the question of how I perceive the nature of God. How much of my perception of Him is colored by my perception of myself? How much am I creating God (or His church) in my own image?

The first step to unraveling this is to do one of the most difficult tasks imaginable: to honestly categorize how I see myself. So, stream of consciousness came up with this:
I see myself as a relatively patient person with a very impatient streak against which I must guard myself at all times, particularly when I'm tired. I am a perfectionist in myself, and see myself as an ever-failing being. I don't believe that my best efforts will ever amount to much. I am painfully self-obsessed, always criticizing my own actions. I struggle against awkwardness, and long for a place to feel at home. I love living things, animals and plants, and am renewed when I can take care of people and living things. I am woefully inadequate at showing love and affection, and at doing what I need to to care for people. I am very sensitive and emotionally tender, but with a hard outer shell of protection and rigid spine which I must consciously soften at times. I will obey the law to the best of my abilities, even when it means personal discomfort, but I have to always keep an eye open against being judgmental. I like order and cleanliness, but have resigned myself to a certain level of chaos to preserve peace of mind. I feel ignorant, but feel that the blessings of God have begun to lead me down a path of wisdom at times.
I think that is more than enough to start with.

So, how do I see God as a result of my self-perception?
  1. God is loving and caring.
    I believe that God derives his power from caring for His children. When He tells us that it is His "work" and "glory" to bring about our eternal life and immortality, I think He means it quite literally. That is why, of all the titles He can claim, His favorite is "Father".

  2. God is a God of order.
    I believe that God is powerful because He knows the laws of existence. He is omnipotent because He works with the nature of things as they really are. It seems ironic that power is gained through compliance and submission, but I feel this is consistent with the Gospel as demonstrated by our Savior, and is consistent with what I have observed in my own life.

  3. God is tender and compassionate.
    I believe that somehow, God mourns for us—with us. Although, with Enoch, I do not understand how an infinite God could have the personality necessary to weep, I feel that He does. He is capable of mourning with us without saving us from the lessons we must learn.

  4. I feel that God is omniscient, omnipotent, all-wise.
    Despite much popular philosophy to the contrary, I believe in the seeming dichotomy of a all-powerful, all-knowing God. I believe this is possible because he is also all-wise. He has recognized that sorrow and pain are necessary to achieve true joy. Therefore, He will suffer us to endure pain despite being able to stop it, so that we might achieve as much intelligence as we are willing to accept. I believe that the process of our choices here creates the future He understands and knows. I believe that it is possible for us to be what He is in every meaningful sense of the word. I believe it because He has promised it. I think that interpreting John 5:19 to say that the Father must have been a Savior as Christ is takes the Lord's words completely out of context and misses the greater point. I know that God has promised that we will be heirs as Christ is an heir, and what that exactly means does not matter to me right now. I suspect I understand far more of it than I remember while on this earth, and am willing to leave that for later without speculating on it, or wresting scripture to match my logic. I have more than enough to manage as is without borrowing trouble from the other side of the veil. I believe that God will always be my Father, however, just as my father on earth will always be my father, no matter that I become a self-sufficient adult, just as he is, with children of my own.
Of course, God has long conquered any failures and sense of weakness that He may have had. He does not possess the weakness I have now as a condition of my mortality. And, when I really think about my life and the changes I have been through, I suspect that my understanding of the nature of God is not so much based on how I see myself, but that as I have come to know Him better, and allowed Him to guide me in my life, His nature has begun to shine through mine.

I hope that is the case, for my greatest desire is to be like Him and with Him.

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