Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something to Talk About

Bookslinger makes a great point, and one of the reasons I've always loved that passage of scripture in Ether 12, along with the Lord making it clear that HE is the one to make weaknesses strong, not US.

For me, I think the reasons for not being more free with talking about my faith aren't that I'm worried about looking stupid or "uncool" (if I was worried about that, I think I'd have self-destructed years ago), but there are two things that feed into each other.

First, I take my religion very seriously, and hold it very precious. I spent 19 months parading my "pearls" out before people, testifying of things that I found so precious, only to see them trampled on. I come online and see them trampled on every day. So it's become harder for me to share as the years pass, unless I have some indication that someone really wants to know.

Second, I have developed a definite level of social anxiety. It takes effort for me to even look someone in the eyes, let alone talk to them about anything serious. Strangely, I have no problem performing in front of people. Then, it's the performance that is the focus, not me. I can pretend to be social, make small talk until the cows come home. But that isn't me. When it comes to sharing things face-to-face that actually touch on who I am . . . . Well, I'll just say it is also becoming harder and harder.

I think I always had a touch of that, but in recent years it's become almost a full-blown phobia. I suppose at the root of it all is fear, and I've not yet developed the perfect love that will cast that out. At least, not in the sense of random encounters to hand out Books of Mormon. So I post online, where there is a buffer between me and other people. This is where I bear testimony, pour out my heart.

There has to be a balance where my love for the gospel feeds into my love for other people. Obviously, if I truly got the Gospel, it would come despite my social fear of being a nuisance to people.

I know that "perfect love" doesn't mean trusting someone who is untrustworthy. I've done that, and know for myself that it is not of God. What does "perfect love" even look like? Is it possible to love perfectly when I have children to protect? To take Christ's example, perfect love is allowing others to have their way with you, assuming it is God's will. But without a clear conduit between me and divinity, how am I to know what is God's will and what isn't? I thought it was God's will for a person to keep peace with their spouse, that it was God's way to allow people room to change and grow and make their own mistakes. But again, I can testify that that doesn't really work.

So how does one begin to develop that perfect love for all men, as well as for the Lord? How does one get galvanized to share the Gospel with people who probably don't want to hear it, especially when many of them are predators waiting to strike at the least sign of vulnerability?


  1. I'm no expert, but it seems to me we start where we are. And we do SOMETHING. And we see how it goes. And we hope the Lord blesses us enough to have courage to try a second time and a third. And we hope to learn that even after we share, it's all ok.

  2. "So I post online, where there is a buffer between me and other people. This is where I bear testimony, pour out my heart."

    You don't realize that your weakness has made you strong in another area. You feel weak at talking to people, so sharing your testimony through blogging has become a strength.

  3. Thanks for the nice words and the link.

  4. "You don't realize that your weakness has made you strong in another area. You feel weak at talking to people, so sharing your testimony through blogging has become a strength."

    Such a great point, Michaela.

    And I just want to add that I don't think we should minimize the real impact online missionary work can have. Just keep doing what you can, friend.

  5. Your post is very thought provoking. I am new to the blogging universe, so forgive me if I respond poorly.

    Your thoughts helped me remember that during my mission, serving in a poor area among people who would have been described as humble at best, Ether 12:27 took on another meaning for me. When the Lord takes the "weak things"--especially people--and unites them through love and order and then we enter the path to work with and through them, we are unstoppable. I think that's the key. Moses was able to part the Red Sea by molecules removing themselves, and the gospel works by myriads of individuals agreeing to live a higher law and love one another.

    And to be interesting, we must first be interested in those individuals. Asking people what they care most about and being a light in loving them for what THEY love has gotten me further in bearing testimony than I ever would have imagined. It just naturally flows out of such an interaction.

    The world, the nagging discouragements, and of course the predators, would have us make our lives smaller and smaller so we connect with no one--particularly in person. They are the ones who ask us to submit and isolate ourselves. But the Savior threw the money-changers out of the temple. He condemned the Pharisees. He calmed the raging seas. And while the Lord would have us learn through adversity, what if he would have us embrace the struggle, find the revelation in it, and move on--never going quietly into the night for the sake of submission. Do you see the commandments as natural boundaries preventing someone taking advantage of us? The Savior gave his back to the smiters in the hours before his death--but didn't he live his life standing up to them? (and seriously, please correct me if I'm wrong)

    My social anxiety gets the better of me when I don't truly listen to the other person. My Father in Heaven listens to my prayers far more often than He speaks to me. I don't know how He loves me enough to listen that much, but He does. It seems that one of the pitfalls of our culture is thinking that speaking the truth is enough. Sometimes I fail to remember that testimony requires two people--and the Savior always bore testimony to what people needed to hear. And His perfect love knew what to say because He knew His people. And when I remember that, I can look anyone in the eyes...and they usually thank me for it.

    Thanks for your post! I love hearing about your process--it helps me be accountable for my own (which is always easier said than done).

  6. One of my favorite scriptures, among many, is: "We love him, because he first loved us."

    One other point:

    We can't truly love those we don't serve - those we don't get to know personally - those we shun and avoid. There's no way around the need to risk pain and rejection if we are to "love one another as I have loved you" - especially since he also said that we are to love those who don't love us, since even the publicans love those who love them.

    We have to start where we can start, but we also have to reach outside our comfort zones at some point - like you have done with your online interactions.

    Maybe it will help to identify those people in your own sphere of influence who constitute the "lepers, publicans, sinners and Samritans" in your own eyes - and then consciously choose a way to serve somebody in that group of people. Once you are comfortable with that effort, pick another person or people to serve - until, gradually, you are able to serve anyone whom you feel impressed / prompted to serve. Just make sure you are doing so with NO other motives - not to convert them or to have them thank you and bless your name or for recognition or any other "compensation" of some kind.

    Start perhaps with someone who has no reasonable way to pay you back in any way - or even to acknowledge your effort positively - or even to value you as a person or Mormon. It can be a painful process, but it is a powerful one.

  7. SilverRain, I've seen your comments and guest posts in the blogosphere but for some reason, this is my first time actually visiting your blog. SO glad I did! Thank you for what you share with us in writing.

    You've given me much to think about. I really need to actively share the gospel a lot more, both in person, as well as over the internet.

    However, I think one of the ways I do indirectly share the gospel, is by simply not hiding my love - however imperfect - with all within my radius. Not just my love of people, but my love of all things good in my life, including the gospel.

    There is something about it that draws people closer. And I hope that when they look closely they will see that my capacity to love comes first, because of my love for the gospel.

  8. Everyone, thank you for your comments. I feel the love you have, and appreciate it.

    I've taken some time to mull over your words, especially, Ray. I'm having a tough time identifying "publicans and sinners" in my eyes. To be honest, the person who best fits that bill is me. I cut myself off because I feel like a leper, and I don't want to inflict my presence on the Whole. Whether that is an accurate assessment of myself or not, I don't know, but it is real to me.

    As selfish and self-absorbed as I know I am, I was warned about that and have since worked hard to try to serve and not judge. Now I'm having trouble with even that, because in a large way, that is part of what ruined my marriage. I have a pattern in my life of trying to help people, not so they'll say thank you, but just so I can be useful, a positive and pleasant influence in others' lives, no matter how small. But part of that pattern has always been to fail at that, to become more of a nuisance than a boon, to be an aggravation rather than a balm. It's easier to cast things out there, and hope that those who need it will find it. More of a fishing method than a hunting one, I suppose.

  9. I understand that, SR. God bless you in your effort to love yourself. Fwiw, you are loved by many who know you only online - and don't automatically devalue that by thinking, "It's only because they don't know the real me."

    Yes, we do - and it's real, even if it isn't quite the same thing.


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