Saturday, February 26, 2011

Being Perfect

The drive to be perfect hurts. Yet, there is definitely a doctrinal imperative to strive for perfection. The most oft-quoted scripture to this effect is Christ's commandment to be perfect.

Often, we explain this scripture with the footnote, which seems to indicate that perfection is to be fully developed or complete, but as I've studied this concept, I have come to believe that touches only the surface of what Christ meant. If you read the context in which Christ made this commandment, you will see that He is discussing love as the climax of His new Law which will supersede the Law of Moses.

In that speech, He has just commanded us to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. In general, this seems quite easy. It is not hard to love those who commit day-to-day offenses and injustices. It quickly becomes difficult when we begin to apply it to those who truly and unapologetically hurt us. But this is when it is most important.

Take, for example, a Priesthood leader who is discounting or ignoring you. It is so tempting to become angry and frustrated, to rail against priesthood hierarchy or to turn away from participating fully in our religious community. But to be perfect—to follow the Father in Heaven's path—we have to push past that first, natural reaction and learn to love. We have to allow space for others' weakness and even for the evil in them. That does not mean to tolerate the evil, but it does mean to learn to see beyond it.

Believe me, I know how hard this can be. So hard, that I suspect it is only possible to achieve by cultivating a true companionship with the Holy Spirit. As we seek after this love, I believe it is possible to become perfect in this world. That doesn't mean without fault or error. It means perfect in love. In order to demonstrate this love without possibility for misinterpretation, God the Son came to earth and subjected Himself to our weakness and our evil.

This is the love that heals. It is necessary to develop this quality to truly be a disciple of Christ. And when we learn this love, we become perfect.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Internet Stalking: an Apology and a Statement of Independence

For those of you who are not aware of the situation, my ex-husband continues to internet stalk me by reading this blog (among other things). Despite knowing that this is a public blog, and that he is therefore reading my posts and possibly commenting on them, I have consciously chosen to continue to post about my experiences both in the gospel and in healing from abuse, rather than closing my blog, in the hopes that someone out there will see my struggle and find hope and strength.

He has decided to try to push this stalking one step further by "shar[ing] his perspective" in comments here. I suspect he has done so in the past under Anonymous, which is why I have disabled anonymous posting.

I will not be intimidated like so many women before me.

I will also not knowingly allow him to post here to slander me. As Jessica has pointed out in a comment on my previous post, he is always free to start his own blog, and I am not the only witness to his behavior towards me. I leave judgment up to the Lord, and just try to heal as best I can and serve others by what I have experienced.

In general, as most of you have seen, I have a fairly open-minded approach to views that oppose mine. I do not, however, feel any obligation to allow him to continue the slander he has attempted to spread amongst my friends and family here on my blog, where I have the power to stop it. Nor will I allow him to intimidate me.

I am sorry for those of you who have to witness this little back-and-forth, and am grateful to those of you who defended me when I was spending time with my children rather than haunting the internet, guarding against his attacks.

Although the effects of the abuse I have survived continue to trouble me at times (as evidenced by my posting here), as a person my ex-husband means next to nothing to me. In my offline life, the pain of abuse is not even as strong as it seems here, since I post here about things I hope can help inspire others, and not about the realities of my day-to-day life. I am not angry with him, except when he tries to attack me through my children, and I do not hate him. If anything, I am sorry for him because he will probably never know the joy of the type of selfless friendship I have been given in my times of trouble, nor is he likely know the bittersweet beauty of being shown one's own weaknesses by the Lord, finding strength to accept and face that weakness, and seeking for forgiveness of all the many things I have done wrong.

He is the father of my daughters, and is part of their lives, but thankfully no longer a part of mine. As the father of my daughters, I have tried to respect his privacy by discussing only the experiences and feelings I have personally, by refraining from attacking him in any way, and mentioning only the objective and provable facts if absolutely necessary to communicate my point. Because of the truth of what I state and his own insecurities, he will feel attacked no matter how careful I try to be, and I am sorry for that. But not sorry enough to be silenced. I know that what I have gone through is real, and it has nothing to do with him or his perspective.

Naturally, he is free to try to intimidate me, but as the wise words of an otherwise rather silly girl once aptly stated:

"You have no power over me."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thou Hast Not Withheld

The process by which I decided to divorce my husband was a life-altering one. Up until that time, I had, piece by piece, sacrificed everything of myself on the altar of marriage. To take all of that and sacrifice the marriage itself was difficult. The Spirit and I wrestled many nights over that decision. The Lord taught me slowly but surely that He was asking of me a sacrifice not unlike Abraham's when he was called to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Since then, I have weathered other betrayals, predominantly by those in the Church. My attempts to sacrifice my pride and anger has lead to others discounting me, disbelieving me, and ignoring me. These betrayals are small but devastating aftershocks.

This morning, I realized that the divorce was only the beginning of my Abrahamic test.

Some tests, like Abraham's, are an event. One decision. Some people are delivered from following through with their test, as Abraham was. But sometimes the test is more subtle over a longer period of time. Sometimes you really have to make the sacrifice.

There is one thing every test has in common. You are always called upon to decide what is most important in your life. Is it resentment towards other people that might cause you to become bitter, angry, or no longer attend Church? Is it grief over your loss that you wrap around yourself like an invisibility cloak? Or is service to God, is discipleship, more important than even your own pain?

Each time I have been disappointed by my fellow Saints or by life in general, I have clearly seen a choice of two paths. I can let this turn me away from the Church, or I can choose to learn from my experience and become even more devoted to my Savior. I can gain a greater desire to serve God's children, to not be one of those so embroiled in my own life that I don't notice when someone needs me.

So for me, the sacrifice truly is everything, especially myself. The test is whether or not I will choose to still love even after the sacrifice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

He Knows My Name

At times in my life I have found it too painful to pray. Communing with my Father means facing a whole lot of things I can't change, and can't do anything about. At these times, I pray in the sense of routine, but really praying, I am able to do only in small, manageable pieces.

But I know how much I have been blessed. The hard times I have been through in my life could have been so much worse, and are for so many people. I don't know why I have been so carefully, tenderly watched over. But I am so grateful to Him. Despite my occasional anger. Despite sometimes feeling betrayed and so alone.

When I do get the courage to pray, I feel Him there. I feel His love envelope me. And I know that I can trust Him to fulfill every promise He has made, and every righteous yearning of my heart.

Even the ones I can't do anything about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What I Learned From No Longer Being Married

In the aftermath of my divorce, I've been trying to pick up the pieces of what I have learned in an attempt to fashion it into some sort of semblance of personal progression. I have been thinking about what I wish I could have known without learning it the hard way. I think I have learned a lot about not only what is important in a marriage, but what is important in any relationship.

True love comes from respect. If someone respects and admires me, and I respect and admire them, that is the sort of love that lasts. It is the sort of love that forgives. It is the sort of love that trusts. It can be platonic or not, but either way, it is what combats loneliness and binds hearts together.

I learned that what can sometimes seem not important to begin with, ends up being important. For example, although I'm drawn to men who are taller than me, I made it a point not to fixate on that. I married someone a little shorter than I am, which truly didn't matter to me, but manifested every so often as one of his insecurities. It could be argued that it was the insecurity which was to blame, but I think it wasn't so much the insecurity itself, or what he was insecure about, as it was about his tendency to fix the blame for his insecurity on external things. When I was married, I was the most convenient external thing in most cases. So if I were to go through it again, I'd pay attention to the little things he mentioned, the (to me silly) little things he "joked" about or wanted to prove himself in. I wouldn't just dismiss such things out of hand. I wouldn't mistake lack of importance as lack of significance.

I discovered that when a man who has a romantic interest in you tells you that you are different from other women, you should run. Sooner or later, he will remember that you are a woman, too.

I also have become determined not to give a sewer rat's flea-infested behind about how HE feels about ME until I've felt something for him. And if a man you hardly know suddenly declares his love for you out of the blue, it is not like Jane Austin. It is his attempt to control you. It deserves disbelieving laughter, not to be taken seriously or with compassion. True love grows gradually as you get to know someone. There is no such thing as love at first sight, though there is possibly sight at first love.

I learned that external conditions often have very little to do with personal worth or life's choices, but sometimes they are clues to a person's true nature. I learned to look at overall patterns of behavior, not individual instances, apologies, or declarations of love.

Most of all, I learned that divorce is evil, but sometimes it's not as evil as being married.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Many Perspectives, One Truth

I had the privilege to attend BYU. I say "privilege" because, despite the frequent reminders that the poor little old ladies in third world countries were paying for 70% of my tuition and the infrequent truths to BYU stereotypes, I was able to take classes where it was okay to talk about God and how whatever subject I was studying at the moment tied in to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Occasionally, the teachers would use some aspect of the subject to teach a gospel truth.

One such moment was in art class. We often sketched still lifes of styrofoam, fruit, random office supplies. After one such session, the instructor had us put all of our sketches up side by side to compare and critique. After we were done, he pointed out that all of the sketches were completely different, though the arrangement we sketched was the same. Even if all of our skills in sketching had been equal, some sketches showed parts of the arrangement that others couldn't see. In some sketches, entire elements of the arrangement were missing because they could not see them. He compared it to truth, and our search for truth.

There is an old saying I've heard in many variations, "There are always three sides: yours, mine, and the truth." When I was going through counseling to start me on the path to recovery, it was pointed out to me a that my perspective was not any less accurate than another's. That has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

But, I have begun to see that although there are many perspectives on any given situation (whether you are talking about describing an event or about religious truths), there is only one truth. And while I may not be completely accurate in describing that truth, neither is anyone else. I don't have to take their perspective as somehow more true than my own.

I am under the impression that most people are more likely to believe what they see over what others see, but the struggle for me has been the opposite. Either way, it is important to acknowledge other perspectives, to admit that others might see something you don't, but to rely on your own perspective in the end.

Convincing someone else of your perspective should not be about getting them to believe you, it should be about leading them to see what you see. Taking them by the hand, if you will, and leading them over to your side of the arrangement. Of course, they have to want to come.

For while we must take some things on faith for a time, the Lord has promised us that eventually, should we wish to understand, we will be shown the truth.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:31-32

"And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
Moroni 10:5

The trick then becomes to be brave enough to face the truth. It is easy to be afraid of what we will find.

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