Thursday, June 12, 2014

"It's Personal"

Like everyone who wants to do better, be better, I sometimes struggle with my relationship with divinity. I have been amply blessed in a myriad little ways. Nothing major, until recently, but repeated small nudges to say something or check on something that ended up saving me just enough to keep me sane. Some days, it has felt like I'm barely holding on with torn and bloody fingernails, but have been touched with just enough extra energy to keep holding on. It is like I'm part of a vast chorus where, hoarse and broken, my voice does far more to create dissonance than beauty.

Recently, the hand of the Lord has been much more obvious. For the last month or so, I have been attending a ward temporarily while I am in transition from one house to another. This ward has several women who are going through divorce. As I've learned of them, and heard some of them speak, I felt prompted to bear my testimony in Fast and Testimony meeting.

This was a difficult proposition because my testimony, as I have said before, is not smooth and pretty, cut to show light and sparkle. It is cracked, crazed, with deep inclusions. It's a bit off-color. The deliverance I've prayed for over the last several years has been slow in coming. Most days are beautiful, but I still sometimes crack under certain types of pressure which I feel ought to be long gone. I'm still triggered, sometimes, over silly things.

I've been in a liminal state for some time, but it is a liminal state where I feel unseen things are happening, that I am being pruned and developed for some specific purpose. I am changing in ways I can't quite see, let alone quantify. I have started several drafts for blog posts but never finished them. I find myself with few comments to make on others' posts. Whatever changes I'm going through don't fit labels easily. I am becoming, but I'm not becoming anything.

In an effort to understand, I've analyzed many of the choices I've made over my lifetime. Most are too personal or irrelevant to share here, but my interactions with the online world are a good illustration of the larger pattern of changes I've gone through.

When I first started blogging, I don't know what I thought, other than that I wanted a place to put down my thoughts. I only knew I felt prompted to write, so write I did. A mere six months after the birth of my first daughter, I was concerned about my role in life as a new mother, as a wife who constantly felt inadequate. The future could have been read in those first lines I published. That young mother sounds so naive and hopeful to me now. She had experienced sorrow, but had no idea of what was in store for her.

But more than a place to vent what was on my heart, as I went through the experience of an emotionally abusive husband, my blog quickly became a place to be open with my thoughts and feelings in the hopes that someone would be helped by it. To me, blogging has always been personal even as it strips us of all personality outside the words written on the page. Blogging has developed my feelings to thoughts, though I'm still nowhere near cogent enough to be considered an "intellectual." But blogging has given me more compassion than I would ever have had, if I had not tried to stretch myself and understand those who are different from me.

It occurs to me that at this point the energies I've spent understanding people through the internet might be far better applied in my new ward. I weary of the endless circles on the internet. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to ease a war that both sides are eagerly encouraging. How long can you maintain a balance between being right and being righteous, between compassion and correctness? And I have far too many things to deal with in my real life: the life of a single mother going back to school, working full time, and trying to improve the quality of life for her children. I'm exhausted in nearly every way.

I recently read a comment that said that philosophical differences aren't personal. Judging Kate Kelly or John Dehlin, or the folks over on Millennial Star isn't personal. But to me, they are personal. I don't have the mind for dividing my charity along ideological lines. I feel for Kate Kelly and her followers, I feel for the "conservative" supporters of the Church who are constantly attacked. Increasingly, I am learning to feel for myself, too. I've been ripped apart and misunderstood by both sides in my attempts to help each see and understand the other. The things that happen online, to me, are deeply personal.

When it comes to Kate Kelly, I don't only see someone trying to attack the Church. I see a woman who is trying to do something to alleviate pain and sorrow. Sure, I think she is wildly misguided. I think her grasp of doctrine leaves much to still be learned. But it's not just a simple black-and-white question of acceptance. Maybe the process of disciplinary counsel will help her and help those who conduct it. Maybe they'll learn a little something, too. I don't know. But I do know that God's ways are not always logical to us. And I know that His ways are always, always to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.

I am exhausted, and I am at a point where I don't know what to do to help anyone online. I feel as if perhaps I've done what I can. I hope and pray that I will be able to take the things I've learned and apply them to making a difference in the lives of people to whom I really can matter. I can endure the ridicule of those who don't agree with me far more easily than I can endure being torn apart by those who supposedly support the Church as well. And there is no reason for me to wring my heart out for those who don't care when there are so many in this world I might actually be able to help.

Perhaps I'm delusional, and my voice is not good enough to be in the choir. Yet, I will sing because it is personal to me. Christ is personal. Faith is personal. The Church is personal, and I love it all. People are personal, whether they have been called to lead the Church or feel they are called to fight against it. I do not intend to stop writing here. I will write, and I will testify in person. I'll never know if standing up in front of a ward I barely know, or tossing my words out to the 'net and sharing what is in my heart changed even one other life. But that doesn't matter, because it is changing mine. What matters is spending myself in service the best I can, worrying only about following the conductor as I can, even if my voice is unwanted by others in the choir. Even if I'm utterly ignored and irrelevant to everyone else on this earth. I may not matter to them, but people matter to me. God matters.

I think, in the end, we'll be surprised at how it all has bent to His purposes. I hope that some day I can be a part of that, however small and dissonant a part I play.


  1. "I am exhausted, and I am at a point where I don't know what to do to help anyone online."

    I feel this exact same way. The main reason I came back to the bloggernacle was to prevent. Others from going down the path of doubt that I went down. All the posts and comments I've seen the past 24 hours make me feel like I've completely failed.

    1. Jeff, would you like some unsolicited advice? Remember who you are serving. Let yourself be exhausted, take a break. Remember the advice given to Joseph Smith as in D&C 10: don't labor more than you have means and strength provided to you.

      I wrote the bulk of this post a couple of weeks ago. I felt it wasn't finished, but didn't know why.

      The thing I learned most from searching, pondering, and writing this post was to remember the point of wearing oneself out in service to God. Let Him concern Himself about the harvest. If nothing else, your posting has made me feel like maybe I'm not crazy, that I'm actually on to something here, even though almost everyone else seems to gravitate to a "side."

      It is possible to be faithful, believing, AND compassionate. Faith doesn't have to be wrapped in flawless white paper. You haven't failed if you have tried.

      I get great comfort from remembering Moroni, who after witnessing the destruction of his entire people, spent the rest of his lonely days laboring to convince us of the truth of Christ. He knew sorrow, but trusted God that his efforts would be for something.

      It is by such small and seemingly ineffective things that the Lord can bless His people who hear Him.

  2. I have appreciated your voice. I have always been encouraged by the though that we are to "make a JOYFUL noise unto the Lord, not necessarily a happy or in tune one.

    You are not alone in sorrowing that people of such apparent gifts have tried to do good in the wrong way.

  3. I very much understand the exhaustion. It doesn't seem to matter much what the topic is, interacting with people of such varying ideas and passions, online or offline, can be tiring. I'm glad you'll still be posting form time to time here, as we do enjoy hearing your thoughts as you go through life.

  4. I love your blog. We must have very similar personality types, because the pain I'm feeling for both sides of this issue hurts my heart. I don't ever read a post of yours without finding a lot of things I can relate to that I was feeling alone about. Thank you for helping me feel less alone.


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