Friday, May 28, 2010

"And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly"

The recent realization that I pray more when I have migraines sort of left me feeling frustrated with myself. "I don't want to have to be compelled to be humble! Why can't I figure it out without being in pain?"

Nevertheless, true to form, in my post-more-intense-than-usual-migraine state, Saturday night I prayed harder than I have for a while. Hubby was out of town. I was feeling alone and weary, and frankly, quite scared about how bad my headaches and dizziness have been. Recent doctor's appointments have left me feeling nervous about other things as well.

And so, I lay on the couch and sobbed, pouring my heart out to God. When I woke up Sunday, I considered staying in bed. After all, I think health-wise I had a legitimate reason to do so. And it's hard for me to go when I feel so spent, so weary. I just want to curl up into a ball and pull into my shell.

But I really was feeling well enough to go. And I know I need church. I need the consistency. My children need to see me go. And going to church is one way I seek to show God that I'm not going to give up (even though sometimes I think I can't keep going). I made a decision long ago that I would just always go to church as part of keeping my covenants. Church is often a place, too, where I find peace, solace, and inspiration. And I really do love to worship with my brothers and sisters; we have a fantastic ward family.

I dragged my weary self out of bed and went.

True to form, God gave me help.**

I'll write about other insights another time, perhaps, but here I want to share just one. During the sacrament, I opened up my General Conference Ensign, hoping for some insights. I scanned the table of contents, looking for a talk that might catch my eye.

This one did: All Things Work Together for Good (need I say that that is from one of my favorite scriptures, Romans 8:28?)

As I read the talk, this paragraph in particular stood out:

[W]hen we face our challenges, we must seek greater help from God. Even the Savior of us all found a need to pray “more earnestly” as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.5 We can learn to gain great faith if we do this. We must remember that often the answers from our Heavenly Father do not remove the trial from us, but instead He helps strengthen us as we pass through the experience. As He did for the followers of Alma, the Lord can “ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs.” [Mosiah 24:14, another favorite scripture of mine.] In our trials, let us not become bitter or uncommitted, but let us follow the Savior’s example of becoming more earnest, more sincere, and more faithful.

Suddenly, I wasn't berating myself for praying harder when I'm in pain. Even the Savior, the perfect Son of God, did just that!

I will be honest. I am having a really hard time right now not wanting my pain to just be removed. I'm. so. tired. Weary. Wanting to feel better. Wondering when and if physical healing will ever come.

Again, I am reminded, though, that sometimes our cups do not pass, but we can be given strength. And I take comfort and ponder truths from the Savior's experience in Gethsemane.

Even the Savior of the World was "sore amazed" (even "very heavy") when the time came to drink of His bitter cup!

Even He wanted His bitter cup to pass!

Even He "prayed more earnestly" in His time of agony.

And even He needed and received strength beyond His own to bear His pain.

I realize tonight that it was a physician, Luke, who recorded many of these details that have brought a measure of healing to my soul this week, reminding me of the power of looking to the Great Physician for help in facing my health struggles.

Much for me to ponder and remember....

**As a postscript, I will add that answers don't always come that quickly, so if you happen to be still waiting for answers, don't give up, ok?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Opening Up

I've had a migraine the past 24+ hours. A bad one. As in maybe the worst one I've ever had. I shouldn't even be at the computer, but I am glad I got on for a minute, if for no other reason than to read this.

My situation is different than this woman's, but I know the pain of needing to really talk to God and yet not doing it. I don't think I do it to punish God, but I know holding back hurts me. I'm reminded of my friend, Sue, who has taught me much about God's goodness and love, about being so honest with God -- no holding back.

But I still do.

I just can't quite figure out why, though. I think there is a part of me afraid to ask for anything, because I've sometimes been just so wrong about what I've wanted. I think sometimes I'm probably afraid of the answers, even though I know that fear isn't consistent with what I know of God. I know that some of it comes that sometimes whatever I would want to say is buried so deep in my soul that I can't find words. I know He hears those kinds of prayers, but I think sometimes I use that as a crutch.

There are so many times when I have opened up that I have had amazing experiences.

It's time for some soul work.

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. ~Bible Dictionary, Prayer

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Musings (or soapbox, depending on how you look at it)

Mother's Day. It's arguably the most controversial, angst-filled, sometimes-even-anger-inducing days of the year in Mormondom. People ban church on this day. Numerous blog posts show up explaining why Mother's Day is so awful, or why church on this day is so difficult. Talks and programs and songs are mocked to assuage the pain. I watch year after year as people feel on pins and needles as they try not to offend. But year after year, people get offended.

Now let me say that I understand and sympathize (and even empathize) with some of the pain. I mean, there is perhaps nothing that brings more intense feelings than motherhood -- whether that means being a mother, or not being a mother and wanting to be, or not being a mother and secretly being relieved, or not having a good relationship with your mother, or not feeling like a good enough mother.

I don't know that there are any tears more shed than for reasons like the above.

And yet....

And yet!

There has to be more than this. I think there is something missing in this. (Remember, I've already warned you that I'm sorta in soapbox mode. And I write this knowing that not everyone is upset on Mother's Day (e.g., see here and here), so this is not a complete post about the topic.)

In my view, ultimately, whether that missing piece comes is not ultimately up to the speakers or the planners of Mother's Day programs or the writers of music or the gift givers or anyone else. It's not the bishop's fault or the culture's fault that Mother's Day is not perfect. It's not the leaders' fault that every talk given in General Conference doesn't suit every woman perfectly.

The peace we seek has to come from within us, as women -- and can only be found, I believe, as we really turn to Christ and let Him help us know what to do with all our imperfections and the imperfectness of our world.

Christ is the missing link in our pain. The Atonement is the balm we seek at these times. We come to these moments sometimes with such high expectations that no mortal will truly be able to fill them.

Nor should they.

The scriptures tell us that "All things must fail." I find that phrase interesting. Why must they fail? That could be interpreted as simply meaning that they will fail. But I take it to mean more. I think we have to come to grips with the fact that all things must fail so we can find that one thing that never faileth -- Christ's charity, evidenced through His Atonement. He is willing to help us.

But do we let Him? Really let Him?

I think too often we don't. We give way for the enemy of our soul by being angry about this or that talk, feeling depressed about this or that weakness, wanting this or that whatever to change around us in order for us not to be upset about this or that. The internet has made it easier to look for validation of these things from others, which often, imo, pushes His peace further and further away.

There is a continued insistence that the solution is 'out there' -- and as long as we think that, then we are really only there to be acted upon, to stay stuck in our misery. I'm not saying 'the culture' doesn't have ways to improve, but honestly, I think the best improvement to LDS culture would come not from better talks or most of the things people complain about, but from us all individually seeking more to follow Sister Beck's recent counsel about leaning hard on God and needing less validation from mortal sources.

I know from personal experience that this is much, MUCH easier said than done. But I feel strongly about it. I think we need to really trust more in the True Solution to our pain and insecurity. Let's stop insisting that the problem is 'out there.' It's not. Deep down, we know that God doesn't want us to be depressed and paralyzed by insecurity and weakness. That doesn't feel right, does it? So when those feelings come (which are different from God's invitations to repent) let's choose to let His light and hope in. When we hear something that hurts, rather than complain or criticize or curl up in a ball, let's learn to go to God and ask what He would have us do, now, given all our particulars. For many of us, this will take retraining from the usual knee-jerk reactions to things that touch on tender topics. The answers will be a little (or sometimes a lot) different for all of us. Let's do more of what Sister Beck counseled and seek personal revelation. And seek hard.

The power is in us to choose to let the Atonement Christ carry us over our valleys of sorrow and pain, and to find more peace in the journey, regardless of what goes on around us.

Even on Mother's Day.

p.s. See my other blog for how my day went. It was lovely.