Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ebb & flow

I have grown up hearing stories of people who have watch those they love fall away from the things they know to be true.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell called it "The ebb and flow of faith" and spoke of it in an Ensign article that has helped me with a lot of questions and concerns that I have had lately.

I have watched close personal friends go through the ebb and flow of faith and I, like Elder Maxwell, have wondered about the underlying causes. What happened? I won't deny my own ups and downs, but it's hard for me to understand those who drift so far as to compromise the things that matter most.

Elder Maxwell has explained: 
A verse in the Book of Mormon offers the most satisfactory explanation. It is an interrogative in Mosiah 5:13: 
          “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” 
This describes what usually happens: otherwise basically decent people simply get caught up with the cares of the world. If instead of drawing closer to the Master we become a stranger to Him, then we have lost our way. The decent people to whom this happens haven’t engaged in major transgression, as a rule, but they have distanced themselves from the Savior, and He has become a stranger to them. 
If, on the other hand, we really are drawing closer to Jesus and we are becoming, however incrementally, more like Him, then we are progressing. To use another Book of Mormon phrase, we must be “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict” (Mosiah 3:19). Whenever our wills are increasingly subsumed by His—the Book of Mormon calls it “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7)—then we really are on the road to discipleship. But that can’t happen with the sort of superficiality with which some approach discipleship.
I don't think we mean to approach our discipleship superficially... like maybe we've just never considered how deeply engaged we actually are and HAVE to be; we lack a truly self aware commitment. And so it's easy to "get caught up with the cares of the world." I also think the battle between the desires of our spirit and the weakness of our flesh (as described in Romans 7 and in my post on reconciliation) makes it difficult to understand the process of committing our will to Christ and we put too much responsibility on ourselves rather than choosing to excise faith in Him.

I don't doubt that those I have watched slip away loved the Lord. In fact, I believe that they still do love him, deeply and sincerely. But I wonder if they trust him... and if they are willing to do what he wants irregardless of what they want. 

I wonder the same thing about myself sometimes... but at the same time, I don't wonder. Because I have experienced remarkable things in my life - and Christ has blessed me with the strength to give up something that I wanted more than anything else...EXCEPT to do His will - and that is proof to me that when I commit to him, I can do all things. Even the hardest things.

Monday, March 28, 2011

let's get together

Robert B. Putnam, a political scientist from Harvard, reported in his book Bowling Alone that Americans are spending more and more time alone, commuting to work, in front of the tv and computer, and spending less time with friends and neighbors. In many ways we have turned into a nation of "loners" and more and more we are losing the sense of connectedness that we need to maintain a healthy society.

We need to be brought together and have social experiences. We need to interact with "people of different ages and backgrounds, build on shared beliefs rather than on narrow self-interests" and have the support and meaningful interactions with others that allow us to grow beyond our egotistical nature (Kirsten Oaks, A Single Voice).

While I do believe it is important to cultivate a relationship with yourself - to be able to be alone but not lonely - I also believe our society encourages an extreme form of "independence" (gotta be free, gotta be true to myself, gotta not need anyone) that is, at least, not doing us any favors and at it's worst is a destructive distancing of ourselves from one of the greatest joys in life... our relationships with others.

I am so grateful that I don't come home every day to an empty apartment - and I hope I can do better to make the most of the time I have (and too often waste) to BE WITH the people I have in my life.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Romans 7:14-15, 19, 22-24
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

We are carnal -- fallen -- and we sin. We sin and hate that we do; in our spirit we want to do right, but we succumb to the canal side of ourselves.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
I want to be better, to do all the good things that I know I should...but over and over again I do the same stupid stuff...

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
...even though I love God and I want to serve him and do everything he has asked me to. Giving myself to Christ and feeling his love pushes me to joyfully follow him!

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
But I can't seem to stay constant... like the old cliche: "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" and not only that, even though I know that through Christ I can do all things, even though I know he has taken upon him all my sins and weaknesses, I still see myself failing...

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

There is this division that exists within me. Between what my spirit wants and what my flesh wants. Between what I do when I do good -- and what I do when I sin. It's like the ultimate case of split personality disorder... a split between myself. 

I want to follow Christ...yet I often fail to do so...

Which Nephi felt all too keenly, "Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities (2 Nephi 4:17).

the mistakes of my natural self... that "natural man" who "is an enemy to God..." I am AN ENEMY TO GOD?! It is a scary thing... especially considering that that this emnity "...has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless..." AND THIS IS THE KEY because there is nothing we can do to be rid of this enmity except this "...he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 3:19).

the battle between spirit and flesh can only be ended, the two can only be reconciled, by our yielding to the Spirit and putting off THROUGH THE ATONEMENT. let me repeat, our yielding and putting off happens THROUGH the Atonement of Christ. It's not OUR doing. It is HIS doing.The Greek word for atonement is "katallage" which means reconciliation. to reconcile is to bring into harmony. this is part of what the atonement does for us.

It's what the atonement DOES FOR US. because changing our behavior isn't enough. nothing that I do is enough. 

back to Romans 7

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Because of Christ it is possible for this division to exist - for us to, in our mind and hearts serve God, and yet in our actions in the flesh still make the mistakes we will inevitable make and serve "the law of sin" because our faith is in the reconciliation that the atonement will work in us........ Throughout my life the atonement will bring into harmony the warring members of my soul and ultimately my will, my desires and actions - of spirit and flesh - will become whole, and one with Christ's will. 

"For we are saved by hope" and "we with patience wait" for "the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23-25).

And one day, when I am resurrected and my body is made perfect through the blood of Christ, my reconciliation will be complete.

Friday, March 25, 2011

a thousand strands

TAKEN FROM ANOTHER BLOG -- an interesting idea that i felt i ought to share:

I read Sheldon Vanauken's book A Severe Mercy a couple years ago and in it Vanauken chronicles his love story with his wife. They come up with a wonderful idea, as they see themselves as defenders and architects of their love and think strategically about how to protect and sustain it. One of their methods was to invest time and energy into investigating whatever the other was interested in. To be devoted to the same hobbies (or at least knowledgeable about the area) created a stronger bond.

Vanauken writes (swiped from her blog): "If one of us likes anything, there must be something to like in it-and the other one must find it. Every single thing that either of us likes. That way we shall create a thousand strands, great and small, that will link us together. Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible-unthinkable-for either of us to suppose that we could ever recreate such a closeness with anyone else. And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the fact of a thousand sharings-a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.”

As a side note: later on in the book Vanauken is honest about how, once his wife became a Christian (and he wasn't yet), he did have a moment of emotional infidelity where he felt a bond with another woman. I still feel that the idea stands up as a good one. At the very least it is a loving thing to seek to understand what your other half sees as good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

an other...

I was reading The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle by Mike Mason and I decided that rather than try and summarize the concepts I'd be better off just typing some paragraphs up:

A marriage, or a marriage partner, may be compared to a great tree growing right up through the center of one's living room. It is something that is just there, and it is huge, and everything has been built around it, and wherever one happens to be going -- to the fridge, to bed, to the bathroom, or out the front door -- the tree has to be taken into account. It cannot be gone through; it must respectfully be gone around. It is somehow bigger and strong that oneself. True, it could be chopped down, but not without tearing the house apart. And certainly it is beautiful, unique, exotic: but also, let's face it, it is at times an enormous inconvenience.

So there are many things that can be said about one's life's mate, but finally, irrevoably, the one definite thing that needs to be said is that he or she is always there. And that, while it may be common enough in the world of trees, is among us human beings a rather remarkable state of affairs.

Marriage is the most persistent and ineluctable reminder of the presence of other people in the world: that they are there, that they are real, and that they are wildly different from the imaginary beings who normally people our thoughts and fantasies. To be married is to be confronted intimately day after day with the mystery of life, of other life, of life outside oneself.


It is an enormous source of human frustration that our need for intimacy far outsrips its capacity to be met in other people. 
…in each one of us the holiest and neediest and most sensitive place of all has been made and is reserved for God alone, so that only He can enter there. No one else can love us as He does, and no one can be the sort of Friend to us that He is.

Forming a relationship with us that is far deeper than anything we can possibly know among people is the way God has of challenging and inspiring us to year for this same divine dept in all of our human friendships. Were it not for the profound and intuitive knowledge of the Lord in our hearts, we could not know what depth of relationship is and would never miss or long for it on the human level.


To put it simply, marriage is a relationship far more engrossing that we want it to be. It always turns out to be more than we bargained for. It is disturbingly intense, disruptively involving, and that is exactly the way it was designed to be. It is supposed to be more, almost, than we can handle. It was meant to be a lifelong encounter that would be much more rigorous and demanding than anything human beings ever could have chosen, dreamed of, desired, or invented on their own. After all, we do not even choose to undergo such far-reaching encounters with our closest and dearest friends. Only marriage urges us into these deep and unknown waters. For that is its very purpose: to get us out beyond our depth, out of the shallows of our own secure egocentricity and into the dangerous and unpredictable depths of a real interpersonal encounter.

*And that, incidentally, is also what true religion is supposed to do. It is supposed to remind us that God is not an idol of our own making, not a human invention, not a concept or a theory or a projection or extension of ourselves, not a tool (any more than a marriage partner is a tool). No, the bizarre fact of the matter is that God, while invisible, really is THERE -- OUT THERE, beyond our wildest dreams. He is a living Being with PERSONHOOD, a true Other whom we can know with all the full-color intimacy and immediacy (and even more!) with which we know ourselves and the person we love, and with which we sense that we are known in return. To know the Lord is to be brought into a personal relationship so dramatic and overwhelming that marriage is only a pale image of it. Still, marriage is the closest analogy in earthly experience, and that is why the Bible so often uses the picture of a wedding, and of the bride and groom, to convey something of what it means for human beings to be united to God in love.