Utah is giving me a run for my freaking money and forcing me into deep places of my heart I didn’t think I’d have to go again. Maybe it’s Utah, maybe it’s being unemployed. Either way, I’m there and I have to sort and clean and heal.
Sunday, I had a meeting with my bishop before church where I confessed feelings and actions of pride, temporal and spiritual laziness, bitterness, and feeling just… lost. He said things to me that made me feel better about my situation, helped me feel like I didn’t suck as a human being, and gave me some tools for getting back on whatever track I want to be on. I talked to Natalie about how I’ve been feeling and how I’ve been acting (especially at church), and she reminded me to go back to basics. When I first joined this church, I read and prayed every day. I was soaking up whatever I could find and went wherever God took me – even to some other churches to meet more people and learn more. I sang.
Lately, I’ve been complacent. I’ve been a little mean and a lot prideful. My best friends have called me out on it. I need to go back to basics. I need to go back to what I know made me happy, and to stop blaming Utah (which, by the way was my decision!) for being unhappy.
My bishop recommended going away from people, finding some place at the top of a mountain, and just spend time praying and enjoying some breathable, cooler air.
After church, TJ came over and I told him I wanted to go find a mountain. Utah has a few. So we drove around, walked around a park a bit, and then he took me to Ensign Peak. Mind you, dear readers, I am almost always found in a skirt and flipflops. When I asked him to take me to a mountain, I thought we’d be driving up and parking somewhere near the top. Nope. We hiked the half mile, deceptively steep mountain side. I’ve been running everyday, ballet workouts in my room, and swam once. But I tell ya, I was embarrassingly out of shape for a hike to the top.
There is a spiritual lesson in this.
It reminded me of how I have been feeling about church since I moved here.
I thought of a Peter Lucky sermon from my days at the United Church of Christ. His talk was about stepping out of your comfort zone, but also about going back to basics in order to connect with the divine. To connect with Heavenly Father, or Heavenly Mother, or God. He talked about faith journeys and leaving everything (pride, fear, stuff, temporal baggage) behind except for the faith that God would walk with you.
This journey is about stepping out in faith and trusting that God will be with you. That’s the core story of our tradition all the way back to Abraham and Sarah who left all that was familiar to them—their family and their cattle, and the livestock. They left that all behind and they went on a long journey. The only thing they took with them was a promise from God that God would be with them and God would bless them.
Starting this faith journey, over two years ago, forced me out of my comfort zone and forced me to stretch beyond the bounds of my identity. I had to stretch my knowledge, my faith, my understanding. I had to leave everything I thought I knew, and everything that made me feel comfortable, behind. I had to leave it because it was too heavy to carry up the side of a mountain where I was promised a better view.
The first time I climbed up that mountain, it was hard. I was winded, and my spiritual legs were killing me. There were many times I looked down and thought it would just be easier to go back down the mountain. But I had friends, best friends, with me to share the promise of a better view if only I’d keep trying. So I kept going, and when I made it, the view was amazing.
But I couldn’t stay at the top of the mountain. I’d have to come back down, and put the Gospel to work. To come back down was to be transformed. I had to come back, but I couldn’t come back the same person I was when I first saw the mountain.
For us, as we take this journey on the other side of the world, it means listening and learning. It means being with brothers and sisters in Christ. It means understanding different people and different cultures in a new way.
It’s the understanding that we go on this journey of faith and we reach out because we know that we will be transformed. We know we will be changed. We will not come back the same.
I climbed the mountain once, and I loved it. It changed me. And when I came back, I was different for a while. But I didn’t keep climbing that mountain or practice harder to be with brothers and sisters in Christ. After a while, I was no longer willing to be transformed, and I became complacent. Looking at the mountain became daunting and, even knowing that the view from the top was amazing, I didn’t want to do the work. I was la-zy. I was/am spiritually out of shape.
Sunday, when I hiked to the top of Ensign Peak, I was out of breath and my legs hurt. I looked down a lot and thought it would be so much easier to just slide back down and try again another day (with proper foot wear and not in my church clothes). But I had my best friend with me promising me an incredible view and promising to stick with me, offering me a hand or a flashlight when I needed, while we climbed to the top.
And as winded and out of shape as I was, the view and the company were worth the promises.
Dear readers, it’s time for me to get back to basics. In the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples to take nothing with them as they preach the Gospel. Literally, nothing.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. (Luke 9:2-3)
I need to leave everything behind. I need to leave my pride, my exclusive reliance on temporal knowledge, my fear, my doubts. I need to leave it all behind. I need to lighten to load, strap on some appropriate footwear, and climb that mountain again. God has promised an amazing view. God has promised to be with me the whole way. And He’s already made good on that promise. I need to trust Him again, and know that as long as I keep going back to that mountain, and keep trying to climb it, it will get easier. I know that my legs and my testimony will get stronger.
No more stopping. Same with Ensign Peak.
I just might need the push of a friend along the way.
So much love,