Readers, I need some guidance.
I’m really starting to enjoy my ward. After my initial “getting to know you awkwardness” transition into the ward, I’m starting to make friends and get involved with activities. It is a bunch of fun. But it’s still not Olathe 3rd. I loved Sunday School and Relief Society, and the Sacrament meeting talks were always needed and insightful. Here, I feel like I’m lacking something, and I definitely know it has to do with my attitude.
Our stake is on this mondo missionary mission where we are all called to find every member in the stake and turn them over to the missionaries to teach. Our lessons in sacrament meeting, sunday school and Relief Society are almost exclusively about sharing the gospel Mormon Missionary style and getting people excited about coming to church with us. In Sunday School, we pretty much just go across the rows reading scripture to each other. It’s not my style of learning and I don’t get much out of it. I’m trying, not terribly hard, but there is a smidge of effort. But, there isn’t room for discussion or deep consideration of doctrine. If we do discuss, it’s about how to be good missionaries and how to share the gospel. In Relief Society, we have the same message. Share the Gospel. Be Good Missionaries. Preach Preach Preach. Share Share Share. We’re Awesome. Go Mormons, Go!
It’s so hard to sit through these lessons!
Here’s my biggest beef. The focus on all of our discussions are about looking for opportunities to share the gospel and to teach people about the church. The message is pretty clear: Mormons are the best and everyone should want to learn about us because we know everything and we have all the truth and we’re awesome and no one else can be as happy as we are until they are Mormon and rah rah and also some Mormons don’t believe in punctuation (that last one was mostly directed towards myself). The lessons have been centered on how incredible it is to share the happiest and greatest thing in our lives and how we can bless so many lives by sharing this happy greatness.
Three weeks in a row, I’ve interrupted (contributed to?) the discussion to point out the fact that while yes, we think we are fascinating and happy, other people are fascinating and happy, too. It’s one thing to share the gospel and preach and invite and proselytize and challenge and all other Mormony words, and it’s something completely different to engage in conversation with another person. I interrupt (contribute?) to make it clear that when we abide (John 15:7) with each other and in God, a very holy conversation can take place. We have to learn about each other.
Here’s what I wish we could talk about: how to be Christlike. I royally suck at it, and need a lot of guidance. Yes, sharing the gospel is Christlike, but so is service and love and kindness. So is learning about other people and respecting and honoring the things that bring them as much joy and truth and happiness. And not being so grumpy and critical about ev-er-y-thing.
Last week, I went to the temple with Noriega. It was quite lovely. I need a lot of help in the “feeling the spirit” department lately, and I felt great comfort there. I felt reassured that no matter how hard this part of my life is and no matter how much I keep screwing up, God still loves me. And He’ll help me through this and help me be the person I know I want to be (which involves a lot less grump).
In the Celestial Room, I was studying Micah and read an incredibly cool passage that gave me some incredibly cool perspective:
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
According to the Book of Brittany (irreverent blaspheme much?) I believe in Heavenly Parents that honor different faith trajectories and different faith histories. In as much as I am a lover of words, I cannot articulate this sentiment better than Lorian over at FMH. She writes:
So much of faith is, I think, about learning to live “in the tension,” in that space between what is comfortable and what is challenging, between what we know by faith and what others believe their faith dictates.
I believe there is truth in every religious tradition which seeks to communicate with the Divine Being. One of my favorite descriptions of this concept is a passage from CS Lewis’ book, The Last Battle, from the Chronicles of Narnia. In this passage, Aslan has opened the door to the “New Narnia” and is welcoming faithful followers to come in. A young soldier of the Calormene Army came to the door. He had been for his entire life a follower of the god “Tash.” And yet, when he arrived at the door. instead of being blind to the beauties and reality of the New Narnia, as other non-believers were, he immediately recognized Aslan for who he was and gave him his allegiance.
Some of Aslan’s followers were angry that a man who had spent his life serving the evil Tash could be welcomed into New Narnia as a follower of Aslan. But Aslan told them that this young man had done good his whole life, in service, as he saw it, of Tash, but that anything that was good could only be in the service of truth, and, since Aslan WAS Truth, he accepted the young Calormene’s services as rendered to him, not to Tash. So it was the intent of the young man’s heart which Aslan saw and honored, not the fact that he had rendered that service under another’s name.
I think God values the love and the devotion and the service that each of us offers, whether we do it in one church or another, or even simply as individuals. Jesus said that “as much as you do these things for the least of my brethren, you do them for me.”
There is great good to be found in most every religious tradition, and you do well, I think, to find the one that reaches you and with which you connect, and do your best to give yourself to God fully within that context. It is not the context which “saves” us or which makes our service to God worthwhile. The context is what assists us in offering our best to God, and that context may be different for every person.
Lorian’s words and the verses from Micah strengthen my testimony that God respects our faith journeys. God loves us under our own fig trees and loves that all people will walk with their God. Like Aslan, I believe that God acknowledges our good works, and as long as we are in the service of truth, God will accept our service. That, I believe, is truth and that, I believe, is where we will find the fullness of the Gospel.
Okay, so here’s where all ya’ll yous guys come in. Lorian talks about offering our best to God. I need to work on that. I so very much need to work on that. How can I offer my best to God when I struggle with the lessons in this ward? How can I participate in this discussion, be an example of holy conversations, and express my believe in mutually beneficial relationships? Every week, I’m a member of a conversation in which I don’t want to participate. How do I participate, lovingly, without being a giant hypocrite?
Thanks in advance and with so much love,