For the first time in my comparatively short career as a permablogger here at Rational Faiths I am writing a post for me. It isn’t that I am not of course interested in the things I normally write, but I do try to keep the readers in my mind when deciding what to write about (whether I accomplish that goal and anyone ever actually cares what I write about remains to be seen).
Today, on this post, I want to write what _I_ need to read. If you find it is something you needed as well, that is wonderful; if it is not I hope that you will grant me the patience I need to flesh out my own experiences and lick my own wounds in this space. This will also be an unedited stream of consciousness because these are thoughts that are cluttering up my brain and my heart so I need to get them out.
I am a private individual, so I am not going to delve into a great deal of detail here, but rather skim the surface. The basic premise which has driven the narrative of my life story is that I am an evil person. Whether this was given to me, or I was born with it I cannot say but it merely is.
I am an ardent believer in God, and Jesus Christ, and the whole shebang but applying grace to myself and my own life has always been hard. I have seen and done things that would make people’s hair curl and I feel these disappointments deeply. In the normal course of things when I start to wander down this pathway I pick up my faithful old copy of Believing Christ. That book changed my life, and changes my life every time I read it yet getting the lessons to sink in permanently and change the aforementioned narrative seems to be a no-go.
I can’t shut my brain off. It is always processing and thinking and chugging away. I am a planner with zero patience and I don’t handle change well. I am disorganized in my organization. What does all this have to do with anything? What does it have to do with my life narrative?
It has everything to do with everything! Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor does The Gospel itself. They are experiences that are colored by the other experiences of our lives. I was feeling broken because The Gospel has never made me happy the way people talk about that it should/does. I felt like the only explanation for the level of belief I have while not experiencing that joy high was because I was Satan (or a minion thereof more accurately). Satan knows that God is there—they just aren’t on the same side. It wasn’t until actually opening up and discussing this that it hit me that my _other_ non Gospel-related experiences all but guarantee that I am incapable of the type of happiness people are describing. It isn’t within my skill set. There are a lot of things that I am good at, but having faith in myself and “being happy” (whatever that means) is not one of them.
When I processed that the experience of my faith was not going to be the same as my neighbor’s it was a full-on revelation. Honestly, I started writing this post as a case study in sad-sackism. I was woe-is-me-ing all over the place, but now I have a completely different outlook. The blessings that have rained on my head, completely undeserved, over the past week have wrought a change in me. I am properly chastised and sufficiently humbled. We all have a part in the Body of Christ; the finger and the toe don’t have the same experience. This diversity makes us grand; it makes Divine Children a force to be reckoned with. If we can weather these storms amongst and within ourselves salvation is ours to be had.
beautiful raw. Thank you. I love that you remind us that we are all part of the body of Christ. All with different experiences, yet all important in His mind.
Thanks Jamie, I appreciate your input on it. This post honestly worried me a little bit. I am too private for my own good sometimes I think.
I didn’t get the joy of the gospel, either. I’d have these infrequent emotional/spiritual moments that I kind of thought some people feel all the time, and lots of generally down time in between. Then I started on anti-depressants and the highs essentially disappeared, but the lows weren’t as low. I’ve been off anti-depressants for over a year now (stopped with a break in my insurance coverage), and I don’t have any idea if I know what “spiritual” feels like–either joy or sorrow. The earlier emotions are back, but with more coping skills for dealing with them, but the joy of the gospel definitely isn’t a happy emotion, for me. The gospel is intensely compelling for me, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Feelings are a mess. Give me wild theological speculation any day.
Same here with the infrequent emotional/spiritual moments. I am glad for them though because (I feel) that those are the times I am truly feeling the spirit on an instinctual level. In a way I guess I should be glad that “sweet is (NOT) the peace that The Gospel brings” because it always keeps me on my toes and I am always being refined. I can get very comfortable easily if I stand still.
I really identify with that too. It seems like there was a day when I felt spiritually high all the time. And then that stopped happening and I was sure it was my fault because the church teaches that if you can’t feel the Spirit it is because you’ve done something baaaad.
I had to come to terms with that notion being all wrong. Because that just isn’t how faith and spirituality work for everyone.
Your honesty is beautiful. It’s been really hard for me to combine “spiritual joy” with the reality of my life, Kinda like I was living two realities. It wasn’t until I let go of the Gospel as a “thing” and The Church as “The Thing” and embrace the principles, that I was able to combine the two.
I agree Daniel. Letting go of boxed in expectations was a pretty freeing experience.
Awe, Emmet. I loved this. I actually felt much the same the majority of my life. I always figured that the reason that I wasn’t “getting” mormonism like everyone else, enjoying it to the same measure, or having spiritual manifestations or confirmations of things as they seemed to be was always my fault. It was because I was not worthy of those things, and they obviously were. No matter how worthy I tried to make myself; they never came–so I assumed that I was innately just a bad egg/black sheep. I was 30 (last year) before I was able to shift that POV, though it still slightly haunts me.
Lovely post, I’m glad you shared it.
I think the concept of being an evil person is so ingrained within me that I think I will be falling back on it for a while still myself. Old habits and all. I’m glad you have found some measure of peace though, a bit of a reprieve is always good for the soul.
This is deeply moving. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Rachel, I appreciate that. I am glad others can relate because selfishly it is a relief to know that I am not the only one who has felt/feels this way.
I get what you mean about “being happy” not being part of your skill set. Me neither.
It irritates me immensely when speakers go on and on about how we’re meant to be happy. The Stake conference we had broadcast from Salt Lake last year, two of the speakers spent a lot of time addressing how we should be exemplifying to the world the happiness we get from our membership in the church. The great irony was they all of them looked pretty miserable themselves.
To be honest, I never thought they looked all that genuinely happy myself. I lived in UT for 4 years and it was my only mass exposure to Mormons and it felt more to me like people were trying to convince themselves they were happy by saying it all the time. I wonder where that comes from. :/
I could have written this verbatim (except I don’t have your talent with words:)). Does anyone have an idea why it appears, generally speaking, we can’t mourn with those who mourn in our shared faith outside of the net? I mean, honestly, when was the last time we heard of words like these in the Church setting? To me, that is as much as the Gospel of Christ as is teaching the rules of the club, so to speak.
Thank you. I agree that mourning with those that mourn is a basic tenet of Mormonism and am disappointed that it is not something that is more widely stressed especially locally where it can do the most good. I share that frustration with you, and I just try to inject it into my own worship.