Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Questioning in the Church

I am Mormon.  This is the only religion I am intimately familiar with, so my thoughts center around this religion.  I would be interested to know how this topic is addressed in other religions, as well as what my Mormon friends think.  Feel free to share your feelings in the comments.


What do you do if you are asked to do something by a spiritual leader but don't feel good about it?  What do you do if you hear something taught at church that doesn't feel quite right?  Or what if it all sounds okay, but you want to know for sure?

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we believe in continuing revelation.  We believe God will communicate to each of us individually if we seek it and listen.

And yet, there is often a judgment that occurs if someone questions something.  This is not doctrine.  This is not taught in our church.  But is it practiced by many in the society of our church.  And it hasn't been uncommon in my life to find people so sure about what is right and what is wrong simply based on what is socially acceptable within the church but with no doctrinal basis -- and judging others based on those standards.

Questioning is often associated with apostasy.  If someone doesn't believe everything that is taught, if someone seeks for themselves, they are often seen as falling away.  And I can speak from my life's experience and say that questioning is sometimes a part of personal apostasy (probably most of the time, but my experience is limited and I don't want to make a broad judgment).

But questioning also leads to further light and knowledge.  It leads to a stronger testimony.  Questioning is what led to Joseph Smith's first vision which started the whole restoration of the gospel.

Where is the line?

And beyond questioning doctrine, what about questioning leaders?  We have often been counseled in our church to avoid evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.  I have heard this to be interpreted many times as "never say anything negative about anyone in a calling of leadership."

Well, I looked up evil speaking on the church website.  It is defined as "saying things that are wrong, hurtful, and wicked."

The commonly accepted definition, never say anything negative, would allow evil to thrive.  Abuse of all kinds would be allowed to continue for fear of evil speaking of the Lord's anointed.  In fact, it has in the past.  In our church as well as others.  Certainly we should be able to see that keeping our mouths shut when something doesn't feel right is not a wise choice.  And speaking up is not a sin.

So where is the line between disagreeing with a leader's decisions and saying so and challenging their stewardship and authority?

Many people in my life have expressed attitudes that support blind obedience.  I absolutely do not support it and don't believe God does either.  God wants people who will study it out with their minds and hearts and choose to follow Him.  He wants enlightened obedience.

He wants people to have the freedom to think for themselves and not be judged or excluded because of it.  He wants people to hunger and thirst after righteousness and further knowledge.  He wants people who draw near to Him, seeking answers and/or confirmation.

We each make mistakes or hurt people in our various callings at one time or another, even our leaders.  We are not expected to be perfect.  But hopefully we grow and become better.  Sometimes this requires the honest feedback of someone who doesn't think what we are doing is right.

Talking behind someone's back about all the things we think they are doing wrong isn't kind and won't solve anything (we shouldn't do it about anyone).  But I believe sometimes we need to talk things out with a friend to see things clearly.  Not all talk about what we don't like that someone else does is gossip or back-biting.  Sometimes it's problem solving.  An honest seeking for truth.

But I do believe all questioning in the church needs to involve God.  I believe we need to pour our hearts out to Him and seek His guidance and answers, with or without consulting friends or the handbook or scriptures.

And we need to quit judging others and allow the honest questions and struggles of a true heart.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Don't Know How I'm Supposed to Feel

My friend's sixteen-year old daughter is missing.  She left a note.  She ran away.  But they suspect she was lured away by predator she met on the internet.  It's been a week.

It's such a horrific thing.  My heart is aching for my friend and her family.  I pray for her safe return multiple times a day.

And I feel guilty that I still worry about my own problems.

Big problems like my husband being out of work for a couple of months, with no real prospects on the horizon.  Little problems like my sadness that my son will probably get very little playing time this season of football.  And in between problems like the messy house and my lack of energy or motivation to do anything about it; the medical bills that just keep coming; trying to help manage my husband's depression.

Whenever I get stressed about money and trying to meet all our obligations, I remind myself that my children are safe.  When I notice the signs of depression in myself, I track each of my children in my mind and know where each of them is.  I am so grateful for this.  My children are my life.  I can't imagine the heartache my friend is feeling or how unimportant those other things would be to me if I didn't know where my child was.  What right do I have to worry about the stupid things in my life when she is going through something like this?

I know I need to do things to help myself, to care for my family.  But I find myself checking on her status several times a day to see if there's news.  Sometimes every half hour.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I am so worried about her and her family and not spending enough time worrying about my own family.  What right do I have to neglect my family and our problems by spending so much mental and emotional energy on my friend's family?

I spent years being numb.  Not feeling much of anything.  Most of that comes from a childhood where feelings were not acceptable.

I still have difficulty identifying my feelings.

And sometimes I think I'm feeling everything, like in Harry Potter when Hermione is explaining to Ron and Harry how Cho Chang is feeling.  Ron thinks no one could possibly be feeling all those things at once.  But we can.

I'm feeling sad and scared for my friend.  I'm feeling sad and scared for myself.  I'm feeling blessed.  I'm feeling irritated and disappointed.  I'm even feeling content sometimes.

But I'm judging those feelings.  I'm judging myself for feeling all of these things.  Like I am bad because I'm not feeling what I should be feeling -- whatever that is.

I know I shouldn't.  I know I should experience the feelings and try to see what they are teaching me or just acknowledge them or just let them pass by unnoticed.  I wish I could stop judging them and just feel.

I tell myself that I am not a bad person because I am worried about my own life, even simple things that won't matter in a month.  It's okay to be happy.  It's okay to cry.  It's even okay to be numb for a while.

Now that I've said it, I'm going to work on believing it.  My feelings are mine.  And they aren't right or wrong.  They just are.


Update:  My friend's daughter has been found and is safe and back with her family.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trusting in God's Timing

Here's the thing.  I do.  I really do.  I trust that He knows what He's doing and everything is going to work out okay.  Eventually.

It's the eventually thing that sucks.

Why can't it be now?  Why do I have to watch week after week as my husband goes through interview after interview and disappointment after disappointment? 

When my husband was laid off I wasn't worried.  Really.  Not worried at all.  In our twenty-three years of marriage he's been laid off eleven times.  He's good at finding a job.  He's highly employable.  He's a hard worker and a loyal employee. 

But it's been nearly two months now and my relaxed attitude is pretty much gone.

I love him and it's so hard on him to be rejected over and over.  He wonders what he's doing wrong.  He struggles with depression and feelings of low self-worth.  He tries to stay positive and keep his hopes up, but then those same hopes crash every time he's passed over for a position.

It breaks my heart.

I try to help him fight the depression.  I believe in him and tell him so.  I value him whether he's employed or not.  But that only helps so much.  He still questions his worth when he can't support his family.

And I've been really struggling with depression, too.

I feel so powerless.  I wish I could get a job and help out, but my health just won't allow it.  I really can't do anything to help him interview better or find better job opportunities.  All I can do is support him and try to manage our home.

And the stress of trying to keep our home afloat makes me feel like throwing up a great deal of the time.

We are receiving unemployment, which is less than half of what we were earning before.  We have cut every expense we can.  We have thousands of dollars in medical bills, some of which have gone to collections.  We have had to ask our daughter to help with some costs.  We've had to ask my dad for money.  And we've had to go to our church for food and help with the bills.

I am grateful that these things are available, but don't let anyone kid you.  It sucks to have to ask for help.  A lot.  Being an adult and not being able to pay your own way is a pretty major kick in the emotional teeth.

If I could just see down the road a bit, see when it's going to get better.  Then maybe I could focus on other things instead of obsessing about how I'm going to keep the lights on and the medical debtors at bay.

God's smart.  He knows what He's doing.  But I want what I want and I want it now!  I want my husband to get a job.  Now!  I want him to feel valued and productive again.  Now!  I want him to be proud of himself again.  Now!  And I want us to be able to pay our own way again.  Now!

And yet, when I pray tonight, when I converse with God and express my gratitude and ask for what I want, I will still include, "If it be thy will."

Because I do trust Him.  Even if I feel like throwing up while waiting.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Just Can't Do This Anymore

I've been trying to help my mom (read more here).  But I can't anymore.

She wanted anti-anxiety meds.
Her psychiatrist didn't want her to have them and wouldn't prescribe them (I agree with his reasons).
She went to another doctor and asked him.
He saw the psychiatrist's note in her file and said he couldn't give them to her.
She went to a nurse practitioner.
The nurse practitioner gave them to her.

After my mom got them, she offered me one.

And she thinks the system is out to get her and no one wants to help her.

And I just can't do this anymore.  So today I sent her the following text, because via text is the only way she hears what I say:

I am sorry, mom.  I love you.  But I can't help with this stuff anymore.  I think the way you are doctor shopping and not following your doctors' and therapists' instructions is dangerous to you.  I can't keep helping it happen.  I know you disagree with me.  I am sorry if this hurts you.  I will let dad know that I am taking myself out of the picture.  I hope you find a way to feel better.

I also sent emails to her therapist and psychiatrist letting them know my decision and why.

Right choice or wrong choice, I know I hurt her.

I had a dream the other night.  I was back in time about twenty years.  My mom was there.  She was happy and healthy.  I am grateful for that dream.  It reminded me who she used to be.  That helped me act with love.

But I still feel like a horrible daughter.

It's just so sad.

Friday, August 2, 2013

When I Don't Get What I Want

Sometimes I don't get what I want. 

I'd like to be all mature and say that I see these moments as growth opportunities and I'm happy for the person who did get what I wanted.  I'd like to say that I roll with it and get all zen and peaceful and wish the universe well in its grand plan.  I'd like to say all those things, but then I would be lying.

Oh, I've learned to be a good sport when I lose at a game.  Or when we don't go to the restaurant I want.  Or even when someone wakes me up when I wanted to sleep.  (Not all the time, but usually.)

But sometimes I stare the universe in the eye and say, "I want my life to be like THIS.  Exactly like THIS.  Pay attention to what I'm telling you -- make it like THIS!"  I feel like the universe and I understand each other.  I see the universe nodding in agreement.  And then the universe goes and does whatever the heck it wants.

Seriously, it sucks.

I thought the universe and I were friends.  I thought the universe had my best interests at heart.  I thought we were in this together.

But I didn't get what I wanted.  I feel ripped off and picked on.  By the entire universe.

And you know what's worse?  Do you know what the real slap in the face is?  That stupid universe is right.  Like, every single time. 

It never fails.  I am sure I've got it figured out.  I am sure I know what is best for me.  I'm sure I've got the upper hand in my battle with the universe this time.

And before too long I am looking at the universe with its slight, Mona Lisa smile.  And the universe knows it has won again.  It does not brag.  It doesn't need to.  Its power is evident for all to see.

And I am forced to not only humble myself and say, "You were right."  I find myself bowing my head time and again saying, "Thank you."  (But I still mumble under my breath, "Stupid universe.")