I know what I want to say. Really, I do. I just don’t know how to say it best.
Here’s the thing – it’s been a rough year. A really rough year. For starters my mom died in a tragic accident. Add to that a root canal, the flu, strep throat, eviction, a car wreck. On top of that I’ve been wrestling with faith issues for a while. Then, as I was contemplating what to say in this post, I found out that my uncle’s wife’s son committed suicide. (Step-cousin. Didn’t know him well, but still. It’s my mom’s side of the family.)
Then, in the world at large there are more shootings, the Syrian crisis, streaming refugees crying in the wilderness for for some measure of peace and stability. Poverty, disease, disaster, war.
Add a dash of a controversial church handbook policy – with which I am still grappling – and basically I’m ready to crawl into bed until 2016.
People say these things are God’s will, that we should move forward with faith and trust in the Divine Hand. Honestly though, the last thing I want in all of this madness is comforting platitudes, or people preaching to me about hope and eternal perspective. I just want to feel sad for a minute. I want to lean into the heart-breaking weight of it all.
Luckily there are a few thoughts that have been patiently biding their time until I am done with my lamentation and rage – because sometimes I need to rage and lament before I’m ready to sit and listen. It just so happens that the most relevant thoughts that have helped me cope can be found in a couple of scriptures:
1 – D&C 122:5-9 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way…
2 – Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
Through two examples, here’s what those two scriptures mean to me.
When my mom died it was comforting to listen to people share stories and memories of her life. One thing that kept coming up over and over was how generous she was. Through the process of grieving her sudden passing, I realized that you cannot come out the other side of an experience like that the same person. However, you can choose what that change will look like. I decided that I wanted to incorporate that part of my mom into my life. I wanted to strive to be more generous. Financially generous, sure, if I’m ever in a position to be. More so I want to be generous with my time, my gifts, generous in how I think about others, generous in laughter and love.
Does that mean that I think God caused my mom’s death so that I would be more generous? That He called her home because of some heavenly need, thereby inspiring hundreds to be better people? Not really. Death is just a part of life. That’s all. But I do think He can – and did – use my mom’s death for good purposes.
When the church came out with the new handbook policy, I was hurt, confused, and angry. I read a lot, listened to a lot, tried to wrap my head around it. In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that this change gives us all an opportunity to reach out in love and compassion to those most affected. We can make sure that regardless of how people might view the policy, they will know that we love and welcome them in our congregations and in our lives.
Do I agree with the new handbook policy? Do I think it’s inspired of God? No. In my heart I think the way the church went about deciding on and implementing it was wrong. However, I do believe that God can make the best of it. He is like a divine MacGyver. Taking even the mistakes, foibles, and tragedies of life and turning them into triumph.
So now it’s up to me – and all of us – to decide what to do with what we’re given. Do we retreat into ourselves, wallow in perpetual misery, and give up? Or do we take a minute to live in the sadness, the pain, the anger, and then use that as a motivating force to move boldly forward, finding ways to make our corner of the world a little brighter, a little safer, a little more loving, a little more worth living in?
In the end, if we all desert at the slightest sign of discomfort, who is left to build, to comfort, to inspire, to lift the weary head and lighten the heavy load as we are called to do?
I guess what I’m saying is that while I feel beaten down by the heartache, anger, confusion, pain, and grief of the past year, and while I don’t know what the future holds, for now, I’m sticking around. I choose hope. I choose goodness. I choose love.