Sunday, February 27, 2011

Okay--pausing to catch our breath ;-)

Pondering: Taking Time to See Past the Surface

Okay, okay.  I know.  Getting four personal insights/applications/likenings out of just one verse of scripture is a little "over the top," but then that's how I find God to be--over the top!  I used to think that reading the scriptures (or even having anything to do with spiritual thoughts spoken or written) was just one more thing to DO and check off my "I'm-Trying-SOOO-Hard-to-be-a-GOOD-Person" list.

But, then, my weaknesses and the weaknesses of others broke me in two.  No, better put, mortality shattered me into pieces--a million pieces.  Putting my life, my sanity even, back together would have been like trying to reconstruct the body of one of the astronauts that died in one of the space shuttle disasters.  That was what it was like for me when I began this in-depth search of the Book of Mormon in the mid-1980s.

That's when I either had to find God on a gut-deep, heart-deep, walking-talking-counseling, personal revelation basis, or I was going to spin right off the planet, much less right out of the Church.  Everyone and everything I had believed in and participated in as part of the outward structure and appearances of the Mormon way of life had not been able to keep the holocaust that was my life from happening.

That was when I stopped reading the Book of Mormon just to check it off a list or raise my hand at church to show I was reading it.   That's when I heard Joseph Smith's testimony that this book would get me closer to God than any other book in the world.  Any other.  That's when I began slowing down and peering into the depths of each verse, like you would sit and stare into a pool of water and begin to see what lies under the surface.  I began to sit still long enough and BE still and wait upon the "words of Christ" to open the verses up to my mind.  And under the tutelage of His Spirit--starved for and hungered and prayed for with all my heart, like a drowning person grasping for air--HE began to show me the correlations with the 12 Steps and the applications to my life as a totally lost and devastated mortal.

I hope these bits of sharing will encourage you to read the scriptures slowly--taking time to let the Spirit of the Lord open insights and applications to your own life.

1 Nephi 1:1 -- (yep, there's more!) “ . . . having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God . . ."

Coming to Know the Goodness of God
In the light of 12-step guided scripture study, I began to realize that in spite of all my outward professions of belief in God over my lifetime, I had serious doubts about His goodness.
As I have recovered a closer consciousness of God since coming into recovery, I have found that all my negative, rejecting doubts about God were the farthest thing from the truth about Him.  For me, all this negative thinking was definitely one of the “old ideas” the AA Big Book advises us to let go of “absolutely” (p. 58).
In place of this old image of God, I have opened my heart and mind to the truth that God is actually benevolent and caring about all of creation–and especially about His own children–and that includes me.  

In recovery, I have come to know that in all the afflictions and trials, in all the mistakes made against me as well as the mistakes I have made,  I have actually been experiencing God’s goodness, in allowing me to come to earth, to learn by my own experience with sin (what it means to be separated from Him.)  I have come to (awakened) and have come to realize that I wasn’t cast out heaven, as the Liar, Satan would like me to think of myself.  No!  I was sent out from my heavenly home to this earth with a definite purpose.  

For me, the fall was a leap of faith–my faith in Christ who promised to redeem me.  I was sent out to learn by my own experience “good” from “evil.”  In other words, to learn what works to bring peace and happiness, harmony with the universe, and what doesn’t.  Sending me out.  Bringing me Home.  It’s all good, as hard (mysterious) as that may be to believe.  This awakening to my life--imperfect as it has been--as a good thing, has amounted to a mighty change in my heart towards God.  It was my version of the process that AA members often call “firing our old God.”   In my case I didn’t need to fire my “old God.”  I just needed to fire my resentment and resistence to God and to life on His terms. 
Prayerful Thought: Lord, help me see that God is good and that my life has been, is and will continue to be good–if I will just allow Thee to show me the mystery and wonder of it all.

1 Nephi 1:1 . . . and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; . . .

“ . . . having seen many afflictions in the course of my days”!  Now here was a concept I could understand!   That certainly described my life.  Childhood: painful, lonely, neglected, abused.  Teens: painful, lonely, neglected, abused, “sinful.”  Young adulthood: painful, confused, compulsive-obsessive, perfectionistic.  Adulthood: painful, lonely, abused, abusing, driven, depressed, morbidly obese.

But wait.  What did Nephi mean by saying he was also “highly favored of the Lord in all [his] days . . .”?  What?  Wasn’t it a complete contradiction for him to say that he had seen many afflictions over the course of his lifetime and at the same time still felt highly favored of the Lord in all his days?  How could he possibly experience a lifetime of afflictions and still feel “favored of the Lord?”  “Highly favored,” at that?
As my “sanity” has been restored by studying and applying the principles of the gospel that correlate with the Twelve Steps, I’ve come to realize the belief that having experienced many afflictions or trials in my life means I’ve been bad, or worse yet, that God is bad–vindictive, arbitrary, even cruel, is a lie planted in my heart by the adversary.  In the light of this one phrase, I see that Nephi is offering me the same truth he will testify of again in 2 Nephi 2:11.  He’s trying to tell me that if I will listen and grow in wisdom, I will come to see life is a paradoxical and mysterious and amazing blend or “compound in one” of both affliction and favor.  This is true for all of us, without exception.  Prophet and housewife.  600 B.C., 2000 A.D. 
Today, I feel Nephi's fellowship.  I feel his joy that I’ve finally  heard the truth he lived and died to offer me.

Prayerful thought: Lord, help me to remember that life is a compound in one–and that it’s good.  It’s all good. 

1 Nephi 1:1 ". . . having been born of goodly parents, . . ." : Owning the Truth About My Childhood

Before I began to get rigorously, deeply honest with myself about my childhood and allowed myself to grieve the deficits and losses I experienced in it, I was “put off” by Nephi from the second he introduced himself.  He kept sharing, but I quit relating.  My mind sort of shut down, my eyes glazed over, and even if I went on reading Nephi’s words, I kept thinking, “Sure, that’s easy for him to say, easy for him to choose, easy for him to “be good” like he is.  Rich kid with attentive, caring parents.  I wasn’t hearing a thing, submerged as I was in self pity and self will, in resentment.  In scripture code: I hardened my heart against Nephi..
As I accepted and began to apply (practice) the Twelve Step principles, something happened to me that awakened me from this trance of resentment.  As I, like the wayward son in the parable of the prodigal, began to “come to myself,” the truth of the Restored Gospel was able to finally penetrate my softening heart.  I had heard, for years, the concept, unique to Mormonism, that we are all children of not only a Heavenly Father, but a Heavenly Mother as well.  I desired it to be true.  I wanted it to be true.  I even came to believe it was true.  I taught it in Primary and in Sunday School.  But did I act like it was true?  Did I pray like I had a Father and Mother who I could run Home to, who would take me in their arms and delight in my existence and pay attention to my feelings, my thoughts, my needs?  No.
In recovery, I eventually had a living experience with this reality that changed my mind-set and my heart forever.  As I kept studying the Gospel in the light of these twelve true principles, I was restored to the sanity of knowing–truly knowing–that I am a beloved child of Heavenly Parents who want me, and who are, even now, in the process of training me, preparing me to inherit all that They have and–even more exciting to me–to become all that They are.

Prayerful thought: Lord, restore me to the sanity–to the Eternal Truth–that I, like Nephi, have also been born of goodly–even Godly–parents. 

1 Nephi 1:1 -- “I, Nephi . . .” The First Person, Singular

The first requirement for recovery is to be willing to speak from your own heart, from what in English usage is called the “first person, singular” voice or perspective.   It is to be willing to think about and talk about your own experiences, your own life, your own sadness, pain, loss, fear, resentment, as well as your own hopes, dreams, desires, loves, enjoyments.  In recovery, you begin to come to yourself–like the lost son did in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15: 17), you begin to realize that your story of where your were at different seasons of your life, what happened and what your journey has been like is important, even sacred and needs to be heard–especially by you.  Your recovery will never start with trying to sort out and fix other people’s thoughts and feelings. 

Prayerful thought: Lord, help me to let go of obsessing about other people’s lives–what they’ve done, what they’re doing, or what they might do–and pay attention to the life Thou hast given me to live.