Application Paper #1: One of Many, Part 1
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"First, we need to know that our hearts are honest and broken. How do we know that? We begin by engaging in sincere self-reflection. The heart is the center of our feelings. As we look into our hearts, we screen ourselves. What no one around us knows, we surely know. We know our motives and desires. When we engage in sincere, honest reflection, we do not rationalize or deceive ourselves." ("Being Accepted of the Lord")
June 8, 2013
We're in Bryce Canyon as a family this weekend. While touring the canyon, a question came to mind. It's becoming a familiar anxiety whenever I am in a new place in crowds of people unfamiliar to me. It is in those moments that I remember what a drop of water I am in an ocean of people. My heart pounds a bit and I retreat inside my mind: "How can God possibly know me personally? How will He ever have time for me? How can I have a relationship with Him when there are so so many people that will be "waiting in line" in the next life?
I know. Time won't be the same in the next life you might remind me. Somehow that doesn't help. I have this sinking vulnerability washing over me - like Ellie's newly discovered fear of heights while staring over the railings into the vast and beautiful canyons - I feel on edge; night time and all is silent; no crickets can counsel.
Some things help, some don't. Parts of a poem I read this week with my children and revisit today help:
"...The wrong that pains my soul below
I dare not throne above,
I know not of His hate, -I know
His goodness and His love.
...And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.
...And so beside the Silent Sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.
...And Thou, O Lord! by whom are seen
Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
My human heart to Thee!"
~ "The Eternal Goodness" by John Greenleaf Whittier
It's not that I don't know of his goodness. Maybe that's what I should focus on: the things I know. I know my Redeemer lives. I know how deeply I need that grace and power to redeem - each day, sometimes each minute. I know how often I have felt that power heal me, comfort me, change me, mold me, forgive me.
I know I have a Father in Heaven. I know I have a Mother in Heaven. I know even more intimately that I have a dear and tireless companion who is called by a general name - The Holy Ghost. I sense His presence and love. That love comes with and through the love of others, but is separate and distinct. I feel how He amplifies that love, purifies it.
I know and believe in the character traits of my Savior as I have studied them in scripture, in the words of the prophets, and as evidenced by my life experiences.
I know there is more than this natural sphere or dimension reveals to our natural eyes. I have on numerous occasions felt things and had things happen to me that can only be explained as coming from that spiritual sphere. I believe that faith is how we reach beyond those walls. I thought I knew what I'd been taught - that he knows me personally. So why does that anxiety still surface every time I'm in an unfamiliar crowd? On some level, I must not believe it.
I find myself while driving the other day, listening over and over to a speech that contains this quote:
“Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father [in Heaven] and how familiar his face is to us.”This isn't new to me. My mind knows it. But my heart? And even if He is familiar, there is still that other aspect of things. I find myself believing that it's like a chain of command, that the blessings and tender mercies and miracles I've experienced are really indirectly through God. That they are more directly through those assigned to help me; assigned by someone who was assigned by someone who was assigned by someone etc. It just makes sense. God likes to involve many in the process; in service. Binds us to each other. Why don't I like that? Why does my brain suspect he's removed from the process by that . . . process?
I read these words as they are projected on the screen in New Testament class and understand my anxiety even more:
"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar...The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him...It is the only possession we have that we can give, and there is no lessening of our agency as a result. Instead, what we see is a flowering of our talents and more and more surges of joy. Submission to Him is the only form of submission that is completely safe." - Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Aug, 2000
Is it safe? That anxiety that comes often would say I don't believe it is. I'm holding back, protecting myself from that full submission. It's just . . . the more I seek Them, the scarier it gets. Scary because part of me wonders if I'll find I have a relationship on my end - and a loving, but too busy Father in Heaven, Savior, Mother in Heaven on the other end. Gods who have only little seconds here and there to spend with me (for good reason). And maybe those seconds will be so pure and strong and full of an eternal kind of love that it will fill me so much I won't "thirst" again until the next "watering," but no seconds, because of all those marvelous things they do, to pause for the small and ordinary things we can do with earthly parents: walks, hugs, relaxed conversations, reading together.
There is something so unfathomably sad about that scenario to me. I think of scriptures that contradict that thought like, "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you. Seek me diligently and ye shall find." But somehow it doesn't help. I begin to fear that since I can't comprehend such a dimension (and time) as God's, I guess I'll never be able to comprehend the love of God, or my relationship to him.
A different thought makes me curious: is that what is behind so many of our earthly pursuits? So many of us wanting to "get ahead" and be something special? Could it be that a core motivation for all our hurried activity (that we aren't even aware of) is we worry we won't be special enough to stand often in God's presence? To be a part of his "regular routine?" Hmm . . . I wonder.
These thoughts feels ugly, self-centered and nonsensical. But they are mine. And its time to take them through this process; the one that has resolved so many things my mind would know, but my heart had yet to learn.