Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Words That Move Me - Gift from the Sea - Part 2

(Click Here for Part 1)

Glimpse of an Image

In that moment of prayer I felt love flow into me. In hindsight, I see it was a pivotal moment in understanding my relationship, as a woman, to the divine.  It certainly wasn't the first prayer, though. I'd spent over two years pondering, writing, and discussing with husband, parent, and mentors. I had prayerfully read through just about every book in my scriptural cannon - many times taking a week to write, ponder, and apply each scripture that felt like it called to me. I listened whenever I drove to a talk from modern Prophets and Apostles. Eventually, I picked two apostles and listened to their talks from their first to the most recent. I was given and found articles in an online journal that explored things from angles that were important and new (<------ links to three of those articles).  

Those were all shells I found when "ebb tides [revealed] another life below the level which [I did] usually reach." With the ebb tide in that moment of prayer, though, it wasn't words that helped me, it was an image.

It was an image that I felt, but didn't see. First (and yet all at once) there was an organized and peaceful city, filled with busy men and women, equal, but different, completing each other. The city was surrounded by a forest with mountains, rivers, and lakes that beckoned the men and women to journey "further up and further in." The forest was surrounded by a wall. Beyond the wall stretched an eternal land that never seemed to end.

'All you need... is in you right now. Your job is to take those crude elements within you and refine them.'... In other words, the Lord is saying 'Take the reins. Take charge under the direction of my Spirit. Don't wait for someone to tell you everything to do.' ... You prevail over people, things, and situations by your faith. 
         ~ Gene R. Cook, Living by the Power of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 89-92

In the city there was work and peace between the women and men who were equal, different, and complete. In the forest, it was an individual journey with mountains and hills to climb. With each summit scaled, you could see over the wall to the land beyond. It was breathtaking, each glimpse of that land. So beautiful it filled you with hope and love. It beckoned you onward. 

I advise all to go on to perfection, and to search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness... I am going on in my progress for eternal life... Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure. 
     ~Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 364, 366.

Then, I inserted myself into the image. I was in the city. I journeyed into the forest. With each hill or mountain I climbed, I felt that pull of the eternal land beyond. The farther I went, though, the more I saw something missing both on the wall and on the other side. Women. Only men climbed the wall and looked out to the land beyond. I knew it was for a reason, but my experience in the city taught me that women were needed to complete men and vice versa. So where were the women? We must have some role or function at the wall or beyond it? Why was it hidden? What was I to learn from that? When I reached the wall, that feeling of despair and abandonment set in. I was too close to the wall to see the land beyond, to feel its warmth, see its beauty, or remember its nearness. I turned back, but now the wall followed me, always in memory before my eyes. It made the city look different, the forest look different. The wall was in my eyes. I couldn't be free of it. 
"For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places" 
      ~ Isaiah 51:3
Strangely, this image was a comfort, even though it seemed to cut off before giving me any resolution. The next morning, I put on my walking shoes. I felt renewed energy, the darkness lifting, and I wanted to be out in nature and walk. My sister, pregnant, but alert for so early in the morning, asked to join me. We set off on what became more of a spiritual journey for me than physical. I told her of the image and of all the thoughts that we'd discussed before, but this time, it was different.  The tide was turning, it was time for the water to begin returning. As we talked, the image and my sister worked as tools of precision, untangling, ironing, smoothing, and nourishing. When we returned to my brother's home, I felt more whole than I had in a long time. The wall didn't come down. I just stopped demanding that it come down. Like my sister said, "So there's a wall. Okay. Now what?" Nothing will be accomplished by remaining in my current course. Climb more mountains, serve and love more in the city. So I did. I finally could. I left the wall. And it left my eyes. 

... and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord    
      ~ Isaiah 51:3

I found that there is this feeling in those dark times before the tide comes in. When all is dark, there is still a way to find the direction to travel and "draw near unto [Christ]." For me, it is a feeling that you can be pulled forward - that there is future progress down that path where the other paths feel they reach an end. Often, the first steps in that direction seem wrong to our mind (in contrast to the peace in our heart). The natural tendency we have is to want to label our actions - and we use the culture we've grown up in to determine those labels. But God has labels we have no knowledge of. He has purposes we can't comprehend and He can see where the path leads. We just have to trust that the feeling of Eternity, of progress, and of hope that beckons us in that direction means we should go in that direction. We should not stand still anymore. 

I've also learned there are many things that can distract us in this life and many things and people we can draw near unto. I've learned I want to choose to draw near unto my Savior.  He's my advocate with the Father in this life. He is the way.  I'm coming to know him - and I don't ever want to stop. He's more than any words I can use. His love is more beautiful and comforting and nourishing than I can explain. So I choose Him. Even when I can't see Him or feel Him. I choose Him. 

I believe now that day with the image and the walk with my sister was only a preparation for the following week when I would experience a great loss. I could not have survived it spiritually, had I been in the place of darkness I was before that breakthrough. In that loss, the Lord found a way to perform one of His greatest moments of healing. 
When the heart is flooded with love, there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation. And it is this lack of fear that makes for the dance. When each partner loves so completely that he has forgotten to ask himself whether or not he is loved in return; when he only knows that he loves and is moving to its music - then, and then only, are two people able to dance perfectly in tune to the same rhythm. 
       ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 97-98.

I felt enveloped in love. I felt a knowledge distill upon me that all the efforts to create as a woman, had been recognized, validated, and accepted by the Lord. I felt healed from the results of past mistakes to close the door to that creation. I felt whole - no more holes. He was filling them. 

... joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.    
         ~ Isaiah 51:3

I have felt it important to share these glimpses of my recent experience. I have felt the need to witness that we have a Father in Heaven. That he loves his children and that we are his children, sons and daughters. I witness that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I witness their power and love is real and that the way to feel of that love and power working in your life is to choose them. To draw near to them. To yield to their tuning and tutoring. And to find gratitude IN the journey.

The rest I have learned with a sure knowledge will be revealed on the ebb tides of life when we are ready. So get ready, or it will never come to you. Don't stand still. Face it. Not with signs and picketing for what we want to find on that sea-bed, but alone on the beach of our souls as individuals with study, prayer, pondering, the making and keeping of covenants, and always taking upon us the yoke of Christ. Then the Source of Light and Truth will reveal to us little by little each "shell" we need as He changes us little by little. 

I know now why it is a yoke - because it is work - this business of "growing into the sort of [eternal being] He wants [us] to be." 

Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.  
    ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 102.