Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mercy, Justice, Healing

As I was reading Alma 42:13-26, I kept thinking about how mercy, justice, and the atonement work in our lives. As is often the case, I tried to find a way that I could really relate it to myself. Here's what I came up with:

Sin is like a self-inflicted wound. Imagine that you've purposely cut yourself. The wound may be small or large, shallow or deep. Whatever the case, you've now got a bleeding wound that needs to be taken care of.

Our first choice is whether or not to even try to take care of it. We can choose to ignore it. Sure, it'll be messy, and possibly even fatal, but it's our choice. Sadly, some people choose this option when sinning and end up in much greater pain, with much more scarring, than they ever needed to experience.

However, if we repent, then we turn to the Healer, who immediately binds up the wound to stop the bleeding, and then goes further and treats the wound in a way that will minimize the time it takes to recover and the amount of pain we will suffer. Again, it's our choice. Sometimes we may hesitate to reveal our self-inflicted wound to someone who can help us because of embarrassment or shame, but it's only by seeking healing that we'll ever receive it.

The laws of nature say that if we don't do anything at all to our wound, we will generally either bleed to death, end up with a nasty infection, or at the very least retain a sizable scar. When we seek mercy/healing, the laws of nature say that our chances are much better for receiving complete healing with much less scarring. Mercy is what enables healing. It doesn't make the laws of nature void, it just minimizes the negative effects.

This also made me think about how the atonement works the same way when we've been wronged and hurt by someone else. Jesus doesn't differentiate between which wounds should be healed- He tenderly binds up ALL wounds. When we've been hurt by someone else, we can make the choice to seek healing and lessen the pain of what's been done. But that has to be a conscious choice. Just like with a self-inflicted wound, we can choose to let these wounds fester and rot, or we can hold them out to the Healer and let Him make us whole again.

I love Jesus and the merciful healing He freely offers me. I have experienced it many times in my life. It is an amazing, humbling, inspiring feeling to have wounds bound up and pain, anger, and turmoil taken away. I know that I would be a much different person living a much different life if it weren't for the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and my God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

In the Garden of Life, I'm Asparagus

You know the popular saying, "bloom where you're planted?" I've often thought of that quote as I've struggled to adjust to new areas. I have a hard time getting comfortable with new people, and it's often made me feel inadequate and out of place. It's not that I don't like people, or that I don't want to be one of those wonderful social butterflies who are at ease starting conversations and seem to find friends wherever they go. After this many years, I've just had to accept that I am who I am, and I am an extreme introvert who takes a long time to warm up to and trust people. 

I am not the daffodil of the social world, who is the first in the garden to greet the world. I'm not the cucumber, who grows and spreads and produces vast quantities of fruit. I'm not even the bell pepper, who is slow to get started and so picky about conditions that it may or may not give any fruit by the end of the season. No, what I've come to realize is that in the garden of life, I am asparagus. 

For those who don't know about growing asparagus, you usually plant a one- to two-year old root. The first year it's planted, it shyly sends a couple very thin and fragile stalks up through the soil. The second year there are more stalks and they are a bit sturdier. By the third year, if all has gone right, the asparagus root becomes a large plant producing edible stalks.

That's me. It takes, on average, 2-3 YEARS for me to become comfortable enough with new people that I start to "bloom." It's funny because after a few years, it's like I've hit some magic condition where I suddenly feel like I belong. My confidence rises, I'm much more willing to put myself out there, and I become a much more productive and participating member of society. 

I don't know why God made me this way, or even if He did. Maybe it's just the natural effect of my upbringing and of too much emotional damage. Maybe, with enough therapy, I could overcome some of this seemingly natural tendency. I don't know. And I don't really care at this point. It's enough for me to recognize and accept that this is the way I am. When I'm transplanted, it will take me awhile to bloom, but in the meantime I'll keep pushing my way through the soil and hoping that there are a few gardeners out there who are willing to give me the time I need to grow and produce. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Which is Worth More: Spiritual or Physical Labor?

What is my downfall when it comes to keeping up with my spiritual health?

I know that for me personally, getting too busy and distracted are often the main reasons that I end up slacking off and not being diligent about spiritual things. This became really evident this year. During the spring and summer my to-do list was never-ending. There is so much work to be done on our land and house that it literally will never be done, but I like to make as much progress as I can. I found that I was often rushing through my morning scripture study, or even putting it off. I lamented the fact that it felt like I was just reading words and not getting much out of it, but I was too busy to put more time and effort into it. I wasn't feeling the spirit and was struggling with even having the desire to do the things I knew I should (scripture study, prayers, visiting teaching, etc.) 

As the weather has turned wetter and colder, I’m now forced to spend more time on indoor projects, which aren’t as time-consuming, pressing, or as strenuous. What I’ve noticed is that as I have more time to do my personal scripture study in the morning, and more time to connect with Heavenly Father in sincere prayer, I feel more relaxed and eager to spend that time doing spiritual work rather than physical labor. Being too busy was interfering with my relationship with my Heavenly Father, but I was so busy I didn’t realize it until I slowed down! 

I know that I'll have to watch myself next spring, as the weather warms up and I get back to spending a lot more of my time outside. I need to remind myself that it pays to make time to do the things I should be doing. After all, what good is it if I improve our land and house but don't improve my relationship with God? 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Powerful Men, Accusations, and a Culture that Encourages Silence. Shame on Those Who Cheered.

Let me make it clear from the start- I am not a supporter of Clinton or Trump. I don't think either is evil incarnate, nor do I think either is going to be the savior of our country. I think both have some good ideas, but both are deeply, deeply flawed.

Having said that, this election makes me sick to my stomach. I feel like we've been given two candidates who offer nothing more than the same pile of dog poop, spritzed with different perfumes and wrapped in colorful packaging. Sadly, when one or the other of the main choices gets elected, the American populace will find that the opened present is still just dog poop, covered with incivility, rancor, and dissension.

One of the things that has bothered me the most lately is watching footage of Trump at one of his rallies, starting out by denouncing the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. That in itself is expected (what powerful politician has ever voluntarily accepted blame??!) but what really sickened me was his supporters' reaction. They cheered. Cheered at his denunciation of women whose stories are nothing more than make-believe to him, and by extension, to them. Cheered because he vowed to sue each of them at the end of the election.

What's so disturbing about this? Simply put, it is an indication of the culture that keeps little girls quiet when someone is molesting them. It's part of the thought process that makes a woman fail to report a date rape. It's an extension of a society that doesn't protect girls and women, and what's most sickening is that other women contribute to it. 

I don't know how any woman who has been touched inappropriately, been molested, been raped, been afraid of getting away before being assaulted, or been treated like a sexual object can listen to another woman's accusation of such and have her immediate response be, "she's lying," just because of her political leanings. If you have ever been a victim yourself, or ever had to deal with the trauma and the aftermath of someone you care for, you know how deeply sexual assault wounds. It doesn't just touch the body, it damages the soul.

In our culture, though, we're encouraged to not speak up or out against it. Think about it- who wants to publicly accuse a man, especially one in a position of power or authority, without concrete proof? Are women supposed to wear body cameras to get irrefutable proof that a man has touched them without their permission? Think about how hard it is to prove that you've been the victim of sexual "misconduct." It's often a case of her word against his, and when you're up against someone powerful and/or famous, guess who's word is going to be given more gravity?

It's this crazy twisted faith that we put into men in authority that makes it less likely that a girl will report an assault. When we teach our daughters that those who come out publicly against someone we support is a liar, or deserved it, we are contributing to a society where our own daughter is less safe. If your first response to someone's accusation is that she's lying, or she's doing it for personal or political gain, there's something wrong with YOU. You should stop and ask yourself why your first response wasn't compassion and sympathy. If you're a Christian woman, even more shame on you. You weren't called to judge others unrighteously, without knowing the facts. You were called to love and lift others, especially those who are hurting. And I can guarantee you that if a woman experienced a sexual assault, she is hurting.

I don't know if the women who have accused Trump are telling the truth or not. Ultimately, only they and God know. But I can imagine the courage it takes to come forward and admit that such a powerful man took advantage of them. I can see one or two women maybe coming forward so publicly to make accusations for political reasons, but I find it hard to believe that more than one or two would want the kind of negative attention that was inevitable in accusing a man like Trump. Put yourself in their place...would you want to go through that experience just to maybe make a slight dent in Trump's polling numbers? Do you really think their own self-dignity is worth so little to them?

I find it disheartening that in the 21st century we're still placing blame first and foremost on the victim. We automatically jump to the conclusion that she was acting the wrong way, or "asked for it," or is lying. If her story doesn't come with irrefutable proof, all tied up in a perfect package, we are more likely to believe the man's side. Until we, as individuals and as a society, can make our first response compassion and a desire to find the truth, we're going to continue to have thousands upon thousands of girls and women experience unwanted sexual contact and never say a word about it, because the shame of the abuse is more than enough without adding the shame of public blame to it also.