Confusing effects with the truth…
So I have been thinking about something that we humans do sometimes that really gets us into quite a bit of trouble. 🙂
At times, we believe (or want to believe) so strongly in something that we start to get obsessed with what we see as the effects or consequences of that thing. For example, at one point people who believed in a God in a certain way decided that a consequence of God’s omnipotence was that the earth went around the sun. It was a manifestation of God’s glory and our subjection to Him. People became so sure of this “manifestation” that they saw an attack on this manifestation as an attack on the existence of God Himself.
We can all smile at their naivety, but how often are we doing the exact same thing?
Someone hears there is someone professing to be a prophet. They decide first what manifestations a prophet would have, if he came from God. Then they judge a person by their list.
Sometimes people growing up in the church decide that since most of their ward is well off, if they keep the commandments God will bless them to be financially stable as well. When this doesn’t happen, they assume what they had been taught about God and blessings isn’t really true.
I made a list of qualities I expected in a future husband when I was in YW (who hasn’t made one of these lists – or 3 or 7 – in Young Women’s lessons??). When I started dating someone, I realized he didn’t match one of those things I thought would be a sign of a good strong relationship. I wondered if I should walk away.
In these and so many cases, what we are doing is mistaking a manifestation of truth as a necessary part of truth. Rather than this route, I think we need to ask ourselves if the core idea – God, love, etc. – is something we believe in, and then let the rest follow.
So again, an example:
In my relationship with my husband, once in a while I will wonder if a feeling I have is what I “should” feel. For example, if my husband is out of town and I have a productive time with my kids and writing on my blogs, there is a part of me that feels guilty: “You shouldn’t have such a good time while he is away. Maybe you’ll resent having him home, and that’s not a good sign in a marriage. Maybe something is wrong.” Or, if I have a hard frustrating time while he is away, I also feel guilty: “Poor guy, his wife falls apart when he’s not here. I’m just a weak person who needs a babysitter to stay focused on what’s important. That’s not a good sign of a marriage either. We should be more equally yoked!”
I really do think these things, although I realize that it isn’t truly a sign that something is wrong. But I went through this several times when we were dating, engaged, and even married. I thought about a way I was feeling or something we said and thought “That’s not how I pictured it. Maybe it should be this other way. Oh no!” Then I get stressed and obsessed and that’s about the worst thing for any relationship or friendship! 🙂
But, when it comes down to it, I know that something “real,” as I used to always say, happened. I know that when we first started our long conversations, I felt myself growing and changing and doing things I’d always wanted to do. I was becoming someone different. And at times, that was scary and I thought something was wrong. But when it came down to it, I knew that something had happened. There was a moment when I decided – “Hey, I like talking to this person because my whole world opens up, and anything and everything is interesting. I want to be close to God. I am edified and uplifted. Something happened, and it real, and I can’t deny that!” That is my definition of love – when being together opens up the world in front of both of you, and you can explore it together. All the “romantic” side came later, little by little – as a teacher once put it to me, the spiritual creation came before the physical creation. The aspects of marriage and romance that people talk about are completely secondary to our love, not manifestations of it. They happen naturally, because of our deep love and admiration for each other. We just have fun together, because we can completely trust each other with everything – including our very relationships with God.
But this came as a surprise to me! Love was surprising. I was surprised at so much of what he had to say. I was surprised at what dating was like. I was surprised that my little list from YW didn’t at all match up with him. I was surprised at how much I had to give up. But over and over, I had to admit that when I gave up my “picture” of dating or marriage, I liked what I actually had in front of me. I love it. I love my life, though it is not something I ever would have imagined. I was surprised.
I think the same thing has to happen with religion. We have to let ourselves be surprised. If I have ever had a geniune encounter with God, then I need to remain faithful to that and see what happens – be surprised. The temple was that way for me. I didn’t know what to expect from the endowment, but I had felt peace many times doing baptisms. I took that as my starting point – I know that I felt the Spirit and felt peaceful, therefore I will trust whatever happens next.
Same thing with a prophet. If I trust that so-in-so is a prophet, then I will trust what he says. I will be surprised and that’s okay. It make take some thought and some working out, but it will be okay.
Love and religion both require faith. Any truth does. Perhaps you have discovered something interesting in, say, a work of art. You can’t quite tell what it is, and it was in a kind of art you don’t normally like. But something was interesting. Trust that feeling, and follow it out. “I know something was worth thinking about here. I’m going to keep thinking and see what I learn.”
That’s how scripture study goes for me too. I have had (what are for me) unique experiences studying a particular few chapters in scripture. Because of the insight, spirit, and joy I felt studying those chapters, I feel a trust in the whole cannon of scripture. I look forward to being surprised!
So, there are some sloppily-written, rambling thoughts. But I think there is a kernel of truth somewhere in there: if something is real, and you honestly believe in it, then being faithful to that might mean you will be surprised sometimes. Or perhaps, when you are faithful to something that matters, you will most certainly be surprised at what happens.