Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reflections on Faith

I've been re-reading excerpts from my mother's letters, and this one caught my attention on a Sunday morning. Such wisdom here. I've excerpted the last paragraph before, but wanted to share more of the full letter now. Italicized emphasis is mine; everything else is in the original. P.S. Just noticed that Katie shared excerpts from the exact same letter a little more a year ago. Reposting anyway, and adding part of a journal entry from roughly the same time. --Tim

May 4, 1997

[T]estimony--and faith--are not as complicated or as mystical as we sometimes consider them.  Faith is simply hope.  It isn’t based on a sign from heaven.  If we have a sign or absolute evidence of any kind, faith is unnecessary. 

* * * *

Testimony is bound up with our inner desires.  First, we must desire to believe, even if we are plagued with unbelief.  We have a perfect example of this in the New Testament when a distraught father came to the Lord with his afflicted son, hoping he could be healed.  Jesus said to him, ”If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”  And the father answered, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)  The Lord apparently filled the gap in the father’s unbelief and healed his son.  Desire was the basic requirement.  

* * * *

I am sure that if you continue to place yourself in a position where you might receive the influence of the spirit and if you keep yourself away from places where you know you could never find the spirit, you will gain a testimony of the gospel that is sufficient for you.  We are all different.  Your testimony, though it comes from the same source, will not be exactly the same as someone else’s.  We all perceive individually.  From my experience, we are given what we can understand and what we are willing to receive.  And what we are given is difficult, if not impossible, to describe.  When you hear others bearing their “testimony,” it may or may not have meaning for you.  My Dad’s experience has been far different from mine.  He caused me to doubt once because he supposed my experiences needed to be exactly like his.  (And some people claim to have never had a doubt in their lives!!)  The principles are unchanging, but the manifestation of truth has as many different means as there are people on earth.

This idea of testimony once seemed complicated to me and now seems much simpler.  Sometimes, it seems as simple as gratitude--the ability to acknowledge divine purpose and order in all creation with a full and thankful heart--the joy of being alive, running, swimming, seeing, hearing, loving--the joy of seashells and stones, of colored fruit from the brown earth--rainbows in the air.

January 1997

I feel sure the temple endowment is meant for every single person who lives on the earth.  It comes from a divine source.  I have felt divine power and inspiration come to me as I have searched for our ancestors, so that they may receive these sealing blessings.

We take it on faith as the children of Israel were required to take the rites and performances given to them on faith.  In the performance of these sacred rites, we will eventually be blessed with the meaning.  Way before the atonement, they were acting it out with all of its intricacies, never guessing why.  It is all highly symbolic, but the symbolism is divine (far greater than Melville’s--which nearly drove me nuts in graduate school.  He is so far above my intellect.  God is so much above his.)  The temple endowment is like our lives.  We experience the performance but miss the meaning, yet we are surrounded with meaning all the way.  Almost always, it is only in looking back that we are able to see the whole picture and understand the whys.  I am sure that is the way with the temple.  The worthiness requirement is also something that none of us can meet at the beginning.  The whole thing is a process--a beginning--a very sacred journey.  We are pilgrims, each of us, doing this for ourselves, learning about ourselves, as we are involved with others.

To me this whole process is the greatest evidence for eternal life:  Why the journey--the lives of struggle and learning, always arriving at wisdom after the experience--coming to know how to run the plays when the game has ended and often after we’ve lost the game???  It only makes sense if there is more.  There is no evidence in nature of futility.  Everything has function and purpose.  Should our hard-won understanding be wasted when our bodies decay?  No!  This has to be just what we are taught it is:  preparation for more and more and more.  That’s what Christmas means to me.  I believe the story.  It’s far crazier than a Star Wars fantasy, but I believe it. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weakness & Growth

I often think of this journal post by my mama when I'm feeling down about about my weaknesses.  I think we may even be inclined to question God when we struggle with intense weakness and trial in ourselves or our family members.  I am grateful to have her reflections to read now when she is physically far from me to remind me of the wisdom she would share with me if she were here.  While this post is about Ben, it could've been about any of us.

"Ben feels defective--that he is different from other people--unable. We are all defective in one way or another--suffering from depression, less ability to organize than others, more struggles with the public than others, for whatever reasons. All of us have to deal with these defects. All of us are handicapped in some area. Not all handicaps are visible. We have all received wounds that are hidden. It is how we deal with our defects and handicaps that makes the difference. We can give up and act disabled, or we can struggle to overcome them.

This is expressed in the Book of Mormon scripture:

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

 We could have been created without weakness. Then where would be the growth?"

I posted this video on facebook yesterday and it seems to fit so well with this post, so I thought I could share it here too.  The sentiment is the same.