Sunday, October 4, 2009

The world without is but a reflection of the world within

For such a long time now, I've felt so much frustration and bitterness. And only because it's natural for us (maybe just for me) to need a focus for such feelings, the target of my bitterness and frustration became God and by association, the LDS Church (the one that I was raised in). I was able to be more understanding toward the church and its members - they are, like me, human and I understand what that's not be perfect; but toward God, because "He is perfect," I didn't feel that I needed to temper my anger and criticism toward Him. In my work with struggling youth and with inmates at the UT state prison, I had been privy to know of so much unspeakable evil that is perpetrated on innocent or integrally good people. And I had been deeply hurt by the struggles that I was experiencing. I felt that if God was perfect and He created this plan that we are caught in, then He was perfectly cold and distanced from the suffering of His people. Could He not have come up with a plan that didn't require such horrible slaughter or allow such damaging and devastatingly evil self-perpetuating abuses? If it was in my power, I would never have set loose a plan wherein those horrors would occur. Because God is perfect, I felt so much more betrayed by His intentions than by anybody ever before. If He is perfect, and in His perfection, He is allowing this kind of inhumanity to occur, what are His intentions?

That's how I felt, and it penetrated clear to the deepest parts of me. Those feelings grew roots into every part of my heart, intellect, and beliefs.

Today, I had a conversation with an amazing gay LDS friend who is a great exemplar of patience and understanding in this arena. In talking and texting with him, I was reminded of an idea that I once used to live by. It's this: There are many things that I can't understand and many things that I can't change. To let my frustrations and fears with these things ruin my happiness and peace is just self-defeating; so, in the name of preserving mental and emotional health, I have to allow those concerns to go unanswered and instead, focus my energy on things that I can affect and change.

For a long time, I found myself unable to enjoy church meetings or LDS General Conference addresses because all I could see was a lacking understanding, judgemental people, and bigotry. A wise Indian once told me that "the world without is but a reflection of the world within." He said that what I saw in the world around me was but a reflection of what was within me. I saw a lack of effort to be understanding because I was falling short of understanding others - because I feared they wouldn't understand me. I saw judgemental people because I was judging them when I felt they might judge me. And I felt bigotry from others because I, myself, was a bigot toward those who I saw as bigots. I was destroying myself by letting my frustrations and fears ruin my happiness and peace.

Over the last month, I was able to attend church a couple of Sundays. For the first time in a long time, I truly enjoyed the meetings and felt love and peace in the discussions. Over this weekend, I was able to watch some of General Conference and I felt warmth and comfort where, for the last year, I had only felt justifiable criticism. I am once again enjoying church!

So, now in my journey, I am beginning again to see past frustration, fear, and bitterness to enjoy a better and brighter world, a world - a reflection - of my world within.

I recognize now, as I once did before, that to make a change in what I see in the world around me, I have to change the world within. Be more understanding and I'll see more of it in the world around me; judge less and I'll feel less judged; and be more compassionate and I'll see more compassion around me...and less bigotry.

This won't turn the world into a bag of peaches, but a beautiful world can only be seen by those who cultivate beauty within themselves - beautiful attitudes, ideas, and beliefs about others. It feels so good to feel this again.