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.


Quinn said...

I don't know what your going through, but hearing of your questions of God's love and how he can allow bad things to happen jogged my mind with a talk from this past conference.

Ill post a link if you want to listen to it, it talks about how God can love us, but let all these bad things happen to us.

Just thought it fit your questions.

Bravone said...

Thank you for posting this. I understand so much better now your thoughts about God and the reasons for the frustrations you have felt. I have felt some of the same feelings.

I want to find that wise Indian and give him a huge hug. I love that thought. It is so true.

I hope you continue to find healing in your relationship with God. I am on the same path. I love you Robert. Thanks for your unconditional friendship and influence on my life.

Jon said...

Great post. It's amazing when we learn to see the good that does exist in people or organizations that are imperfect. It helps us experience a little bit of what the atonement is all about.

Troy said...

beautiful insight.

Robert said...

Quinn - Thank you for you help. Really, it means so, so much to me. Someone once told me that light chases away darkness - that the rising of the sun chases away the night. Well, I feel like I've got a flashlight. I do well now in remaining positive and seeing good and beautiful things around me, but I still often find myself being overly critical. Ugh. I'm going to give it time. I smile now, I can say that time is on my side. :) Thank you Quinn

Bravone - Really man. Thank you. If I become annoying, tell me. You really are a hero of mine. Your home, your family, your integrity, and you - I'm astounded, inspired, and honored to be witness to them. Thank you so much my dear friend. Love you.

Jon - You're totally right. The more I focus and remind myself to see others with the kind of eyes with which I'd like others to see me, I become more and more grateful and appreciative of all the gifts and goodness I have around me. Thank you Jon, you speak the truth. :)

Troy - Hey man. How are you? I really liked your last post. Very creative and enjoyable. You've got a great gift in writing. I've seen that from when I first started reading your blog. Thank you for your comment. I hope to see you again when you are able to make it to UT. Love you man. Ciao. :)