Thursday, August 31, 2006

Musings on Suffering and Submission (and Sacrifice)

With the chronic fatiguey stuff I deal with, I never know how I will feel from day to day. Yesterday was a rough day. By the end of the day I was so spent, so discouraged. I read this, and found myself on the verge of tears. (Sidenote -- that is a stunning article on sacrifice. I suggest you go read it now before even finishing here!) The irony of being a mother of young children with limited energy (and being willing but currently unable to subject my body to another being-pregnant-and-taking-care-of-an-infant experience) sometimes seems like more than I can bear. And there just seems to be no end in sight to this relentless, foggy fatigue and the pain and discomfort that often accompany it. It's. Not. Fair.

Weighed down by these thoughts, as I did dishes last night, I finally slumped over the sink and began to cry. The gift of that article, however, must have allowed an image to form in my heart and mind. In that instant, I pictured the Savior also slumped over, in Gethsemane, pressed by the "infinite and eternal" weight of the sins and afflictions heaped upon His soul.

That image enabled me to stand up a little straighter and dry my eyes. "I am trying to be like Jesus," right? Somehow, I must summon the strength to bear this trial gracefully. Even the Savior wanted His cup to pass, but, in the end, He submitted. "Thy will be done."

Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.

Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?...

Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?...

In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father 'in all things from the beginning.' (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was 'no room … in the inn' (Luke 2:7) and 'no crib for his bed' (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him 'as they listed.' (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62

Though stretched by our challenges, by living righteously and enduring well we can eventually become sufficiently more like Jesus in our traits and attributes, that one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever. By so living now, our confidence will 'wax strong in the presence of God' then (D&C 121:45). Confirmingly, the Prophet Joseph declared, 'If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 216).

Again, our experiences surely do not approach those of Jesus, yet the same principles and processes apply. His perfected attributes exemplify what can be much further developed by each of us. There is certainly no shortage of relevant clinical experiences, is there?

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good news, anyone?

It's been quite a week. You know the "good news minute" in Relief Society that it seems is done quite regularly? Well, I missed it today. Literally and figuratively. I'm feeling weighed down, because:

- I found out a friend's missionary son came home six months early from his mission. Not for health reasons. (I was thrilled, however, to see the love and warmth that he found at church. We have an awesome ward.)
- We had two babies born, both who ended up in the ICU. (I think they will be fine.)
- I spent RS talking to a friend who is on the brink of leaving her husband. Hard situation on many fronts. They have two small children.
- I met yet another woman who was deserted by her husband (of 20 years) for another woman, whom he then deserted months later. I can't comprehend the pain they must have experienced.
- A friend has decided to be done with the Church. If you wonder why I worry about too much intellectualizing about stuff related to our religion in ways that calls into the question the foundations of our faith, this is one reason why. I have walked with her through part of this journey, desperately hoping that she could see the light instead of the darkness of doubt, but to no avail. Dancing with doubt is dangerous business. It's devastating to me to see someone I care about so deeply walk away from Living Water and the Bread of Life.
- Our Sunday School lesson was one of those last-days-gloom-and-doom lessons. Of course, I know all the righteous-need-not-fear answers, but still sometimes the realization of our perilous times gets to me, ya know?
- On a personal note, I had a hard time not breaking down at the hospital when we visited one of the new moms. I am feeling old and tired and still not sure if having another child will be something we get to experience. While it doesn't stop my life, the pain of that potential end is ever-present -- made more so when I see a new little life.

I'm really fine, but it has been quite a heavy day. Thank heaven for the gospel which is my anchor, reminding me that there is hope in these last days, that trials can be overcome, and that nothing can go permanently wrong if we trust in and follow the Savior.