Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finding Calm in the Commotion

Haiti. It's on all of our minds, and for most of us, it's in a helpless sort of way. We're too far away, without the time or means to really make more than the tiniest dent by sending a meager offering somewhere. And praying. Oh, yes, we are praying.

I'm also pondering. A lot. Pondering how it is that I should even be able to continue my day-to-day life of getting children from here to there, doing dishes (I own dishes -- I feel guilty about owning dishes and having food to put on them!), doing laundry (I own clothing! Nevermind my turbo washing machine!), looking at the bathrooms that need to be cleaned (I have more than one bathroom! In my house! With running water!). Speaking of water, I can get a drink of clean water, for crying out loud. Anytime I want to, from a faucet in my kitchen (or my bathroom(s)). (At least for now. Is anyone else feeling a little bit of fear?)

You know what I mean. Right?

And yet, I think of the scriptures that tell us that in these last days as we prepare for the Lord's second coming, things will both be in commotion and yet also continue to be normal -- people "marrying and given and marriage" and all of that. And I can't help but feel this tragedy in Haiti is a little example of what that means. I know that the Lord expects me to pray and weep and mourn for those who mourn, and to do what I can to help relief suffering of the poor and needy. But I also don't think He expects us all to somehow stop normal life -- if we have it. I think we each at different times will be living the normalish stuff of life, and at other times, be experiencing more of the commotion. And we never know from one minute to the next on which end of the spectrum we might find ourselves. (Again, it's hard not to feel fear even saying that.)

It's all part of this thing we call mortality.

I got an email tonight from a friend who has done service in Haiti. She shared with me the tragic story about her friend who has lost her mother, and possibly her brother. Her mother was buried in the rubble of a hospital after she had re-entered the building to save others. This young college student recently lost a sister in an accident, and now she is facing the heart-wrenching reality of knowing her mother is gone and considering that her brother might be too. And that her country, her home, is in shambles.

It's hard to even process the whys of these things. It's hard to process the breadth and depth of the suffering and grief caused at times like this. The intensity at the individual level is almost more than I can bear (such as when I hear stories like the one sent by my friend), but the collective suffering is really just intolerably overwhelming. And then, to realize that this kind of suffering happens in other ways all over the world, in large- and small-scale ways -- I can't do it. I simply can't go there for more than a millisecond before feeling the weight of it all.

It could consume any of us. And sometimes it might if we let it.

I, with Nephi, know God loves his children, but I know I don't know the meaning of all things. And I know that no pat answer can ever assuage the grief people feel at this time. But one thing that does bring me some measure of peace and perspective is to realize that the breadth and depth of the suffering can remind us of the breadth and depth of the Atonement. Only Christ can eventually make these things fully right. He is the one who was sent to bind our wounds, wipe away our tears, heal the broken-hearted, and swallow up the sting of death.

I will never stop caring, praying, and seeking to find ways to help. I will not turn a blind eye just because the suffering is difficult to process. But in the end, I know of no other way to fully face the devastation and difficulty that life can bring without holding fast to my faith in the Savior. It is my anchor in times of personal and global difficulty.

And I feel myself needing to dig ever deeper to anchor myself more fully in Him.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Moses 1 as another sort of Fall story?

As we sat in Sunday School this past week, I had some thoughts that excited me.

First of all, I love love love the way Moses comes to know who he really is, and how he discerns between the light, love, purity, power, and goodness of God in contrast with the darkness, hate, counterfeit everything, puniness, and evil of the devil.

But Moses still has to work really hard to not succumb to the fear and bitterness that the devil brought into his experience.

And it felt as I pondered the story that there was a progression of how Moses responded, perhaps a mini creation-fall-atonement sort of story...with accompanying insights into how to overcome the influence of the devil (the fall) and progress spiritually.

First, he says, "I can judge between thee and God." I love that. He uses doctrine ("God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten") to stand up to the temptation.

I love, too, how Moses is anxious to get more revelation. He says, "I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him."

Twice he tells Satan to get/depart hence.

But then Satan seems to step it up a notch. Not seems, he does. He rants ("upon the earth" - hm, interesting phrase) and pretends to be Christ. (Makes my skin crawl just writing that.)

And Moses feels great fear, which causes him to see the "bitterness of hell."

It's a good thing that Moses had decided not to cease calling upon God, because it was only that that allowed him to have strength to, again, tell Satan to depart. He overcame the power of fear and had faith strengthened.

But the devil was not about to give up. He trembled, and the earth shook (again, interesting that the text talks about the impact on the earth, not just on Moses). This time, Moses received strength first (hm...) and then, "in the name of the Only Begotten" told Satan to depart.

It feels to me as though, over the course of this interaction, Moses gains more confidence and strength, to the point where he is able, through the power of the Christ and His Atonement -- using the name of Jesus Christ, even -- to overcome the adversary, and come again to a point where he could behold and enjoy the glory, presence, light, and blessings of God.

To me, this story feels a bit like a type of our own journey, the same sort of type that we get in the Adam and Eve story. First, Moses sees the wonder of God's creation. He is able to be in the presence of God for a while, but then that presence was withdrawn. While he was not left completely alone (v. 15 said that God's Spirit had not completely withdrawn), he was left to learn by his own experience to distinguish between light and truth and the evil one - and to act upon the light and truth. It took repetition, consistency, trust in doctrine, discernment, faith in Christ, obedience to commandments, and consistent prayer and spiritual effort to overcome the temptations of the devil. Each time as he leaned on the Lord, he received the strength -- even successively more strength, I think -- to come off the victor. As he was able to finally get Satan to leave his presence, he was blessed to behold the glory of God again, he was chosen to do God's work (to be a deliverer, one of my favorite types of Christ), and was given what seems similar to the sealing power (v. 25).

Elder McConkie once said that
God himself, the Father of us all, established a plan of salvation whereby his spirit children might progress and become like him. It is the gospel of God, the plan of Eternal Elohim, the system that saves and exalts, and it consists of three things. These three are the very pillars of eternity itself. They are the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement.
I see all three pillars in this wonderful chapter, Moses 1. And in it I see much wisdom in how we can overcome temptation, learn through faith and obedience to discern light from darkness, receive spiritual strength to face temptation, and come to know more and more about God, the creation, the atonement, and the purposes of life.