The real answer to “How’s it going?”

August 29th, 2010

So I feel a bit relieved, as I skim through the posts of the past couple of months, that the tone is mostly positive and upbeat. In reality July and August have been pretty rough. Unfortunately, my “this breakup stuff is incredibly hard sometimes” comment of July 11 is, as it turns out, hyperbolic understatement – it’s rather like being dragged across gravel. Posts about doing fun things with guy/girlfriends have left out an important aspect of each experience: the searing, aching undercurrent of These are things I  would much rather be doing with SOMEONE WHO IS NOT YOU. For the first couple of weeks I either felt like something was being torn out of me or that there was an icy fist somewhere in my stomach; every lovelorn chanteuse plus Michael Bolton and Def Leppard was voicing my thoughts.  Bad poetry was written; agonizing questions were dwelt upon. How is he doing? Is he OK or is this hard for him? If he’s OK but I’m heartbroken, does that mean he wasn’t invested? And finally, I’ve never doubted that this is the right decision, but really, God, can’t I put it off until later? (As if it would be any less excruciating a few more months down the road.)

All of this emotional upheaval has led to a vicious cycle of insomnia followed by sleeping too much followed by insomnia – which has made me, I suspect, not the easiest person to be around. I get bugged at people who aren’t doing things the way I would do them (which is, um, everybody) and sit in silent (but still obvious) disapproval. I refuse to accept the imperfections I see everywhere, basing my expectations of the world on the way I think it should be rather than the way it is, and acting accordingly – which leads to frustration and resentment.

So that’s the background. Last week a friend shared this quote with me:

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. … Unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes. (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 417.)

I absolutely believe this is true. And I do my best to implement it as much as I can. What’s hard is believing that the seemingly negligible efforts that are all I can manage sometimes actually count for something and are acceptable to God. I guess that’s where humility comes in. That’s a scary thing to pray for, though.

Next post: On man’s ventures into flight and kicking against the pricks. Hopefully it won’t be too long in coming…

Making Sacrament Meeting – gasp! – interesting

August 28th, 2010

There’s a bit of a discussion going on over at Flunking Sainthood over whether church is boring – and if so, whose fault it is. I read through all the comments and want to try to answer the (rather sanctimonious) “I go to church to learn, not to be entertained” responders. Read on, if you will:

I completely agree that a worshipful, positive experience is ultimately up to individual members. Those who are spiritually mature can, like President Henry B. Eyring’s father, listen to the speaker and give themselves an internal talk if necessary (story from Henry B. Eyring’s book To Draw Closer to God, cited at http://bit.ly/9ThwX). I certainly don’t think it’s the speaker’s responsibility to entertain me. I don’t think that’s what any of us are saying.

But I’m concerned about investigators and new members. Are the missionaries to tell them “So, if church seems really boring, you need to write your own internal talk” – especially given that some of these don’t have the gospel background to do so, and the reason they’re at church is to learn?

I think there’s a balance. The onus is on the listener to receive, yes, but the speaker has an equal responsibility to give the best talk he or she can – not prepare as little as possible and “rely on the Spirit” to carry the message. (That’s OK for last-minute talks, of course, but most speakers have plenty of lead time.) I understand some people are not gifted speakers (myself included), so in my case “preparation” may involve writing the talk out fully and even practicing, so the audience doesn’t sit in awkward silence while I fumble through my scriptures and mutter apologies into the microphone. This may seem heavy-handed, but consider: the opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting is the opportunity to teach children of God, in the Kingdom of God, and in the name of Jesus Christ. That’s not meant to scare or overwhelm anyone, but to inspire. What would talks be like if everyone focused on teaching in the name of Jesus Christ during Sacrament Meeting – and if leadership encouraged them to do so?

Finally, I understand that people are busy. That’s why I said the speaker should give the best talk he or she can. Generally people can find the time for the things they want to do, even if that means making sacrifices during the week leading up to the talk. And if someone legitimately doesn’t have time to prepare, that person can by all means “rely on the Spirit” (which, of course, is what ultimately teaches anyway). I just think that a lot of us could make more of an effort to bring the Spirit into meetings through giving well-prepared, engaging talks.

Thoughts? Arguments? I’m happy to read them.