Writing this morning from the heart, less from the head. We are home this Sunday morning, listening to our collection of favorite Mormon hymns, mostly piano, which have an emotional impact on me every time I hear them. I find that I am missing that we are not in Church this morning. In January 2014 it will be three years that I have had the privilege and honor to walk among the people who populate the LDS Church. To say so is a recognition of humble acceptance on my part. I did not believe I would or could 'convert' and did not see myself as such. I have become what is termed in the LDS culture and religion a convert.
In other words, I wasn't born into the Church, wasn't raised in the Church, don't have heritage or ancestors in this Church and what brings me to it is my husband's fact of both being born into the Church and having long-standing heritage among the peoples who brought us Mormonism and kept it a viable, living way of life. My connection to his heritage is my deep feeling for what his ancestor, Mary Jarvis, endured in making the treacherous Martin Handcart crossing to Salt Lake City. She speaks to me in a voice that resonates so strongly within me. I may be projecting my thoughts, experiences, wishes, hopes, desires onto her, yet it may not be descriptive of who she was, more that it could well be descriptive of who I am. I embrace her faith, the faith she had within the depths of her soul as she drew upon that strength to survive the journey. This does not speak as much to the nature of the religion as much as it speaks to individual's sense of faith and for that she has my respect.
For many years I have yearned for what my husband had in the fact that he knew his origins, his people, his heritage, his faith, the nature of his spirituality. When he rejected the Church for the teachings, for the Correlation period of the Church that condensed individuality towards efforts of conformity, it was easy enough for me to help-mate him with his explorations that led to deconstructing what about the Church teachings didn't work well, were not healthy. If one could step back and stay in their head, keeping discussion philosophical, abstract and conceptual, it was not difficult to disregard the Church teachings as having holes, sometimes very big black holes of despair. But it is far more difficult to disregard the people of the community of the Church who give so much, work so hard towards self-improvement by the outline given them by their Church. So many reach out in belief they are being helpful often not recognizing that their sense of helpful may in fact be hurtful. And yet their hearts are in their efforts, the intent is not malicious. I finally get to a place where I can appreciate, respect, understand misunderstandings for what they are - mis-understood. Not understanding a meaning; erroneous interpretation; misconception; disagreement. In other words, a very human way of being human.
It was August that I last wrote here. Much has transpired in the few months since August. We spent the month of September with his brother and wife in their home, in their community, in their Church, in Eastern Idaho, in what is known to be part of the Mormon corridor. Our plan at the time was to take the next step towards what constitutes a Temple sealing of our marriage, and frankly speaking, at the end of that month, we were further removed from taking that step than when we began. So there is no mistake, that is not as much by anything done or not done, said or not said in our stay with his brother and wife, nor the people of the community. My caution antennae was again fully raised in my sense it is not necessary to take that step as it constitutes an immersion into beliefs I cannot yet accept or embrace. They are both what is called Temple Workers. He has held the calling of a Bishop and now teaches the Gospel Doctrine class. I would say they have a situation that works for them in many ways and I respect that for them. We came to the conclusion that because it works well for them is not indicative that it would work well for us. We were married in a ceremony we loved, incorporating Native American beliefs into what it means to join lives, sharing in joyous togetherness, communion. It is difficult for us to see something more beautiful than the wedding ceremony we chose in uniting to become one with one another.
As my understanding or better said, my interpretation of how I understand a Temple sealing, I would receive my endowments (which I can receive apart from my husband at any time I so choose), and we could then choose to seal our marriage making covenants within the Church that are with respect to the LDS Church viewpoints or interpretations. It does not make our marriage any more or less sacred, and what it portends is a deeper immersion into a way to behave with regard to the LDS Church. We wish to continue to find ways to balance our love of the Native American way of seeing spirituality, our appreciation of other's way of seeing and practicing spirituality in a web of life kind of way, inclusive of much, exclusive of little. Even so, I appreciate the need to belong to some tribe that knows me, can reach out to me, care about me, care about us even in our own jagged journey.
October gave us some challenges to our thinking with regard to best ways to be attentive to my mother in her aging years. We have an ongoing decision to make as to where we will spend our later years, opportunities to relocate, yet mourning the loss of where we have been located for the past thirteen years. We have grandchildren whom we wish to be close to who adore our company and we theirs. We have issues ourselves with our bodies which choose to age in years despite our mental state of reacting in surprise that our bodies would age at all. Mortality looms closer in our thoughts, requiring thinking that heralds responsibilities toward that end we have not yet fully embraced.
We return to our assigned Ward in November. The young missionaries pay a visit, and I ask my husband to spend time with them as I am involved in a tasking for our home and not dressed to receive visitors. He, having his own long ago experience of being a returned missionary has stories to share with the missionaries and imo some issues he has to work out for himself that don't require my attention. Maybe a week later we get a visit from our home teacher and his teenage son and I find myself astonished in a most positive way at the things he says and shares. It seems to me that I experience that sense of a heavy curtain being slowly drawn back to reveal a light that shines brightly out of these Mormon teachings - the ones we together have disparaged over the years even as we have walked tentatively toward that very light.
Somehow it seems to me he offers thoughts that fit what I need at this juncture in my, in our life decisions. He says respectful and appreciative things about my efforts in going into this church, about my support of my husband's heritage, about my questions, my doubts, my observations, my thoughts, my conclusions up to this point. He does not spend time backing me up, repeating well known to me phrases that defend the church. At some point I ask if it is okay to have such a candid discussion with his teenage son there with him. He assures me his son is fine with the discussion. As the discussion comes to an end, I learn he is a physician and discern he likely is quite experienced with people's diverse ways of seeing a situation therefore knows how to respond to their needs as to where they are in the moment. And that is exactly what I needed at that moment. The empathy of someone who could get to my space and not push me into their space. All the resistance I've felt for all these years fell away in those moments. It did feel very much like I was getting a most personal message from the Beloved that was meant specifically for me. I felt like I had found my home and I intend to stay there even if my dear husband does not. Recognition that my husband's issues are his to work out, his to make the good fight and I have fought with him all these years, sometimes to my own detriment, putting my faith in him. A recognition comes gradually that I can put my faith in him as my husband, being human, with his own strengths and frailties just as I have and that together we could put our faith in something beyond -- never mind how it is named, defined, conceptualized, explained -- it is a feeling that the head cannot experience and the heart knows. I am there. I call to our Beloved to cradle me, nurture me and bring me closer. Amen.
---- After writing this post, sharing it with my loving husband, I had a long period of emotion swelling in me that brought me to tears over and over again - something that doesn't happen often. I tried to verbalize what was the emotional and feeling inside me, and fell short of expressing those emotions in a logical way. He listens with his heart, not with his head and we are blessed that has been the nature of our lives together as we listen to each other with our hearts, while our words try to find an emotional equivalent. He shared with me a post he had written on his own blog earlier this summer when we were seriously committed to finishing the work we had begun with a sealing in the Temple. He updated the post in November, adding some thoughts and additions. I was so struck with his thoughts and wanted to share that link here.
This morning I heard the hymn Abide With Me, familiar to Episcopals. This hymn has also been adapted and is used in LDS services as well. The particular verse that caught my attention is worded as follows:
'Oh Thou that changest not, abide with me'
Hearing it this morning though, in that wordage, captured my attention, and likely because I was in such an emotional space. Thinking of Thou who does not change, remains the same, forever and all time. I believe that each of us as human creatures need a sense of Compass to guide us through our life travails, and we need that Compass to be steady, to be a definte place of measurement, to be a point of demarcation that we can count on each and every time we need to reference our personal Compass. I believe when we lose our sense of Compass is perhaps when we most feel lost. In talking with my husband this morning, he mentioned that at this time in our lives, this time of uprooting, it is perhaps close by that we feel the need of our compass to be steady in guiding us. In my world view, it is a great comfort to think of Thou as one who changest not and does abide with me.