A few years ago, a guy in Sunday School shared a dream his friend had had during a difficult time in his life. He dreamed he was treading water but was exhausted and starting to drown. No matter how he struggled to stay afloat, his face kept dipping beneath the surface, and he started to despair. He was going to drown.
Then a voice called out his name and said, "Stand up! The water's not that deep!" To his great surprise, when he put his feet down, they found contact. He stood up. The water came up to his waist.
We all had a good laugh at that one. It's a fun one for retelling.
It was weird, though, because as he was telling the dream, I saw it very vividly in my mind, and I felt like I was experiencing it. When he finished talking, the daydream continued for me. I had just stood up and was laughing sheepishly at myself for panicking so much over water I could've waded through if I'd just kept my head on. I gained some instaperspective on my own troubles I was facing, realizing I was in shallow water, after all.
Then I looked out and saw that I was at the edge of an enormous lake. And the voice from before told me that, while I was in shallow water right now, I was going to have to learn to swim in the deep. I had a sense that this was a safe place to practice, to learn how to swim and to get stronger, for the time when I would have to cross the lake. It wasn't a scary feeling, exactly, but it did carry a weight to it. But it also felt kind of exciting, like I could understand that this kicking around in the kiddie pool wasn't going to get me anywhere worthwhile.
I've hesitated to write several times over the past few months. Something will come to me, and I'll quickly shelve it. Not surprisingly, however, this is very quickly not working anymore. I clearly don't do well keeping things hidden, even when people wish I would ; ) For the sake of transparency, which I consider a responsibility given my subject matter and target audience, it's time to share just a little bit.
The truth is that I am currently treading some deeper water. As far as my life goes, things are easy; my marriage is great, my kids are great (but I'll still give them to you for a week if you want because YES I still suck at patience and love), I have everything I could possibly want or need, I'm finding pursuits that fill me with joy and a sense that I'm finding my purpose, etc. Yadda yadda yadda. In fact, I just spent some time looking at pictures of Syrian refugees, and my heart fell out of my face, and it feels ridiculous even writing any of this. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, so I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea--this is not a complaint.
It is a confession. At the beginning of this year, I told God I'd start doing whatever he asked, as I think I've mentioned before. I was not prepared for the extent of what that promise would entail. My life has changed very dramatically. There are outward changes that others might notice, for sure, but the bigger revolution has been internal. My mind feels like it has a view from 100 stories higher than before. My body is a tool I feel like I can call upon more so than ever before. My spirit feels so much more connected to God and to those around me (and to those not around me!) than I thought possible. My heart has taken a bloody beating. And for the first time, I have a much better understanding of how little I've actually experienced and how much farther I'll be required to stretch.
I started praying daily for charity and discernment around the same time I made that promise to God. I realized they were spiritual gifts I couldn't just pick up on my own; they needed to be bestowed, so I did the only thing I knew how to do and started asking. All the time. I studied charity, I studied discernment, and I asked and asked and asked. In the past few months, I've veryVERY slowly begun to receive.
And it sucks. God is teaching me that charity hurts. Discernment is terrifying. They both rip your world right in half and then keep on going to make room for everything God wants to show you. They're both confusing as *$&% because I only get them in miniscule pieces, and without the whole, they make everything else make no sense. My tidy boxes are exploding.
I've experienced these things in smaller doses many times before. The difference this time is that it's not scary. I want those boxes to explode if it means I get to see more of what is real. I don't want to run away from the questions raining down on me. I feel very alive and almost excited, because I trust God so much more than ever before. I am so much more aware of the tiny assurances and confirmations I receive, and when I'm not receiving anything, I understand that sometimes we're expected to tramp through the darkness for a little bit without freaking out.
Yogi Bhajan said it better: "Pain is an ego. When you fight life with your truth, you have no pain. It's a challenge, you love it. You get excited."
I hope this doesn't sound melodramatic or cryptic, but I accept that it probably does. That is certainly not my intention. All I want to say is that, when it comes to faith, for me, in this moment, these deeper waters are a little unorthodox. I feel the need to disclose this because, while I very much hope that non-Mormons are uplifted and encouraged by anything I write here, my very first post outlined my intention to write to my fellow Latter-day Saints. I want to declare to my Mormons that God reigns. I want to be a witness of the miracles I know to be real. I want to publish peace, right?
I just also want people to understand that there's a possibility that not everything I write would pass correlation standards. And I feel like that's okay, and I also understand if not everyone agrees with me. But the truth is that I'm going to write from my experience, and my experience right now is taking me places I did not anticipate. Maybe they're detours or backtracks, but even if they are, I have some serious building to do, so it can't hurt to double- and triple-check the foundations I've laid. Yep. That's called a mid-sentence analogy switcheroo. You're welcome.
To end this meta novella, I'll just revisit that lake dream. I don't think I'm special in needing to learn to swim in deep water. I think the deep water is for everyone, and we all need to cross it. I don't think any one faith is exempt from the swim or especially required to complete it. The big questions must be asked in every single one. We all get through it differently, and for some it's easier than for others. Maybe some people get floaties and others get sandbags. That doesn't make one speck of difference to God. He's carrying each of us across, anyway.
My hope is that this blog is a source of comfort to other people who might otherwise feel like they're drowning. Maybe you've tried to stand up and discovered that the water is, in fact, too deep to touch. I hope you can realize that we all get to feel that panic at some point and that, more importantly, if we can just take a second to breathe and let ourselves float a little bit, we're going to be okay. I want to be a part of a community that carries lifesaver buoys to hand out instead of asking why you jumped in right after a plate of lasagna, idjit. I'm starting to understand why struggling swimmers are hurt when you offer to jettison them from the lake entirely. We all want to get across.
This is getting ridiculous; I understand that. To sum-up: thank you so much for reading. Thank you for being generous. Thank you for commenting even though I never respond anywhere other than in my brain. Thank you for supporting me in a never-ending faith journey. I hope I can do the same for you.
And now that I've made my confession, I can get back to writing down every single thought that ever enters my brain. Lucky you ; )
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.