Today as we played in a park near our house, I told Remy it was almost time to go inside. He said, “But mom! The clouds are broken! We can stay out!” It took me a minute to understand what he was trying to tell me, but then I realized that he was so excited because the clouds had indeed broken up their grey ominous position above us, pulled apart like two damp cotton balls, and the familiar blue of sky came through. We could stay out.
There are so many words from the whole spectrum of Mormon folks in the last week, and partly I feel apologetic for adding any more. Metaphor is fairly abundant these days. I am a poet, and so they are like warm toast before bed to me, but lately, even I feel tired of them. Perhaps then, I was so moved by Remy’s thought about the broken clouds because it was a simple and honest observational statement. Nothing more. The word broken-which so often implies the necessity for fixing back to an original state before it is good again–was turned on it’s head by my three-year old son who saw the brokenness as a means for great hope.
And so, metaphor I guess it is, we cling to what helps us make sense. Or simply, I am looking around, in a state of mother-ness, in a state of prayer, in a state of too little patience, in the state of a child who knows so little, and I do see clouds threatening torrential downpours, but I also see the places where the clouds are shifting and behind it all is that earthy, comfortable blue sky, or in this case, hope.
In regards to this religion that grew me, and grew along with me, I am grateful for the context it provides in which the sacred still resides. The heart, I believe, needs a quiet space to be required of it, and the mind–a good tension to grow, the spirit–a reminder of what it can be, and the body–consistency and sacrifice. When being a Mormon is difficult, those are perhaps the times when these elements come together best. When I start the journey inward through unmapped territory, it is terrifying and exhilarating and I try my best to use the spirit of God as my guide. The journey is altogether necessary if I am to become anything better. Isn’t that our main premise?
I don’t like the word “doubts”, because it has come to mean so little within the Mormon context, like, “oh, you’re one of those who have doubts” and “crisis of faith” hardly seems appropriate because it is not a crisis and my faith is like a lone, steady hiker up a mountain who will not suddenly tumble back down the whole course because the light changes. The questions and unfinished answers feel like paradigm shifts that expand me. And sometimes, I am wrong, and the journey back to ‘once was’ is not easy, and even upon arrival there, the landscape has shifted. It wouldn’t be honest or authentic to leap back entirely to what I was ten years ago, five years ago, a year ago, though there is always something to be learned from our former selves, those small selves are, after all, the people who have carried us so far in this life. I don’t ever want to discredit or belittle their knowledge, or beliefs or understandings. We evolve into a hundred new people over our life, and that is beautiful.
Maybe I’m beating around the bush now because I don’t want to get into specific points of doctrine within the Mormon church, mostly because I feel it is not necessary for what I want to say. I hope these ideas move beyond the bounds of Mormonism. For me, I love the Mormon faith and teachings. Not everybody has to. I’m working through things as I think we probably all are. I am saddened at times, my pendulum swings from complete devotion to confused exhaustion and all the stops in between, but I do believe in a tender God throughout it all. I realize I don’t understand everything, duh, how could any of us? Sometimes, for periods of time, it is the thought of my children that keep me going, but most often it is much, much more. Something intrinsic and indescribable, a spirit that is confident in me, raising banners in anticipation of my following, and I am no one special.
To quote from a 2013 interview with John Dehlin,
Be willing not to engage the world purely with your intellect, but be willing to say that emotion matters as much as intellect, and that the spirit matters as much as emotion and intellect and love and listening and connection matters as much as intellect and integrity. You can find and discover depths of emotional intimacy and connection and love and fulfillment that you would have not thought was not possible where you were. I just want to let listeners know that that is possible. And the price you have to pay is to take the intellectual down, raise up the emotional and the spiritual and the family and the community connections and start experiencing life from a multi-dimensional standpoint where integrity and your truth intellectually that you suppose is legitimate and incredible are all that matters, are of primal importance. Be willing to say there’s a spiritual truth that is also important, a spiritual whispering and influence and nurturing that also must be listened to and it is a different language than the intellect, there is an emotional language. We are often willing to throw out our emotional care and investment in others because we’ve got our truth and our certainty and our own pain and anguish. If we can plug into our own emotions and develop a relationship of love and trust, and you start frankly caring more about people than ideas and doctrine and theology and history, it can transform your life.
And so, this is a hard time for many of us within the Mormon context on all sides of the equation, but also an exciting and happy time as we go forward. As a feminist and gay rights supporter, I hope that things in the church will evolve as we as a people evolve, and if it doesn’t, I will pray for peace and guidance again and again. We don’t entirely know what to do, but we know the conversations that John and Kate have helped start will go on, and thank goodness. Silence will get us nowhere. On Sunday, I went to church like I do every Sunday, and it was lovely, and the people hugged me, and held my children while I played the piano and today when Remy was so excited about the broken clouds, I felt a wide swath of hope and optimism brush across me, like often it does. It’s not the worst thing, nor an ending, to be broken.