Monday, April 02, 2007

Just Like Santa Claus

The idea for this blog actually comes from a very lengthy conversation my husband and I had on Saturday night. We've had some setbacks on the job hunt this week. Oh, and we have to be out of our apartment by June 1st. Oh, and the baby is coming on the 26th. None of this was ever going to be a problem because Plantboy would have a job, but now it is anybody's guess where we will be even a month from now.

That isn't really the point of this blog--that is just the background.

I have been thinking a lot about prayer and scripture study lately. Especially scripture study. Or rather, my lack thereof and the reasons for this. It didn't always use to be as hard to motivate myself as it has been lately. And, while obviously, I just need to get get more personal discipline and righteousness, I've lately started to realize something.

Keeping the commandments in order to get blessings is not the right motivation.

I think we have to be really careful about this. I'm going to make a list and you check them off if you have heard of them before, "Reading scriptures in the morning makes your whole day go better." "Praying and fasting about important decisions always means you will make the right ones." "If you pay your tithing, things just seem to work out for you financially." "If you do your visiting teaching early in the month, you'll have plenty of time left over for everything else." "The more obedient you are on your mission, the more baptisms you'll have." "The more you tract in the rain, the better looking your husband will be." (My personal fave.) "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." Okay, I could go on (and on) but I will stop, you get the picture.

Now before you freak out and call me the worst kind of blasphemer, just think through this with me for a minute. Maybe your day goes better just because your attitude is improved--maybe the events are exactly the same ones that would have occured anyway. Maybe you'll sometimes make the wrong decisions, but you can still have confidence knowing you did everything you could to make the right ones. I can testify without a doubt, that things don't always work out financially when you pay your tithing, even if you do EVERYTHING else right; maybe your lesson is that you learn to eat beans and rice and it gives you empathy for others. Doing your VT early perhaps just helps you put into perspective what actually matters and you find time to do everything because you have taken some things off the list. Maybe, on a mission, obedience is its own reward, the one you can actually take with you to hang your life on, and a lot of baptisms sometimes has a lot to do with the charm and charisma of the missionary. Sometimes the window doesn't open. Sometimes you have to take a sledgehammer to the wall to get out of a difficult situation. It sure makes you tougher, but it would have been a heck of a lot easier to have a nice window to climb out of.

I'm not sure about the tracting in the rain one . . . my husband is incredibly handsome and I door knocked A LOT in the rain.

Okay, what I think I am trying to say is that if we are doing things to get the blessings, then we have really missed the point. I once had a friend who was an atheist. He said that the only truly good person was the athiest who did good deeds. Why? Because he had absolutely no thought of reward. He isn't waiting for a benevolent God to reward or punish him, nor does he have any expectation of Heaven. Interesting idea. It was nearly 15 years ago I had that particular conversation with that particular friend and I still remember the pause it gave me even though I was very young.

Elder Eyring once gave a talk on faith called, "But if not . . ." The point was that our faith often moves us to action, but if things don't work out like we expect then we cannot lose faith. I have done this recently. I think my loss of faith stems from thinking, "Wait a minute! Wasn't I promised?"

I think the resounding answer from the Heavens has to be "NO!" We weren't promised. We weren't promised deliverance from the calamaties that come with a mortal life. We weren't promised that we wouldn't be witness to and even victims of terrible tragedy and difficulty. We weren't promised that we would be able to overcome EVERY personal defect in this life alone. We weren't promised a big stocking full of presents if we were nice.

So what were we promised? Eternal life. That is the real promise. The Lord says that to get there we have to come to him with a broken heart and contrite spirit. That means humble, submissive, meek, patient, charitable, penitent, willing to put God's will first and everything that comes with it.

Am I using this blog as justification for my slack habits? NO. I think I have finally found out what my motiviation needs to be though. Reading scriptures, praying, doing good doesn't change God's attitude toward me (he loves me ultimately--no change is needed there!) nor does it convince him to hurl blessings out of the sky. My life is what it is: a combination of choices and circumstances that make me who I am and create my daily reality. What God will change is my heart.

I cannot read the scriptures and pray and attend church and the temple because I am hoping that Father in Heaven will send Plantboy a job and me a big fat house. I need to do all these things so that I have the courage to get out of bed one more day and go to work, even though it is not ideal. I need to do these things so that if there is inspiration to come I will be in the right place to recieve it. I need to do these things so that I'm strong enough to raise three boys to be missionaries, and to give them a smile and a cuddle every time they need it. I need to do these things so that whether I live in a trailer park or a mansion I can have a smile on my face and dignity in my heart knowing who I really am. I need to do these things so that I feel purpose and joy in my life, even when it is really not the life I thought to one day have.

Sorry about the two long blogs in a row; like Nem, my readership is going to go WAY down before it ever had a chance to go up. Anyway, if you plow your way through the above, make sure you let me know your thoughts on faith. I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

4 comments: said...

I loved this. I have become the sort of person who thinks that all the things we are asked to do are for a reward that is more abstract then what we may think of when we visualize a reward. I think that the reward is the person we become, following the commandments, whether we want to or not, whether we see a good reason for them or not, makes us better people. I think the trick, as cliche as it may sound, it to find blessings in our trials and struggles. I remember a visiting teacher message which was about not looking for spiritual brownie points. A lot of my experiences have helped my to see everything more as a journey and to embrace the really hard times, including those when nothing was really going wrong but I seemed to struggle, as well as the good. I always wonder what we will all think of it when we pass on and gain some real perspective.

Christie said...

I said my morning prayer today standing by the washing machine. For me, that's a first. First time I've ever prayed in the laundry room, and the first time I've said my morning prayers not as something to check off my list, but as something I enjoy doing.

I too have fallen for the "input good works -- output blessings" mentality. And I think that it's a fine place to start . . . we just can't be sure when or in what form our blessings are going to come. I like to think that doing something for the wrong reason to begin with can teach us something. Possibly show us that doing that same thing for the right reasons can feel even better.

forecast calls for rain said...

Oh these things are always on my mind, particularly today at our Young Women Board meeting we were discussing the girls and how they struggle and how there's no way as leaders we can convince them to do good if they don't have the motivation. Sometimes I think it's O.K. to do whats right because you think their will be a reward at the end of it. We have to be motivated by something. The challenge sometimes seems to be that the reward is what said that its more abstract and not necessarily what we invisioned it to be. Anyway I'm blabbing now...

scienceteachermommy said...

What a great discussion! I too remember being a young women's leader and the difference in the underlying philosophy as we planned and prepped for our activities. As fun as possible so they want to come out for purely social reasons? As spiritual as possible so they feel that change of heart? Call the girl that NEEDS to be called or the one who is actually WORTHY to be? I think that is one reason for so many leaders--somebody is bound to be the right match for each girl, whatever she needs and is looking for in church.

I agree that our motivation often begins for the wrong rewards. It is like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams (one of my all time favorites) when he talks about all that he has done without once asking whats in it for me. Shoeless Joe says, "What are you saying?" He replies, "I'm asking what's in it for me?" We ALL do this. Sometimes we even manage along for a very long time without saying those words, but they generally, eventually surface. Especially when rewards seem so distant.

I think what I am saying for me is that I'm at a crossroads. I think I am getting too grown up in my testimony to just be in it for the blessings. Oh, the blessings are nice and my life is absolutely what it is because of generations of family active in the gospel and the attendant rewards. I just have to know that there is more to me than that. I have to know, deep down, at the end of the day, that no matter what happens across my path I will face it with unshaken faith.

It is hard to grow up!