Friday, September 07, 2007

This Medium Gets Me Thinking

I was going to post a second comment on Nem's latest post, but when I last logged in there were already 37 comments. What I wanted to say was just way too much to reasonably be called a comment, and so I'm posting myself. And while its true that a lot of the people who traffic her blog, don't traffic this one, I think it is worth hearing some new opinions on this and related subjects. For those of you that don't read her "Voice Of Reason," today may be the day to start, including all 37 comments.

I think my lengthy comments inspired by her post must be in context of a personal situation and I can only do that on my OWN blog, so here goes.

For those of you that have read here for a while and know me, you know that I was engaged to be married within a few weeks of being home from my mission, and was unengaged a month or so later. We dated for a few more weeks, fizzled, and he was engaged just a couple of weeks later to somebody else. For all the great experiences I've had and my usual ability to laugh off awkward or difficult situations soon after they happen, this broken engagement is not something I've ever been able to laugh about. My decisions leading up to the engagement, some of my actions during the engagement and my severe depression afterward revealed things to me about my character. Things that scare me. The scriptures tells us the weak things can become strong; I wonder if the Lord means that those weaknesses keep us close to Him as we fight against them . . .

Anyway, after the engagement was broken I was speaking with a friend, who had the "wisdom" of four or five years of marriage behind him. I was thoroughly confused and questioned, "Why did this not work out? We were both impressed strongly that it was the right thing. How could it not be the right thing now?" It sounds a little desperate to say that this was my attitude, but he was, after all, the only boyfriend I'd ever had in five years of dating eligibility and he had waited for me on my mission, I was six months from graduation and living with my grandmother. I thought I had missed my ONE chance for marriage in this life.

My friend explained something very powerful to me that I've never forgotten. I'll quote him here, but it is an obvious paraphrase as his exact wording is lost, "When the Spirit speaks to us, we are obligated to act. When we don't act on promptings, when we doubt, when we refuse to move forward with faith and confidence, the Spirit will cease to work on us. Just like on your mission, a baptism slip is a terrible thing. If a person doesn't act on the Spirit, and moves into the realm of doubt, it is that much harder for them to feel the promptings again, by not acting, they move away from the peace the Lord would have given them had they continued forward. By harboring doubts, even after he asked you to marry him, by not being faithful to you and his commitment, the Spirit stopped whispering peace to his heart."

In the Doctrine and Covenants its says, "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning this matter, what greater witness can you have than from God?"

Why this is relevant to Nem's post (if you didn't read it) is that a misguided object lesson in Relief Society inspired her post and a slough of very touching, personal and difficult comments. The central issue, at least to my mind, behind all this discussion is, why are relationships between men and women so confusing and difficult? The comments read like a laundry list of the many things that can go wrong. And, in most cases (my own certainly included) the quick comments try to simplify a very complex issue.

On further reflection, I think my thoughts stray back to what my friend said all of those years ago when I was in such need of answers. Maybe when it comes to marriage and parenting and serving and friendships and covenants, the Lord is less in interested in if we are ready and more concerned if we are willing. Because the truth is, we'll never be ready. I'm eight years and three kids into this journey called marriage and there are very real days when I don't think I'm going to survive another one.

I know this sounds like another simplistic explanation, and not a fresh one. We hear all the time that men are afraid of "commitment" and I agree that the above paragraph sounds like semantics, but the spirit of it is different. The unwillingness to commit is a psychological, or even biological label for the difficulty people having in getting and staying together. I'm talking about something spiritual. I'm talking about two people looking at one another and saying, "Okay, you aren't perfect, not even close, but neither am I. Still, I'm willing to show up every day to make this work if you are."

My husband was attractive and sweet and worthy when we first met, but he is so much more now. In another forty or fifty years, I imagine he won't be so attractive any more, but he will be even more wonderful. And it won't be because he married me! It will be because he will have kept his commitment with faith every day, even when it was hard. And when he or I or any married or single person falters away from that commitment in any degree, there is repentance to get us back on track so that we can "learn from our mistakes without being condemned by them." (Elder Hafen, from a conference address about three years ago.)

I don't think we need more psychological solutions and surveys to explain why it is hard for marriage to survive our culture of cynicism and immorality, I think we need testimonies of the atoning blood of the Savior and the restoration of His church and its principles. We need to teach our young people--the young women AND the young men--to love themselves enough to make choices that will guide them through times of loneliness or difficulty. Such times will abound in our lives, and it is only by acting in faith that we can receive the peace we all long for and seem to find so elusive in these times.

13 comments:

zippity-do-da said...

So true.
The journey is LONG. But I don't want to do it with anyone else (as long as he brings snacks).
I think my doubt often comes when I do follow the promptings, and then forget, second guess, and just need to trust.

Kirkhams In Houston said...

Hey, it was good to hear from you. I had no idea you had another little one either. 3 boys...can't even begin thinking how busy life is with them! Melissa's is steveandmelissa I just talked with her yesterday. I know she'd love to hear from you!

amyjane said...

This totally resonates with me. I had a broken engagement long long ago that I was SO SURE was the one and only man I could ever be happy with. He bailed in a similar manner and a wise stake president (who made the mistake of giving me a big ole calling durint this crisis, and therefore got to witness my breakdown) pretty much told me the same thing. We could have married and been happy. But he had the agency to decide he was unwilling to jump into that, and that was his choice. My job was to move forward, which in may case led to five more long years of dating and not dating and stressing myself out over it. And now that I'm three years down the marriage road, I see it so very differently. There are so many days that I don't feel ready,that I wonder what I got myself into with marriage and kids. However, at the end of the day, life is hard. It's challenging and draining and I definately prefer going through it with someone, even if neither of us is even close to perfect.

Karin said...

Thank you STM. When I read Nemesis' post, it didn't really tie to yours, but it was because I was focused on the comments. :-)

"Being willing to make the commitment is more important than being ready." That sure hit me hard today. We have some new stuff happening in our family and that reminds me why I do things the way I do. Heavenly Father knows what we can handle. I also often think about making our weaknesses into strengths. How does that work exactly? Is it just because we are hypervigilant when those weaknesses are involved? I have a hard time thinking that my panic attacks can ever be productive for me, but it does keep me tuned in to my instincts (aka intuition, aka promptings) and more willing to follow them.

Elder Holland gave a talk several years ago about trusting your promptings and *knowing* that they will be tested. If you got the feeling it was right, you have to write about it, do whatever you can to remember that it was right so that when the world falls down around you-and Satan will make sure that it does-you can trust in those promptings. When I was pregnant with Belen I had to read that talk constantly. I should probably get it out again. :-)

Thanks for the reminder that God waits for our willingness and we covenant our willingness, but He(and sometimes the agency of others) decides the timing and circumstances.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Karin, I think my weaknesses are still weaknesses, but I think they also prevents me (sometimes) from getting to prideful and causes me to lean more on the Lord. It is the humility and the trust that make me strong. It isn't that the weakness turns into a strenght, but rather the weakness, ironically, increases my spiritually by keeping me striving for a closeness to the Savior.

Lizardbreath McGee said...

Wow. I don't have anything to add, but...

Wow. Thank you for posting this. Especially the last paragraph. That's just exactly what I needed.

emma jo said...

I thought having children was supposed to kill brain cells...your entries remind me to take the time to reflect and think deeply about things...I appreciate your ability to express, something that I have no talent for (that is, the expression of important thoughts and concepts...they make sense to me but I'm not sure a verbal representation would come across as clear). So I appreciate your blogs. An inspiration and comfort.

Kimberly Bluestocking: said...

I find my weaknesses also help me stay humble in my relationship with my husband. It's so much easier to put up with little things he does when I remember all the things he has to put up with from me.

Don't get me wrong - I don't like my flaws, and I'm working and praying to steadily overcome them, but I am grateful that they help me be patient with my husband's (very few :) shortcomings. If he can be patient with mine and love me in spite of them, surely I can return the favor.

on.the.run said...

Sometimes when I have days when I don't think I will make it I think of people who I consider to be spiritual giants and how they told me that they also had times like that, then I don't feel like such a failure and I just keep going.

Girly Momma said...

so i feel like i could just sit at your feet and have you talk to me and tell me about life. you really have a lot of wisdome. and sometimes life is funny with what it hands us. things play out differently and trials come and go and we just have to do our best to deal with them one step at a time. i think life will just be a long process of effort and learning, and just when we are complacent, change will come. i like hearing about other's lives. it really is interesting.

Desmama said...

STM, I loved loved loved this post. I have been thinking about it so much lately. Interesting drama at DesDad's work has gotten me thinking about marriage and relationships and commitments and covenants.

Christie said...

A couple years ago my relationship with my hubby went through some turbulents (mostly of my making.) I agree with what you say, and I'm so glad you said it. I've noticed that it's difficult to talk about what we're really struggling with -- especially at church. So here's the thing . . . if church members are fellow travelers with us, there to lift and guide us on our spiritual journey, why do so many of us pretend that "all is well" when the reality is far different?

Sometimes I think we need to share our struggles (maybe w/out too many intimate details) not just for encouragement and help, but also to let others who are going through relationship struggles know they're not alone, know they're not the only ones experiencing a bumpy ride. I guess I'd like to have more older couples -- really committed couples -- speak to youth, to single adults, to newly weds and on up about how they weathered the tough storms. About how no one marries a perfect person, but everyone can learn to love perfectly.

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

very thought-provoking. i liked reading this. and D&C 6:22-23 is one of my favorite scripture passages. the week i was converted, i prayed on my knees and asked what should i do, and i am convinced that it became very clear to me something like ... you already know the answer. i believe in striving to listen to promptings. thanks for writing a great post about this subject. i think we are blessed (more) when we pay attention and act (like you said about the willingness -- great point).