My Beginning Will Not Dictate My End

To be or not to be,
to love or not to love,
to see or not to see,
to hear or not to hear,
to do or not to do…

These are the proverbial questions that leave me spinning in circles.

I want to have faith, but to ACT in faith is so much more than fairytale wanting.

I want to repent, but to CHOOSE what is good requires conscious effort.

Sometimes I am holding on by my fingernails, feeling no sturdy earth beneath my feet.

That is my own fault.

I am blessed with provision and protection and peace – and yet when I am not looking, tears fall… when I am trying to work, hands shake… when I am wanting to curl up with a book, my heart pounds.

To admit any sort of anxiety would mean failure.

Except there can be no progress without the confession.

I want to scream out, “My life has been hard enough!”

I want to cry out, “Why one more thing?”

I want to throw a toddler tantrum.

I want to quit.

I want to hide.

I want to run away.

Excepting that is not the way, and I know it.

As I lean against the wall, trying to catch my breath, words from the lessons last Sunday, words from our most sacred holy Sabbath, came to my mind and heart as if they were air itself.

“He wants you to pour your heart out to Him.”

But I cannot.

It would mean I believe.  It would mean I have faith.  It would mean looking Him in the eye, that flame of fire burning my soul and purging all that is not of Him.

It would mean daring to think I have a Father.

It would mean accepting the fact that I am human.  And weak.  And overwhelmed.

I should be praying for my visiting teaching people, my friends, those people that I love… even my family.

I should be praying for my patients, my homeless peeps, the shelters downtown, the community resources already running out of money this year before winter even starts.

How selfish it seems, to pray for me.

“He wants you to pour your heart out to Him.”

Something in me melts.  That something in me that has been healing since the first missionary discussions.  That something in me that has become a testimony, indeed, of my Heavenly Parents.

Still against the wall, I slide to the floor, and begin to cry.

I begin a litany of surface things about wanting to be a good missionary and trying to learn to love my family and how to balance my patients and professional work and begging forgiveness for being scared about hospital bills and doctor bills and Temple trip gas, and pleading for even more forgiveness for doubting any of it all, for I know better than to give place to any fear at all.

Then we get to the real stuff.

I roll onto my knees, curled into myself, and cry some more.

I say, “I don’t want them to cut my head open.”

He says, “It will give your family a starting place of Truth.  The past is done, and now you can talk to them.”

I say, “It is going to hurt.”  I am not sure if I mean cutting open my head will hurt, or if talking to my family will hurt.  Both, I think.

He says, “It hurt me when they killed me.  But really, they did not.  I gave my life for you.”

I am ashamed of my whining, ashamed of my complaints, ashamed of my selfishness.

I say, “I am scared to love.”

He says, “I have already taught you to love.  You must learn to be loved.”

I say, “I must not love the wrong person the wrong way.”

He says, “Love all people the way I love them.”

I say, “You know where I have come from, how I am nothing, what has been taken from me, what has been stolen from me, how deeply I was scarred and wounded and shattered.  I am too broken too heal, too scared to try, too raw to be that strong.”

He says, “I know where you have come from because I sent you here.  Protecting you, caring for you, bringing you out of the wilderness, cleaning you up, and bringing you to my Temple was part of the plan long before I ever sent you here to live that story.  The atonement is enough, sufficient, complete.  When you are weak, I will make you strong.  There will always be an escape.  There will always be my voice to guide you.  Do not be afraid.  Move forward.”

Always, there is this coming back to the “Do not be afraid… move forward…”

This phrase from my Patriarchal blessing has baffled me from day one, and so I write about it over and over again, because I live and breathe that phrase.  There is not a day that phrase does not get me through some moment.  There is not a day it does not give me comfort, grant me courage, or teach me which way to go.

Tonight, it came through a talk.  It is a talk that is homework from Institute: “This, the Greatest of All Dispensations”, by Elder Holland in 2007 (CES Fireside).  In this talk, he directly DEFINES what it means to not be afraid and to move forward!  How amazing is that?!  He says:

“We must never let fear and the father of fear (Satan himself) divert us from our faith and faithful living… We must go forward.  God expects you to have enough faith, determination, and trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing.  He expects you to embrace and shape the future – to love it, rejoice in it, and delight in your opportunities.  God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has.  But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream.  In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.”

Whoa.

That Elder Holland really knows how to nail you.

He’s like the Apostle with a nail gun.  I mean NAIL you.   Or me, anyway.  Ouch!

I had never, ever thought about praying being a part of believing, though I had understand that to pray at all was an act of faith.   But certainly never ever ever ever had I considered DREAMING as part of believing.

Dreaming.

In my life, it has often been dangerous to dream.

It gets all sappy, way too quickly, in a very Les Mis kind of way:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they turn your hope apart
As they turn your dreams to shame

Excepting that was pre-baptism.  That was old school.  That was drama and pain and misery.

That is of Satan, just like Elder Holland said.

The Gospel takes it backwards, I knew.

I have learned enough to know that the atonement brings forgiveness, that celestial-ness promises a love that will never die, and that the plan of salvation makes life worth living.

But I had never gone back as far as the very first line, that the Gospel brings back dreams.

All things are restored!  I should know this!

How, in what miracles He has repeatedly performed over and over again in my life, is there any room for fear?  Even if they cut my head open?  Even if my family tries to have our first Christmas?  Even if I must fall to my knees in repentance?

And if then, it is true, then what are my dreams?

What fulfillment beyond-my-dreams has already come!  My own life is a miracle; my hearing is a miracle; my house is a miracle; my car is a miracle; access to the Temple is the biggest miracle; my family becoming a family is a miracle; forgiveness is a miracle.  And so beyond this, when I am already and forever so indebted to my Lord, what dreams are yet to dream?

I dream that the obstacles in life are not so great that I, through Christ, cannot overcome them.

I dream of being securely and confidently rooted in my identity as a spirit daughter of heavenly parents.

I dream of being responsible – held accountable – for my own attitude and feelings.

I dream of hopelessness and helplessness having no part in my life now, my life which has been redeemed and restored, in process of being made “perfect” – as in whole and complete and at-one.

I dream of understanding that “none of us is responsible for the misfortunes that befall us, (but) we are, thankfully, responsible for how we use those misfortunes.  We cannot alter past events, it’s true.  Not having been responsible for them, we cannot take responsibility for them.  But we are responsible for the effect they have upon us – for the meaning we assign to them and the way we remember them.  And we can learn and grow from them… (we can) let the event become exactly what it was – a very, very hard experience indeed, one of the worst a human being can suffer.  But it is not an excuse… my beginning will not dictate my end.”  (Terry Warner)

I dream of knowing that “the discovery that we are responsible for our troubles does not condemn us, but opens up a way of escape.” (Terry Warner).

I dream of teaming up with the Savior to accomplish the very possible “mighty change of heart”.

I dream of absolute honesty of soul.

And then, as if He knew I would be too scared to begin dreaming, of so little faith I would not even dare, an email arrives with the typed out blessing from Sherrolyn’s father the other night.  And so I cry some more.

Emily, know that the Lord has been mindful of you from the day that you were born into this earth. That He has cared for you that He has watched over you.  You have not been without your trials and tribulations and your challenges as you have gone through life to this point.  You have overcome many things…

He has blessed you that your paths have crossed with those whom you have felt close to that have made a difference in your life.  They have introduced you to that missing link that you have felt in your heart for many years but have now found…

I bless you with health and with strength.  I bless you that as different physical things take place within your body, that you will be comforted.  That you will know that the hand of the Lord is with those who are working with you and you will be able to find the health and strength that you need to carry out the work that the Lord has for you to do…

And Emily, put it in the hands of the Lord, the righteous desires of your heart, pour out your heart to him, let him know what those righteous desires are and He will bless you even with those blessings…

Pour out your heart, it says.  We end where we began, with the heart-pouring-ness.

And so I did.

That’s when I began to dream again.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments are closed.