Trash and Nonsense

So, when my work and homework were all done by noon today, I was thrilled to discover some rare free time. I thought I could use it sitting in my reading chair like a slacker, or maybe taking an actual nap, or maybe (gasp!) actually watching a movie or something. It’s been a really intense month, following a really intense summer, and I felt fully justified.

That’s when I remembered this, from my bedtime reading last night:

How do we fulfill the measure of our creation upon the earth? I answer, it is for us to be obedient, hearken unto the counsel of our parents and leaders, to keep the commandments of God. It is to qualify ourselves to follow some useful occupation, to be industrious in acquiring knowledge, and not spend our time in useless visiting, and lounging about in idleness. It is to have every moment devoted to some useful employment, to serve God, and walk humbly before Him, blameless in all of His ordinances, be true to God and His servants, follow in the dictates of wisdom and experience, be patient and courteous toward each other, be persevering, virtuous, honest, and faithful – in short, be good, faithful saints of the Most High God… As physical strength shall be given, so shall mental strength and ability, and you will increase and strengthen until you can fathom the deep sciences, and unfold the mysteries of eternity.
~ David Wells, 1854, JoD 2:25

I know.

It’s like a body slam, right?

Every moment devoted to useful service.

No lounging around?

Wait, the mysteries of eternity? That’s in my patriarchal blessing.

And it sounds big.

Maybe that’s why, then, that a blessing so grand would require a (seemingly) big sacrifice of not being a slacker, or worse: a pajama lover (gulp!).

While I know laundry is ongoing, I was kind of proud of myself that the dishes were done and stew was simmering in the stove. I know I need to dust, but I was proud of myself to have already finished my notes and scheduled a new intake for next week – a holiday week! That should give me bonus points! I knew there was more personal study to be done, but I was proud to have already finished my homework from my medieval Jewish history class and practiced my Hebrew.

And besides, this pneumonia is gonna kick me if I can’t kick it, right?

And isn’t it true that everyone is telling me to slow down?

Turns out slowing down, and even being still, are not the same as lounging around not giving anything to the world or working in some way to give myself some positive input for later gifting to the world.

This guy says, later in his talk, that since we have the gospel, we do not have to carry “the burden of trash and nonsense to wade through” as do those without the gospel.

Trash and nonsense.

So while resting is encouraged in principle, and necessary in balancing health, and reminded to keep in perspective, my primary motive – even when resting – ought to be contributing something positive to myself or the world in some way.

Well, I am assuming here that positive and useful are the opposites of trash and nonsense.

And now that I think about it, I see trash and nonsense everywhere.

The trash might be more obvious, like movies or tv shows or music or other content that is inappropriate for me, so we are often good at avoiding that I think.

But that’s just neutral.

It’s not the same as specifically choosing positive content that adds something, builds up somehow, or adds upon who I am or what I have to offer the world.

Nonsense is trickier, like that which I don’t notice or am not bothered by, and yet doesn’t make sense as part of the plan of happiness. Am I on the internet with a question to discover or a testimony to share? Or am I on the internet because my brain shut off half an hour ago, and I haven’t even noticed yet? Am I gleaning something, avoiding something, or just putting myself to sleep?

And how do you have rest, if it is still productive?

Except that is what we have the sabbath for, and if this is so, the how can the sabbath be a sabbath, if I am stealing sabbath moments in other blocks of time?

That’s when I realize that besides any level of consecrated living, there is also the layer of keeping the Sabbath holy by working hard hard the other days of the week – not just not working on the Sabbath, but by really working the other days. So not only can I consecrate my days by working hard and serving much most days, but doing so consecrates my Sabbath, which is what sanctifies the whole lot of it anyway.

And I need me some sanctification anywhere I can get it.

My margins, like in the pages of a book, are justified, I know, by what the Savior has done for me.

The atonement brings me back to zero, thanks be to God, and gives me new footing for fresh starts.

But I do have to start, to act to do something.

And when you justify your margins, all the words in the middle bounce around into funny spaced lines, so that the edges are sharp but the words themselves are a mess.

And that’s me.

And if it is justification that makes straight margins, that brings me within the bounds the Lord has set, then it is sanctification that cleans up the internal mess, all those funny spaced words in the middle.

That’s what I was thinking about and praying about when the phone rang.

It was the school, and then another school, and then our kids started dropping like flies. Fevers and vomiting and coughing and some kind of flu bug, my goodness.

And I thought how lovely it was to learn, just in time, that cleaning up such a nasty mess of bodily fluids is holy work, same as pouring pink fever medicine into tiny medicine cups, same as the eternal matching of socks and the forever folding of tiny clothes, same as the hour long braiding of hair twice a week, same as the picking up and delivering to and from visits, same as the stroking of hair after a nightmare, the same as the singing of little songs and giving warm baths and cooking pots of stew.

I was thinking, then, how glad I was, to be given just exactly so much as I have been given, knowing I needed a lot of healing up and cleaning out and sanctifying.

I know that He has a vision of me that I cannot yet see, but knowing He is working on it gives me great comfort. That’s why I have never felt abandoned by God, not through all the hard things we have endured.

Because anytime I know He is getting my attention, it is because He is already paying attention.

And I am not forgotten.

And that is humbling, and healing.

And it gives me peace.

Even moments of stillness.

Even moments of rest.

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.

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