Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Making Peace

If you peruse the gay Mormon blogs, a recurring theme is the search for peace.

When I read these sites, however, I see folks airing tons of angst, internal conflict, and struggle. We reflect on our lives, and we feel as if there is anything but peace in our hearts. Recently, a dear new friend quipped at me on his blog, "You find peace in my life story? Then why do I feel so conflicted most of the time?"

At one point I began to worry a bit, because I have definitely noticed that while I often feel incredible peace, I also am aware of times in my life when my own personal angst-o-meter seems to spike. This occasional sense of struggle was not a regular part of my life before my decision to return to the LDS Community. Is it possible that my life was more peaceful and better without the Mormon Church in it? Is it possible that the Mormon Church is toxic, that anybody who has anything to do with it becomes conflicted and unhappy?

Yet, when I reflect on my life before August 2005 and my life since, I realize that we often use deceptive indicators of peace. I believe that I found peace in my "ex-Mormon" days by avoiding conflict. The conflict was all there, lurking deep in unacknowledged recesses of my soul, only I refused to face certain aspects of my life that would have required me to come to terms with it, to struggle. The Holy Spirit, however, had a different plan for me.

The Holy Spirit's presence in my life was the first taste of real peace I have experienced in a long time. The Spirit essentially said to me, "Here is what real peace is: wholeness. Come and get it." Does the Spirit suddenly "fix" everything for us? Far from it! The Spirit illuminates the problem for us. It shows us where the real conflicts lie, where the undone work is, and then it helps us, guides us, and works with us as we begin to do the real hard work of making peace.

Last Sunday, the opening hymn was "How Firm a Foundation." Read the lyrics of this song when you have a chance (perhaps I will post them later). It is a great lesson in peace and how we achieve it. For some reason, the bishop announced to the congregation that this time he wanted us to sing all seven verses (instead of just the first three, as usual). The fourth verse in particular struck me with great power, and has been lingering with me ever since:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress

And in that moment I realized that every sorrow, every anguish, every pain in my life was sanctified, it was actually a source of the deepest, most profound joy to me. For I had come to face the deep conflicts in my soul, and I had begun to harmonize them, to find wholeness, and to make peace.

And the peace of the Spirit overflowed me.


J G-W said...

Another layer of meaning...

In many Gnostic texts, "the waters" are a symbol of mortal life, of the life we live below here on earth after having left the presence of God.

Ultimately, the "deep waters" through which our Heavenly Father calls us to go is life itself!

J G-W said...

Here's a link to an on-line version of the complete hymn as it appears in the LDS hymnal (#85).

GeckoMan said...

John, at times I have been on the surface looking down into deep calm waters and sometimes below the surface and tumbling in troubled waters; I find your message true and inspiring. When I sing this hymn I too am able to draw from my well of angst and know the joy you describe because I have tasted the bitter as well as the sweet. Thank you for your insight on facing our conflicts, and in the process coming to a wholeness through faith and righteous action. Yes, when we begin to harmonize, it is the Spirit that brings peace, "which passeth all understanding."

On another note, thanks for helping me to open up my blog, by challenging me to play the 8 random facts game; today I have described some of its "downstream" effects.

Beck said...

Most of the time I do feel peace, that peace that comes from the Spirit. And sometimes, when all things come together for my good, I really feel that peace is bigger and better than my here and now, and more meaningful and purposeful than my understanding.

When I start feeling angsty, though, (as I currently do) it vanishes and it takes hard work to get it back. I know this is part of life, and that we are to learn from this process - but does it have to be so hard?

Thank you, John, for being such a "find" in my life. I feel a great friendship with you as well...

J G-W said...

Beck - Thanks. I've found myself longing for friendships with gay Mormon men who have testimonies and who are committed to the Church. So far, the only place I have been able to find that is on-line. Thank you for being a part of that community for me. It truly means more to me than I can say.

Abelard Enigma said...

That is my very most favorite hymn! It's the 3rd verse that always give me goosebumps. But we, unfortunately, don't often sing verses 4-7 :(

Before my current calling, I served as the Ward Music Chairman for 5 years and so was responsible for picking the music for Sacrament meeting. I have a spreadsheet that shows every hymn we ever sang during my tenure. After I was released, I was doing some analysis to see what hymns we sang the most and, not including sacrament hymns, hymn #85 was the hymn I most often picked (Sacrament hymns are the most commonly sung since there are only a few hymns that are appropriate)

J G-W said...

Abelard - Lucky you! Our ward music chair has a policy of not singing a hymn a second time until we have sung every other hymn in the hymnal. That's kind of cool in that we get to sing some of the nice ones that might otherwise never get sung (like, for instance, "If You Could Hie to Kolob" -- which has become one of my very favorite, but that I never sang in all my years growing up). But it also means that we sing the old standards much less frequently than some wards do.

Abelard Enigma said...

Well, I've also been accused of not singing the 'standards' as often as some members want to.

And, btw, "If You Could Hie to Kolob" was also one of the hymns I picked more often than others. "A poor wayfaring man of grief" was also up there, and I always made the congregation sing all 7 verses of that hymn :)

I had once set a goal to sing every hymn in the hymnal at least once. But, I was hampered in that I had to pick hymns that were in both the English and Spanish hymnals.