Thursday, May 8, 2008

Two Religions

The cell phone was ringing at 12:45 a.m. Göran and Glen are always messing with the ring tones on my phone, and they usually pick one for me that plays a really obnoxious tune. So I was struggling to wake up while this really obnoxious tune was playing over and over again from the cell phone in my pants pocket. After fumbling around in the dark, I finally found it. By this time, the call had gone into voicemail, but I saw the name of the caller. It was my sister.

Assuming that my sister wouldn't call me at almost 1 o'clock in the morning without a really good reason, I immediately called her back.

She was a bit embarrassed at having woken me. "It's really not that important," she protested.

But it was. It was supremely important.

Have you ever had one of those dark nights of the soul? Those sleepless nights that extend into the wee hours, when the whole world is sleeping but you? And the loneliness is suffocating you, and demons are tearing your soul apart? And the loneliness and the demons are telling you that you don't matter, that nobody cares, that it's best for you to just suffer alone?

To my way of thinking, that's when you need to call someone. To my way of thinking, when someone trusts you enough to call you at one in the morning, those are the calls you need to take.

My sister needed a friend. She needed her brother. She wept when I told her that I love her and she never needs to worry about calling me whenever she needs to talk.

At one point in our conversation, she came back to a conversation we've had many times. "I just don't understand," she complained, "I just don't understand why you feel the need to go back to the Church." She reeled off the litany of hypocritical deeds, of the multitude of things Good Church People do that hurt and exclude and belie their supposed professions. She didn't need to tell me about it. I know it all too well. "How can you believe in the Church? Do you really believe in all of that?" she asked desperately.

I took a deep breath, and sighed.

"The principles of the Church are true," I said, "They are true in the deepest, most profound sense of that word."

But then I went on to explain, the best I could in my 1:30 a.m. brain stupor, that there are two religions in the world. Only two. There is the religion of surface appearances, the superficial religion that is all about ego and profession and outward observance. Which is really no religion at all. And then there is the religion which is the true path to God, a religion you can't see so clearly because it resides in invisible places, in the heart, because its most profound expression is love that doesn't draw so much attention to itself. You can't profess that religion. You can only live it. But it requires a commitment. It requires the commitment of everything you have and everything you are.

My sister is struggling. She has been struggling for a long time. But whenever we have this conversation, I always feel a sense of hope. The more bitterly a person complains about the hypocrisy of the Church, the more, I am convinced, there is a very important battle being fought in the soul. There is a truth yearning to be grasped.

Our conversation slowly wound to a close. I had to say goodbye. My alarm clock was going to go off in less than four hours.

If my sister reads this, you know I'm praying for you and love you.

And for those of you who are fighting the same fight, wrestling with demons, trying to find the truth in the darkness, I'm praying for you too.


Maraiya said...

I have several blogs that make me laugh, but your blogs make me cry (in a very good way, which is saying something because I *hate* to cry). Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Neal said...

Beautiful, John, as always. Thank you.


da Marmo said...

Your post reminded me of the line in Lord I Would Follow Thee, "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that they eye can't see." And you inspired me to seek those affirming, invisible places in my own life.

J G-W said...

Maraiya, Neal: thank you!

Da Marmo: Thank you for reminding me of that beautiful hymn. The last time we sang that hymn in Church, I was reduced to a sobbing mass. Such a beautiful message about unconditional love, non-judgment, and following the path of Christ! (Number 220 in the LDS hymnal for those of you who want to check it out...)