Friday, December 19, 2008

Divine Wrestling Match

This past week has had amazing ups and downs for me. Partly because I've been under the fog of a nasty cold, and my head is only finally clearing up today, and life always feels more dangerous when your head aches and your body isn't fully functional. But in the past week we celebrated our one year anniversary of having Glen as a foster son by taking him out to a fancy restaurant, which he loved! We have entered a new phase in our relationship in which the teenage rebellion of months 7 through 11 of our relationship petered out and has resolved itself into steady growth. I think Glen finally believes that we are there for him, come hell or high water. The social worker who placed Glen with us has resigned her position so she could move to Utah to be closer to her grandkids, which entailed great sadness for all of us (we will very much miss having her steady and supportive presence!), but also a sense of transition and the healthy passage of time, and an opportunity to be grateful for what she brought into our lives (a kid!) and reflect on how our sense of family has evolved in the past year as a result of becoming foster parents.

But through this all, as my head cleared itself of my cold, and as I shook off residual resentments from the whole Prop 8 nastiness, some renewed understandings crystallized for me.

1) I am and always will be a Latter-day Saint. My faith commitment is grounded in a living relationship with God, and the on-going gift of revelation. In my daily prayer life it is evident to me that the place where I belong is my local ward, the Lake Nokomis Ward. When I attend there, I am blessed with outpourings of the Spirit that give me strength and clarity for everything I need to accomplish in my life as a father, as a husband, and as a teacher. The fact of my excommunication (and my inability to be reinstated so long as I remain committed to and care for my family); the lack of understanding many Saints have about homosexuality; the Church's destructive and demoralizing political engagements on this front; all of these are mere mortal contingencies that will eventually be worked out to the eternal joy and satisfaction of me, my family, and all who turn in faith to God, our father and the author of creation and of our eternal destinies. This is a time of probation, so mistakes will be made. I am a sinner, and am too much in need of forgiveness to cling to judgment or resentment. I am loved, and my sole obligation in life is to offer that same love to all I encounter.

2) My family is eternal. I am a child born to Heavenly Parents whose love for me is eternal. I am sealed to earthly parents in the eternal pattern of Heaven. I love and cling with my whole heart to an earthly husband, who reciprocally loves and clings to me, and in this relationship I have listened to and obeyed the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and so live in hope of greater things than have been presently revealed. I have, at the prompting of the Spirit, accepted the task of parenting and have put my whole heart into that task, parenting our son with all the love and passion I would parent with if he had been born to our flesh and sealed to us in the temple. Any child of God deserves no less. I'm proceeding under the assumption that, if you want something eternal, you have to believe it and live it and abide by eternal principles. And we have been blessed, beyond my words to describe. I have no earthly promises: no church approbation, no temple sealings, our names not written in any earthly ecclesiastical books; not even sure if the marriage certificate hanging framed on our bedroom wall is legally valid in the wake of events in California. All I have is a voice in the dark, whispering in the quiet of my heart from beyond the veil, encouraging me to keep going, and promising me good if I do.

Strangely, that is enough.

3) One of the basic, fundamental, unalterable conditions of our existence within this mortal coil is that if we want a blessing, we must wrestle God for it. It's why we are here. It's the only way we will advance. If we think that blessings will come to us just because somebody -- a parent, a prophet, an institution -- hands it to us on a silver platter, we are in for a painful education. This is why God is masked to us in this life; this is why the unclear, mixed messages; the confusing contradictory commandments, commandments impossible to obey: Adam being forced to decide whether to obey the commandment to be fruitful and multiply or whether to obey the commandment to abstain from the fruit of the tree, Abraham being asked to sacrifice the child of the promise on an altar of cruelty; this is why, in the deepest, darkest most painful dilemmas we face in life, none of the advice offered ultimately helps; because God put us here to let us see what we are made of; to let us decide what we really want, and then fight him for it. He knows this is the only way we can grow, the only we have have any hope of becoming the kind of being he is, the kind of being he hopes each and every one of us will become.

We can get pissed off and throw a tantrum and turn away from God, pretend he doesn't exist for us. That won't ultimately help us. It will leave us disconnected and lost, trying to make do without hope, not really knowing who we are. OR, we can surrender, "stifle" our "self," mortify the flesh, acknowledge God's unalterable decree, and then spend the rest of our lives in warfare against ourselves. But that's merely a different kind of abandonment, a different kind of faithlessness. That is mistaking the mask of God for God himself. That's burying the one talent in the ground out of fear, instead of investing it in something having worth. God gave us the gift of a living soul so that it could grow, become something amazing and eternal, become like him!

The only way we can help ourselves is to turn back, face the darkness, face the unknown, take the leap of faith, and then live, love, engage! Get our hands dirty. Get our face bloody. Live! And find God! Take no one's word. Be satisfied with no one's doctrine. Tear away every mask, denounce every idolatry, not be satisfied until we have found him, true and living and real, more real by far than the flesh and matter we think we can take for granted because we see and feel and taste it. When you are in the presence of God, you will know how far more, surpassingly real the world of spirit we come from is than all of this.

4) Truth is in the testing of it. Alma was right: we only know if the seed is good by planting it in our heart. And then we don't even see it grow. We feel it. We feel the sprouts pushing up, the roots deepening. Eventually it bears fruit. This much is true: from the planting of the seed on, no matter what the pain of the cultivation, things only get better and better. Life only tastes sweeter and sweeter. We just need patience!

Patience and infinite quantities of love, quantities only possible if we go to the eternal Source of Love!


Beck said...

This is an amazing post. It is very much, as you pointed out, on the same page as my current thoughts and my recent post on engaging life more passionately and not being bitter by setbacks or opinions of others.

I want to live my life more passionately and "engage" in those things around me, and connect with people without fear. I want to feel the spirit with gusto and "engage" in serving and helping those around me. I want to "engage" in my family and refind my role as a father and husband. I want to move beyond the bitterness of some feelings from being a gay mormon in a church that does not understand me and those like me (as we are invisible) and "engage" myself in the good of the Gospel and the spirit of connections that come from living passionately.

I love your wrestling match and am anxious to continue to learn from your example of never giving up and "engaging" passionately in your life and loves.

Beck said...

P.S. And congrats on your 1st anniversary as a foster parent! Best wishes for many more...

J G-W said...

Beck - Thanks! We are really looking forward to our second Christmas with our son!

Alan said...

Just ran across your blog John and wanted to echo Beck's comments. Lots of wrestling going on for me too and some excellent insights in your remarks. The learning and challenges really never stop, they just change and morph over time. I am learning that that is one of the main points of this earth life. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

J G-W said...

Alan: Welcome and thanks!