Monday, January 3, 2011

In at the Gate

The baptism of my friend Mary on Saturday was incredible. I actually had the kind of mountaintop spiritual experience there that left me looking down at my day-to-day problems and feeling like they really aren't problems after all. It left me feeling like most of the things I worry about and wrestle with just don't even register much in the light of God's love.

I got to see my friend Mary transformed. I've watched her go through so much pain and doubt and anguish of soul, but Saturday there was just such a peace and assurance about her. I saw calm and light and confidence. After all the wrestling, she finally knew this was the right thing to do, and she was doing it. She stood there literally like an angel. I was astonished.

And the Spirit there was so powerful and so pure. I had envisioned this event for a long time (from the first time I met Mary), and had always imagined that I would weep to see my friend take this step. But the only way I can describe the baptism Saturday is to say that the Spirit was so clear and so strong and so resplendent, there was no room for weeping. I think I finally understand what it means in the Book of Revelation when it says that in the Celestial Kingdom, Christ shall wipe away all our tears. It was joy beyond tears. I just sat there and glowed. I tried to describe it in an email I sent Mary yesterday, and the best I could say was that it was like being filled with light, from the bottoms of my heels to the top of my head.

There were tears though, later... As soon as the service ended, Mary turned around to give me a hug. And then the tears were like a waterfall. I actually sobbed, great, big, billowy sobs. It was embarrassing, actually -- I almost wanted to leave. I so wanted what she now had. I wanted to go in at the gate, as she just had. I felt so alone, still outside.

Mary knew what I was feeling, without me saying a word. She whispered into my ear: "I won't leave you behind." I am so thankful for Mary.

I know what is most valuable in life. It is to be in the presence of God, to be filled with God's pure light and love. I understand that we can only see what we are. And to become, we must pass through this vale of tears. So let us continue on...

8 comments:

MoHoHawaii said...

I wonder if this is what ministering angels feel like. They are present and play a role but are in some way "lesser," just as the Church currently thinks of you as "lesser." The paradox here is that when it comes to gifts of the spirit, the roles of the weak and the mighty are inverted.

I keep thinking of Elder Poelman's 1984 conference talk (the one that was censored by the Church after the fact). As originally delivered (now on Youtube), it was a beautiful clarification of the differences between the gospel and the institutional church. It seems that your situation is an application of the principles he explained. The Church is merely a vehicle, even if you believe it to be divinely authorized; the principles of the gospel are what matter.

MoHoHawaii said...

Elder Poelman's talk: part 1 and part 2.

Beck said...

Thank you for sharing this touching experience of hope and faith, of connection and love. It's amazing when such experiences have the capacity to total reorganize our priorities and problems of daily strife.

J G-W said...

MHH - maybe! Thanks for the links to Elder Poelman's talk... I look forward to listening to it.

Thanks, Beck! Happy New Year!

J G-W said...

Mohohawaii - I listened to the talk... Amazing talk! Both faith-inspiring and comforting!

(Plus, he delivers it in a radio-perfect voice..!)

MoHoHawaii said...

Glad you liked the talk. It still speaks to me after all these years. I think he has a great perspective on what's important about religious practice and what's less important.

I think it's telling that this talk proved to be uniquely controversial. The content was gutted in the printed version, and Elder Poelman had to rerecord the bowlderized version in an empty tabernacle for inclusion in the subsequently published official recordings. All official trace of the original talk was erased. (Thank goodness for You Tube.)

To me, this means that Elder Poelman struck a nerve in the institutional Church and it defended itself reflexively. This entire remarkable episode is a kind of object lesson.

I can't say that I have a 100% handle on your religious thinking, but from what I know of you I thought the church-vs-gospel distinction would be something that might resonate with you.

J G-W said...

Well, actually I related very much to Poelman's insistence in this talk (in the unexpurgated talk!) on the close connection between Gospel and Church. He insists that the Church is led by divinely called and ordained priesthood authority, and it implements Gospel principles. There would be no Church without the Gospel, and it would be impossible to implement Gospel principles without the Church.

However, I very much did appreciate his insistence that members of the Church often mistake culture for Gospel. I appreciated his clarification that the programmatic embodiments of Gospel principles can evolve and change dramatically. And I also believe that the principle of free agency means that Church members and leaders are not guaranteed to be perfect in how they implement Gospel principles.

Honestly, I didn't see anything particularly unorthodox in Poelman's talk... It's likely that some nerves were indeed struck. Perhaps there was fear that Poelman's talk might spur individuals to split Church from Gospel in more unorthodox ways. I hear people say all the time "I have a testimony of the Gospel, but not of the Church." I disagree. I have a profound testimony of the Church -- no qualifications need be added to that. If anything, the powerful spiritual experiences I had at Mary's baptism on Saturday strengthened my testimony of the Church as a divinely established institution. I think Poelman was quite clear in his testimony-bearing of the Church as a divine institution... I didn't see anything in his talk to suggest that he wouldn't insist the the Church is as true as the Gospel. But I wouldn't be surprised if some folks on the correlation committee were worried that not everyone would draw that lesson from the talk...

Gay Mormon said...

Very beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing =)