Saturday, December 1, 2007

Looking Upward

In General Conference a year ago Elder Wirthlin talked about an eternal principle. I have seen this principle prove true in my own life over the past couple of days. He said that we will all have Fridays in our lives, and he wasn't talking about end-of-the-workweek Fridays. He was talking about Suffer-the-Atonement-be-betrayed-get-crucified-and-forsaken Fridays and watch-the-Savior-of-the-world-die-and-all-hope-with-him Fridays. Elder Wirthlin then said that no matter how dark and difficult our Friday's become, we need to remember one thing: Sunday will come. Again, not have-to-sit-through-meetings Sunday, but rather Rise-from-the-dead-in-Glory Sundays and Witness-the-Savior's-resurrection Sundays.

Thursday morning was definitely a Friday for me (see last post). However, since Thursday evening, I have been living in Sunday. I feel a need to testify of the blessings of the Lord. In doing so, I don't mean to offend anyone. This is just what I have witnessed in my own life.

Thursday night I met with my Bishop. We talked for a while about "P" and then began to discuss the interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman. I let him know how I felt about the attitude that many leaders and members of the Church (especially BYU-I religion teachers) have that I have named Wickmanism. It is the "Quit feeling bad for yourself and just get over your problems. They are just the now. Eventually, you will be happy. Just trust us." attitude. I told my Bishop that sometimes that was hard for me to really believe. He then explained that one way to view this challenge is as a special opportunity to exercise faith. He said that when we have all the answers to and things are going well, especially when we are blessed as soon as we keep the commandments, our faith gets to be lazy. It is only in the times when we don't understand and when it is hard to believe that our faith is tested and stretched and allowed to grow.

I don't know why, but that really hit me as true. I had never thought of it that way. So in a way I can feel sorry for all the Mormons who live the "ideal" life. As C.S. Lewis said(and I am paraphrasing): We have no room to be proud of our blessings and the ease of our life. When things go well, we should look and say: If I had been stronger, the Lord would have put me in a more difficult position. I think the opposite applies as well. When we look at our lives and think "Damn, this is hard. The Lord must not care about me very much." We ought to look and say "Wow, the Lord must know that I am pretty strong and capable or else he never would given me such a difficult assignment."

My Bishop also pointed out that he agreed with me. As he read the interviews the though had come to him that Elder Oaks has had someone very close to him experience SSA, whereas Elder Wickman had no understanding of the issue and just recited the "correct answer." I felt a lot better that my Bishop felt the same way.

So, the next morning in my Ed Psych class I had a really neat experience. There has been this guy in my class that I have sat next to all semester and tried to get to know better. At times I have felt like I wasn't getting anywhere with the friendship. Just a note: He is married, too and the same age as I am. For the most part, I am really not sexually attracted to him althoug ther have been moments. (More on that in a minute) Anyway, our professor asks us a question and gives us two minutes to discuss it. Well, this guy turns to me and says, "So what are your plans for next weekend?" I told him we didn't have any. He says, "My wife and I wanted you and your wife to come riding with us. Would you like to?" So, since my wife and I moved back from our summer on a ranch in Nebraska I have had to sell all my horses and really miss riding. That was a major stress reliever for me. I am so excited about getting to ride, but that pales in comparison to the excitement of having another male ask me to do something with him.

Then he starts to ask me what I thought about Elder Oaks talk in this General Conference 'Good, Better, Best.' He tells me that he is really concerned about how he is going to handle all the different activities as a parent and wanted my advice. We talked after class for about twenty minutes. The whole time I am just standing there thinking, "I can't believe this is actually happening. Here I am talking to a guy who respects me enough to talk to me about something like this." Anyway, It really gave me hope that I am not doomed to failure in building healthy male relationships.

Then that evening, my wife decided to stay at her parents house after work and encouraged me to call my only real friend from High school that I have see like twice since I got home form my mission. I know, pretty pathetic. I was doubtful that he would have time seeing that I was calling him for the same night. Well, he did. We got together and went out to dinner and spent about 4 hours just talking. I had forgotten just how much we have in common. I was on cloud nine the whole evening. It felt so good to relate to another guy and feel like he cared about and understood what I was thinking and feeling. I am probably going to confide in him about my SSA sometime soon. I made him promise that he wouldn't let another year go by. We kind of committed to getting together once every other week or so. That will be really good for me.

I have noticed that as I develop healthy, intimate relationships with other men, that sexual attraction to them fades. I remember at times in high school fantasizing about this friend of mine, but as I spent more time and built a very strong friendship with him although we didn't have much time to hang out later in High School, I no longer felt anything for him sexually. It just seemed wrong. The same thing has happened with this guy in my class. I was really attracted to him at the beginning of the semester, but now I just can't think about him in a sexual way. I respect him too much.

After my wife's hell week at work, last night she was a lot more relaxed. We talked a lot about how I felt and she was so understanding. I really love her. I am so glad that I can talk to her and not have to be all macho, but can express my feelings and still feel like she respects and loves me. I got her an appointment for a massage today and she was a lot more relaxed and happy after that. We had a great evening together.

I'm sure that there are countless other "Fridays" ahead for me as I continue my climb upward. However, I know that Sunday will always come. One last thought that has been on my mind since my Bishop mentioned it: I actually am glad that the Lord does not work on a short term basis. He is in this thing for the long haul, until we are like Him. I know that I am a hell of a long way from that point and if the Lord worked on the short term, He would have given up on me a long time ago. I am so grateful that He is patient and willing to give me all the experiences that I need to become like Him. However, that blessing comes with the "challenge" that the Lord doesn't work on the short term. In other words, we need to be as patient with Him and His time line as he is with us. I know that is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of faith. But how could we develop the faith necessary to return to live with Him if everything was given to us immediately?

I know that the Gospel is true even if some who are called to lead the Church are imperfect. I know that Christ lives and that God is our Heavenly Father. Most of all I know that they love each of us and are far more patient, understanding, and willing to forgive and help us than we are ready to elieve. That doesn't mean that they will make it easy, but they will make us more like Them. I am so grateful that I am not in this fight alone. I cannot begin to describe the blessing it is to have others, my wife, good friends, and particularly you who read thins and send support and advice. Thanks for helping this lost traveler who is just trying to find his way back home.


GeckoMan said...

Thank you for your faithful testimony, and sharing the Sundays as well as the Fridays. I think we sometimes fixate on the bad things, and so when good things also happen, we trivialize them or think that no one else would be interested. In so doing, we deny for ourselves and others the Lord's blessings; by reconsidering just how merciful and kind He is in our lives we invite the Lord's love into our hearts. Sharing our faith and testimony lets that love stay there a little longer. I feel enriched this morning by reading your blog--thanks.

I'm so happy to hear you have ventured out to extend friendship to two men you care about. I hope you can enjoy regular time together. I would advise you to not push things too fast in coming out to your high school friend. Rather, recognize its been several years you've been apart, so just let things flow and unfold naturally. Has he married as well, or is he looking? If he's single, then the whole process of dating and marriage relationships from your seasoned viewpoint would most likely be an interesting topic to him. Tell him about both the good and the not so good from your personal experiences; be real and genuine and this will give you each additional reasons to trust one another. When a friend shares with me the difficult issues of his life, then that is a sign to me that he truly values my friendship and confidence.

I hope you don't think I've just said don't tell but do tell--no, what I've tried to explain is pace yourself in the give and take of conversation with friends.

I have found that doing lunch with a friend in a planned way, a couple times a month, is a most satisfying activity. After many months, the range of topics and personal details that are covered bit by bit add to a great base for friendship and understanding. You don't have to spill the beans all at once, because you know there will be time to tell pieces of your story along the way. Hiking, riding, jogging, working out or just doing something physical with a friend is also a great way to bond a friendship.

Good luck with your friends. I hope this is the beginning of meaningful times ahead for you, to share yourself with men in good and healthy ways.

Mercia said...

Well written article.