Monday, June 25, 2007

It's real...

Last week, I was called into the Stake President's office for an interview. This wasn't for a new assignment, because they didn't ask my wife to attend with me (always the sign of a new calling). As usual, I went over to their offices with trembling and trepidation. I hate the Stake and always have. I much prefer my associations on the ward level. They were running late, and so I had a lot of time to think and stress over why they wanted to talk to me. I don't really know them and that unknown factor led to my active imagination getting the best of me as I sat on the couch. That feeling of unworthiness, guilt and inadequacy overwhelmed me... and that led to concerns of "what ifs", such as:

What if they found out about this blog?

What if someone else had found out about my blog and "reported" me to them and I have been "outed"?

What if I am being released from my Stake leadership position because I am now "outed"?

You see where an overactive guilt gland can lead a creative but warped mind...

In the end, I was released from my calling, but with no reason given. I asked for a reason, and none was offered other than maybe something else is on the horizon... This exchange, combined with mass hysteria of inner paranoia about my anonymity, left me hollow, empty and unwanted. I left that interview hurt and confused, obviously a reflection of my own self-esteem or lack thereof.

For the next couple of days, I anguished over how I must have failed in my duties, in my passion for my calling and the level of service I rendered. It's easy for me to pick on myself. I've done it for decades now and have become quite good at it. In time, I came to the conclusion that I was not as passionate about this calling as I had been of others in the past, and that I would seek to do better with new opportunities to come. But, as logical and healthy an attitude as that was, I was still full of self-doubt and self-unworthiness - and though I knew from where those feelings come, at the moment that knowledge didn't serve me well or register within my thick skull.

I went to the temple and an amazing thing happened, something that happens rarely, unfortunately. I was actively participating in the "work" (which can often times feel routine, redundant, less than spectacular or miraculous) when an undeniable powerful and dare I say "miraculous" sensation came over me; the Holy Ghost literally and physically hitting me on the head, giving me a full body feeling of joy about the ancestor I was assisting in the work. It was strong, sudden, and real. I knew in that instant, that my Heavenly Father loves me, that this work is real, and that we are part of something so much more than we can understand with mortal, earthly eyes. In that moment, the feelings of self-doubt and self-worth vanished and I was healed of my anxieties and inadequacies and felt a tremendous feeling of love inside me. I was being "voice" at the time and my voice shook, my body physically quivered and I was overcome. The person standing next to me noticed it and asked if I was "able to go on". This hasn't happened for a long time... and so I need to be called to "remember" all those other real encounters with the Spirit so that I DO remember Him and I DO remember what it feels like and how it feels to communicate with the Holy Ghost...

I'll leave it at that... I just want you to know that if I can feel so down and discouraged, if I can feel myself questioning my existence and purpose in this life, if I can then feel such an incredible feeling of linkage to the "great beyond" and the love and joy and acceptance and value and validity to this life and what I'm doing in it, even as a gay man, or may I say, even because I am a gay man, then...

then... so can you! So can it be for you!


Samantha said...

My have a new calling coming, and it won't be something you expect, either.

Beck, thank you for sharing your temple experience. It's a place I love to go, but don't often because of kids and distance. It takes about nine hours to attend the temple and it's easy to talk myself out of it. You make me want to go back very soon.

I love you, my friend. Thank you, again.

J G-W said...

Thank you for this very moving post. I can relate to everything you wrote about... Those occasional, harmless incidents that can sometimes inspire irrational terror... As well as the delicious, overwhelming witnesses of the Spirit that make absolutely everything else worthwhile.

I look forward to exploring more of your blog. In the meantime, peace!

gentlefriend said...

It is interesting how much our identity and feelings of self-esteem are wrapped up in our callings. For me, when a calling change comes, especially when the next calling is not known, I am left sort of naked. At those times I also am more vulnerable to the critical voices in my mind that prey upon me daily. Usually I am pretty good at withstanding them, but when there is a major change in my life I am robbed of my usual distractions and those negative satanic voices rush into the vacuum and remind me of all my weaknesses and imperfections. I call them "satanic" because the Spirit of the Lord does not drag us down. He may put a boot in our rear, but it is positive: "You are a son/daughter of God. You can repent. You can deal with this challenge. God is with you! Get moving!"

Thank you for sharing your experience. It verifies that a strong infusion of the Spirit helps you to drive out those satanic voices. I, too, have had those very occasional experiences where I have felt His arms around me and I knew that He loved me in spite of my mortal weaknesses. Tasting the fruit of His love is soo sweet!

Beck said...

Sam: It is so nice to know you are out there and still following along with my blog. I am honored and appreciate your friendship! I know with temples around me in every direction within minutes, I really have no excuse for not going more frequently.

JGW: Thank you for your blog. Your voice and story completely fascinates me and I am very interested to learn from you! Thanks for entering my world. I hope to get to "know" you better in the future. You are so right when you confirm the difference a confirmation of the spirit makes in one's life.

GF: We're obviously on the same page. What I find amazing, is how quickly I allow these type of experiences to drift into faint memories - the challenge for me is to keep remembering these "soo sweet" moments of His love.

Thank you all for your comments and sustaining influence in my life.

Kengo Biddles said...

Thanks Beck. :)

Elbow said...

What a great post. You're always so strong and I love reading about your life. I think you're wonderful and I can't wait to finally meet you in person!

J G-W said...

I've been writing lately, preparing a paper for Sunstone this August. One of the things I've been writing about is how frequently the word "remember" appears in the LDS canon -- something like 275 times. One of my favorite: "And now, o man, remember and perish not!" (Mosiah 4:30) Memory will literally keep us from perishing!

How important it is to remember those movements of the Spirit in our life. The best way to remember is to renew them; but God has given us the faculty of memory partly so that we will have something to keep us steady even in the dry spells.

Beck said...

KB: You're welcome.

ELBOW: SOOO good to see you back commenting and participating in the community. I promise you that we will meet in the flesh soon and share together our "tender mercies of the Lord".

JGW: That is exactly what I shared with someone last night! We have these experiences to help us REMEMBER as we so easily revert back to our earthly selves and forget divine communication. REMEMBERING, as we discussed together, is one of the key messages of the Book of Mormon.

J G-W said...

Beck -

I've had more opportunity to read in your blog. All I really have the presence of mind to say right now is that I find it deeply moving, and I am very, very grateful for your honesty and your willingness to share.

We each have our own paths, some more divergent than others. Hearing each other's stories honestly told, if we will listen open-heartedly and without judgment, can help us each begin to tackle the thorniest questions in our own lives. As I read about your struggles, it gives me a chance to reflect more meaningfully on my own. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As I read, I found myself feeling a lot of complicated emotions, not all easy. But I also come away with a real sense of peace, a real and very grateful sense that, as you point out in the title of this thread, "It's real."

So I look forward to reading more.

Beck said...

J G-W said: "Hearing each other's stories honestly told, if we will listen open-heartedly and without judgment, can help us each begin to tackle the thorniest questions in our own lives. As I read about your struggles, it gives me a chance to reflect more meaningfully on my own. So thank you from the bottom of my heart."

You are too kind. I'm deeply flattered and shocked at the same time that you would read my blog. I haven't gone back to the beginning to read from where I've come. It would be an interesting exercise to see if there is any improvement or whether I'm still making the same mistakes over and over again. Thank you for your kindness.

"As I read, I found myself feeling a lot of complicated emotions, not all easy. But I also come away with a real sense of peace..."

You find peace in my life story? Then why do I feel so conflicted most of the time? I'd love to talk to you about this.

J G-W said...

"...shocked at the same time that you would read my blog"

Why wouldn't I want to read it?

"You find peace in my life story? Then why do I feel so conflicted most of the time?"

Don't you think we all struggle? We may choose different struggles, but we all struggle.

The only people God promised a rose garden to was Adam and Eve... Ever since, the rest of us have had this miserable briar patch to till.

But yes, to answer your question, I see peace in your life as well as struggle. The challenge for each of us is to find out where our greatest peace is, and build on that.

Sean said...

maybe we should be tring out the title "Bishop Beck" in the near future. :)

Beck said...

Sean... Don't make me laugh! That will be the day when Hell freezes over.