Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lost Sheep Among Us...

On Sunday, I was asked to present a special lesson in Priesthood Meeting. I gave a lot of thought and prayer to what I was to present.

I talked about how easy it is to love those who love us first, how eager we are to volunteer in priesthood assignments to help a fellow brother or sister who has been a model of love and a champion of righteous living in our lives as we feel an obligation of sorts, and rightfully so, to pay back in some small way, when that person is now in need of our assistance. It is easy to remember the obvious widow or widower at Christmastime - but what about during the rest of the year? It is easy to reach out to the recent young widow whose husband prematurely died of a sudden heart attack leaving her with eight children - but what about months from now when the flower displays from the funeral have wilted and faded away?

But then I led a discussion of how the Savior loved everyone unconditionally. I twisted the Parable of the Lost Sheep (hopefully within the intent of Christ's words) to not be focused solely on the ONE who has sinned and needs repentance and has left the fold, or is "less active" and has turned from the Gospel (and the Church family associations), but more so, as the ONE who is around us within the Church family who is in silent pain, who is suffering quietly, who has issues (even SSA) that keeps one from connecting with the fellowship of the Saints, who is lonely and all alone - even when surrounded by people. This is the ONE who most likely does not PUBLISH their pain or disconnectivity or his loneliness and puts on a facade that all is well in Zion, when in reality they are screaming for help.

When we address the Lost Sheep, we usually place ourselves within the group of the 90-and-9. We are still in the fold. We are faithful. We are the good ones. In Luke 15:7, the Savior states: "... joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." But, who doesn't need to repent? Aren't we all sinners? And thus, isn't it logical that in reality we are ALL the "ONE" referred to in the parable?

The conversation evolved to where we admitted that it was easy to love and assist, to reach out and touch the obvious, the more visible, the loved brother or sister with a health problem - but that it is much more difficult to remember to reach out to those who don't have such visible ailments, but who are suffering ever so much. CONNECTIVITY - reaching out, touching each other, giving hugs, being kind, saying hello, befriending the friendless, the lonely, the one on the fringe, lifting the spirits of the one that isn't so "popular" for our affection, risking our own feelings and comfort zones by being willing to offer our assistance and affection as the spirit dictates, especially to the "unpopular" among us, or the ones with issues we may not understand (such as depression, SSA etc.) That is what the Savior did. He sought out the "unpopular" among us, not just the obvious, and he made each of us feel as we were the "ONE".

In the end, after the lesson, many stiff High Priests came up to me and thanked me for touching their hearts and making them think in a new way. Then, an interesting phenomenon occurred... they lined up and gave me a hug! I didn't ask for these hugs, especially from older men who I never thought to hug before. Though these hugs were rigid and stiff - the good ol' priesthood quick embrace and three pats on the back (not two, not four - just three), they were still hugs and signs of affection for me - from men that I would not expect to demonstrate such sensitivities in such a public forum. It felt good. I felt blessed and humbled for having been there to be edified by the power of the spirit and the power of brotherhood. (Granted, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that as men get older we often become less open in our expressions of affection - we become more distant in our public expressions - why is that? I don't ever wnat to to do that. I never want to change! I wish with all my heart that I could truly connect with them as I do with my "younger" brethren who aren't afraid to truly be "connected" with me, and openly embrace me with the affectionate brotherly love of David and Jonathan - but that's for another day - for now I should be grateful that some level of connection was made with the seasoned members of the ward... But I couldn't help but wonder why it is that so many have such a problem with physical affection, with touching each other, with truly hugging without reservation - I guess there are those of us who are "touchy feely" and then there are those who are not - I'm just glad I'm a touchy-feely guy, and I love to encourage others to open themselves to the power of TOUCH!)

I hope to live up to my own lesson: Be not afraid to reach out with love and kindness to the ONE among us! (P.S. Remember that YOU are the "one"!)


GeckoMan said...

I don't think the holding back of touch is something that develops with age. My father was quite stiff growing up, but got more comfortable with touch as he got older. I think this is simply a cultural phenomenon of an earlier age (1940 - 1960's) when m2m touch (hugging/kissing) wasn't looked upon as a 'normal' expression of affection or support.

One of So Many said...

I'm about as touchy feely as the emperor in The Emperor's New Groove:

Basically "no touchies" (complete with accompanying finger signs)

Yes I have young children at home. Too much Disney

Beck said...

I know it wasn't easy for some of them, but they did it just the same - and from the age group they come from - too bad they couldn't be more open and less stiff...

I'm glad I was open to being more open. As some feel sad for me not being truly affectionate in the way I sometimes desire, I too feel sad for straight guys who've never opened up to other guys - always afraid / always stiff.

But it's hilarious how the three slaps on the back go with the stiff embrace... Who created that rule?

GeckoMan said...

God, in His trinitarian wisdom must have created 'The Rule.' We even tap it out in the temple, don't we?

J G-W said...

isn't it logical that in reality we are ALL the "ONE" referred to in the parable?


Forester said...

I want to know if your ward is getting the picture that you are gay. It seems like you have done everything except actually come out and say it. I would have been way too nervous to teach a lesson like the one you did. I would like to be touched, but I'm way too much of an introvert.

Beck said...

FORESTER: Let me put it this way - without saying it in words - I've done everything I can to be the person that I am, and that includes being affectionate and open to feelings and touch with other men (in a gospel setting). That doesn't necessarily make one jump to the conclusion that I'm gay (I could be just a touchy-feely straight guy), but it wouldn't be that far fetched to make that jump in some of their minds. One person in my ward has made that jump and I have been honest and told him "yes". Others have not, and I don't make it a point of conversation to push them. I leave it to their own conclusions. I'd love to be more open... I think I would be fine with it as all I'm really trying to do is just "be".

I think next time you're in the neighborhood, you owe looking me up so that I can reach out and "touch" you.