Saturday, October 15, 2011

The angst unfortunately returns...

I find myself in the situation where I have to teach the youth of the church why it is so important to gain a testimony to anchor oneself in this world of amorality, not so much "immorality" as "amorality" - that moral relativity of no right or wrong, no absolute truth, no need to worry about anything as long as you don't hurt anyone else, and no consequences to any personal actions.

I've personally seen the disastrous affect in the life of someone very close to me who has declared his amorality, and how that position has pulled his anchor up from the rock and how is tossing helplessly in a rough sea of life. Watching this happen to one I love so much, has been painful and stressful as I seek ways to help anchor the anchorless.

So, I should be amply supplied with motivation to address this topic, no?

It is important to be anchored, to have core beliefs that provide that foundation upon which to build a meaningful life, right?

So, why then, am I so hesitant in approaching this assignment? I am an anchored person, a moral person with a firm foundation upon which I remain fixed though torrential storms of life pound upon me. So why am I in a funk...

I've been so these last two weeks since General Conference. I really sought for guidance and inspiration at the feet of those who have been called to lead and teach, particularly at this time when I feel like my family is coming undone at the seams, and that the lives of those I love are suffering so tremendously with pain and depression, loneliness and loss of hope. So why did I come away from conference so empty and void?

I particularly love Priesthood Session where I can feel of the brotherhood and enjoy the male bonding of singing and being taught together. Usually I come away uplifted, and I know what the spirit feels like inside me. This time I came away empty. Maybe it didn't help that I was distracted by the most beautiful guy sitting across the aisle from me. He was wearing a crisp black suit and tailored shirt and sharp stylish tie. His eyes were piercing blue and his blond locks cascaded to his shoulders, his blond short beard glistened through his tanned complexion... but I digress.

Yes, I was distracted... and I fought that distraction and tried to concentrate. I took copious notes in hopes of keeping my attention to the speakers' messages - but the spirit was gone. All I could think about was him.

I came home depressed. I couldn't laugh it off like I have done before. I pleaded with Heavenly Father to touch my spirit, to help me to know he was there, and that he really did understand me. I needed to know that the Prophet who typically spoke on Sunday morning, was in tune, and that he understood the bigger picture, and that he understood me. I wanted something more... I wanted to be assured that prayer was real, that my prayers were being listened to, that this was all real and true.

When I heard the prophet tell of the power of prayer, I had hope, but then that hope was crushed as his example of knowing the truth of prayer was centered around leaving a $5 dollar bill in his pocket and it was taken to the laundry and he prayed as a 12 year old boy that it would come back to him because he "really needed that money". And when it did, he "knew" that his prayer was answered!

I about fell off my chair! I audibly gasped a sigh of ultimate frustration! It was as if all truth fell away from me. I came undone. I walked around in total disgust. I know the stories in Fast and Testimony meetings of lost keys, of lost money, of finding this or that, and I can chalk those up as being what they are - limited views of the power of God in our lives and witnesses of his "love" for each of us to remember us and help us with the little insignificant things in comparison to the bigger issues. I get it: Heavenly Father finds our keys, our cell phone, and sends help and inspiration when we need it. But where is He when we face depression, loneliness, helplessness, and hopelessness? Where is He to help me to understand that my "attraction" to the blond beauty in priesthood is just the way I am and it's all okay (I've had that feeling before - and even in the Temple - in a very profound way that I've blogged about last year, but not this time - this time it was just a feeling of "you're really no good and unworthy" - that feeling of angst that I had for years and had moved beyond after that "profound witness of the spirit in the temple that I was loved and understood by Him", for this last year or so... well it all came back and consumed me in hopelessness).

And I became disgusted with the prophet - disgusted that he was no different than the little ones who worship the God of lost keys and money, but not the God of one who can accept me for me and help me to stay "anchored" as loved ones are being tossed to and fro.

I became disconnected with the prophet. I have spent the last two weeks struggling with the gulf of disconnect that has overcome me. I have become lost, my tethering rope to my anchor is gone. I feel afloat and hopeless. I feel alone. Everything has come into question again in my life. I feel that if the prophet doesn't get it, then who does? And if this isn't the truth, then what is? Or is there really no truth, no absolute, no anchor, no right and wrong... am I left not with morality or immorality - just amorality?

And now how am I to be an example of an anchor for these youth tomorrow when I feel so unanchored myself? when I don't feel like I'm guiding my family, my loved ones and giving them strength in their serious time of need when I feel so weak? when I feel angst returning and assurance fleeing? when I start asking the haunting question of who I really am?

I'm broken...

I guess I'll keep faking it. Un-authenticity continues to be my core mantra.


Beck said...

I reread the post and feel the need for a post-script. It feels like I'm whining. I apologize for that. I know that I am the one who is responsible for my funk and I certainly don't hold the prophet's silly example as cause for this funk. I just can't have the angst again - not at this time. I hope that blogging again can help me get out of this funk sooner than later. Your comments are appreciated as always.

Ned said...

I'm sorry this is a tough time for you and your loved-ones, Beck. The $5.00 bill story and the one about the Frankfurt Temple Dedication are classic Monson. We've heard tales like these for decades. But yes, we sometimes expect more and we're sometimes left with the feeling of that old Peggy Lee song "Is that all there is?"

With regard to anchors, I've also felt adrift at times. It helps me to think of multiple anchors, not just one. I guess it's a way of hedging my bets. Here's an alphabetical approach to multiple anchors.


Of course you're free to choose just one, but you're just as free to add and delete and find the anchors that do, in fact, anchor you.

Thanks for the inspiration to do a little thinking about what's important. I hope you will seek and find comfort and courage for yourself and those you love and serve.

Andy said...

I hope you will find your anchor again. Perhaps looking beyond the walls of conventional Mormonism is a possible answer. I've had to let go of the belief that the church has all the answers, because for me it doesn't.

robert said...

As a college teacher, most of all, young adults want to see honesty and integrity. Their access to knowledge is so far greater than in my generation and it grows exponentially. It would be impossible NOT to question unless one locked themselves away. This is where churches fail people. They have doctrine and dogma but lack humility as humility is a human but not an organizational trait. The only organization I know that is humble is AA. I am not a regular attender, but I know why it is humble. It never accepts large donations of money. It is anonymous and it has only one requirement and that is a simple desire on the part of the member to arrest an addiction.

Muccavwon said...

I'm sorry that you are going through such a rough spot. Reading your post and post-script, I just want to share that you seem to be too hard on yourself. I'm pretty sure that if a friend of yours had written what you have written, you would tell him that he isn't being fair to himself.

"It feels like I'm whining. I apologize for that. I know that I am the one who is responsible for my funk..."

Who says you're the one who is responsible for your funk? I doubt you would tell a friend that--at least be that understanding towards yourself. Feelings come and go and usually when we try to control or suppress them, they come out in worse ways later. Don't blame yourself or apologize for feeling alone, angsty, or hopeless. You are in an extremely tough situation.

Thanks for your post--your sincerity is beautiful. Trust yourself.

naturgesetz said...

The Heavenly Father knows what you really need. It is not necessarily a $5 bill, or reassurance that he understands you. And I am sure that he is well pleased with you for reaching out to him.

"[I]f the prophet doesn't get it, then who does?" You do.
I don't know if your church's theology acknowledges that someone in the congregation would sometimes have a deeper understanding that the prophet, but I hope it does, because it seems that in this case that is what has happened.

You certainly seem to understand the importance of having the anchor you speak of. I hope you were able to express it to the youth despite your personal funk.

GMP said...

I don't know if this would be appropriate for teaching, but I think the youth of this church need to hear from a person who sometimes doesn't get it.

I remember times in Young Mens with I thought that I was the only one who didn't get it, even though I was doing the right things. I looked around my quorum and saw guys who didn't get it because they were sinners and I saw guys who got it because they were righteous, but I never felt like there was a guy like me, a (then)obedient, but still confused, kid. Maybe it would have made me feel better hearing from an adult who had a testimony but still struggled with faith.

My bishop and I were talking a few days ago and he encouraged me by saying that questioning and experimentation are good for the testimony, because if they are done in earnest, it all comes back to the truth. Maybe that's your anchor. Don't stymie your questions, let them grow and eventually you'll find answers.

By the way, I felt the same way you did about the five-dollar story until I thought about the central message. I don't think it was so much about God answering prayers as much as it was about God caring about all of our desires, even our worldly and greedy ones.

Beck said...

NED: Tough times come and go. I find that I'm pretty resilient, and I just keep going despite whatever that is the reason for my current funk.

I do expect more. I do need more, particularly now. But I find myself seeking it from within. I just worry that someday when I pull down deep inside to find some reservoir of strength I won't find anything inside me anymore.

You know me. You know I'm anchored. My anchor, though, feels more and more less secure, weakened by each storm cycle.

Thank you for the reminder of multiple anchors around us all.

Beck said...

ANDY: I am so trained to think that the Church has all the answers that it is so very, very hard to look elsewhere for strength. As noted above, I have to pull from my own resources and strengths. It's just so hard to feel a void where once was fulfilment.

ROBERT: I did teach them to be honest with themselves, that I struggle, too, that I don't know everything, but that I do know some things. I taught about the relativity of the world, of ammorality and no right and wrong leading us to no anchor - and encouraged them to find their anchor, their personal grain of truth. I told them that sometimes I don't get it, that I'm not in complete agreement with all things taught by the church, but I do have my anchors, and I do know what I believe to be truth, and I hang on that and keep going... I hope it made some sense to someone.

Beck said...

MUCCAVWON: You are new to me. I am not familiar with you, but I am so pleased that you are here and willing to comment. That means a lot.

I am notorious for beating on myself. It's a well-established habit. I tend to let my blog be my beating stick as a resource of self-therapy.

Your sensitivity is very much appreciated.

NATURE: Yes, I was able to "fake it" in the sense of being strong enough to teach when I personally feel so weak. In the process, I was able to dig deep and find some core beliefs that I could bear witness and offer strength that were real, not fake.

GMP: I'm definitely in a questioning mode, searching for answers to fill the void that consumes me. When finding oneself in a leadership position of authority, where one is supposed to know it all, it is a challenge to find that fine line between preaching doubt verses encouraging experimentation on the word. I hope I found that line last Sunday.

Thanks for the reminder that it is okay to wonder, to question and to experiment with faith.

Ned said...

BECK: I'm so glad to see your comments here this morning. The one that glowed on the screen like the special effects in A Beautiful Mind was this:

"In the process, I was able to dig deep and find some core beliefs that I could bear witness and offer strength that were real, not fake."

That is HUGE, Beck. I hope you'll share with us what you found and realize that something very positive came out of this difficult process of preparing for and presenting to the youth you care so much about.

You were given a washed and faded $5.00 bill and you explored some dark yet sacred space you thought was empty and brought forth a nugget of pure gold. I want to believe that there's more gold where that came from, even though finding it was painful and difficult.