Monday, July 07, 2008

Moments of Grace

For quite awhile now Sundays have been hard. Just hard. Mostly Sacrament Meeting, sometimes other times, but mostly that particular 70 minute period. I joke that if I were a drinking woman, Sundays would be a multiple-shots-of-vodka day for me. Sometimes I wish I weren't joking.

I know why it's rough, it is what it is; I trust that eventually it will get easier. Therapy helps. Priesthood blessings help. Relying heavily on the Lord--fasting, prayer--all help. I think at times I'm making progress. Then a particularly rotten Sunday pops out to deflate my optimism and I'm back to that dark little place where I wonder why on earth I keep putting myself through this nightmare, on purpose, week after week, when there is a super easy alternative called 'just stay home.'

Last Sunday my palms looked like hamburger by the time Sacrament Meeting was over. Digging nails into my hands to keep myself on the pew, fighting a visceral urge to run for the door will do that.

As I sat there in my personal black cloud of despair, all I could think to pray for were little pinpricks of light, some tiny rays to break through and give me a reason to come back.

I could stay home. I could worship on my own terms, in my own way, and take my chances. But even on the worst days, I still trust God's plan for my happiness. I trust that when He asks us to gather together and fellowship with the saints, there is a reason. I trust that when He asks us to participate--together--in sacramental ordinances, there is a reason. I trust the reasons all involve our happiness, not our despair, not our depression or angst or turmoil or trauma. And I trust that in some miraculous way I don't begin to understand, when we are where we're supposed to be, doing what we're supposed to do, grace takes over and makes it enough.

So I sit in Sacrament Meeting and fight the panic and fight the despair. The Sacrament is passed and I do what I always tell my kids to do--think of Jesus. Just for a moment the storm is stilled. I turn my heart to Him and there isn't room for anything else.

It's testimony meeting. The cynical side of me snickers. In years past my favorite Fast Sunday activity has been testimony bingo. Use the back side of the program to make a bingo grid, put the names of all the testimony meeting 'regulars', and see how long it takes to get a winning row. In our ward, not long. There are a couple of people I trade off putting in the center free spot.

Today I hardly register the testimonies. I hear other people professing what they know and believe and all I can do is doubt. Doubt that they know it, doubt that what they believe is really true. I'm still calling out silent prayers. I still know God hears me. I'm not sure I know much else.

Then my friend Julie gets up to bear her testimony. It's quiet. Reverent. Peaceful. I can almost see the shaft of light breaking through from her to me. Her testimony isn't grandiose or self-promoting. It's pure and true. I feel the Spirit confirming her words to my heart. The contrast from the negativity and darkness I've been wrapped in and this sweet, familiar comfort of the Spirit is a wonder. I soak it in and marvel at tender mercy. For the rest of the meeting I'm more open. Little pinpricks of light break through here and there.

In Primary we practice a new song. I haven't paid much attention to the third verse but today it jumps out at me. "He is always near me, though I do not see Him there. And because He loves me dearly I am in His watchful care..." My dad gave me a blessing a few weeks ago. It promised, among other things, that the Lord would be with me and that I would know beyond a doubt that He was near. As the primary children sing the words, peace flows over me and I do KNOW. Really know. Even when I'm wrapped in a fog of doubt or despair or pain or whatever the heck it is, He's still there. Even when I don't recognize or see or feel, He's still there. My angst doesn't negate His love.

My mom sent me a blog post she stumbled across that has comforting relevance.

Sitting there in the foyer by myself on that bleak February afternoon listing to talks I couldn't decide if I believed a word of, I felt the strangest, most unaccountable sense of mercy. There were no answers to the complexities of the Great Apostasy, or to the more pressing, personal complexities of how on earth it is that I am to go on in this church. There was no sense of clarity about what to do or even what to think. There was just a sense of not being alone in my aloneness, as if some divine, compassionate hand had brushed the tears from my cheek. There were no answers. Only grace. ... I have been so foolish and so wrong. I have mistaken the voices of well-meaning human men and women for the voice of God.

I think sometimes grace takes two different forms. It comes directly from the Source, as a healing balm directly to our broken hearts. Sometimes it comes more indirectly, through the voices of those well-meaning human men and women. I treasure moments of grace when my soul communes with God while the world stands still. And I love those sacred moments when I hear in another frail and flawed mortal like myself the voice of God.

His grace is sufficient. It's enough. Not only to save, heal, sanctify, cleanse, and exalt, but to get me through one more Sunday.


Jen said...

Thanks for this post Wendy. I've been feeling a lot of doubt myself lately and I don't even have the trials you are going through...I know, I'm so weak...then I went to RS on Sunday and felt that it was a lesson made for me personally. It was an answer to the prayers where I've been asking for help with this. It's great to know God listens.

Teresa said...

There have been so many Sundays that I have felt as you have. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in struggling at Church. I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate the messages you are posting.

chandra said...

This was a great post. Thanks for affirming I am not the only one out there who struggles on some Sundays too. This will help me get to next week, thanks :-)