The difference between acknowledging Jesus Christ’s love and feeling of His love is the difference between seeing a fur blanket through a window and curling up in one next to the fireplace after working on a frigid winter day. One acknowledges, even appreciates, existence. The other embraces and depends on it.
So often we talk of knowing the Savior loves us. After all, He suffered exquisite pain, even death, that we might be forgiven and live again.
Seeking to understand the gospel after a childhood of religious manipulation, abuse, and abandonment feels like a climb up a hill, in the middle of a mudslide, as pelting rain blinds your vision. The truth is blurred by traumatic memories and the whisper-shout that faith equates being led to the slaughter. Only the power of Jesus Christ can guide us through the devil’s onslaught safely.
I was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Between religious manipulation as an excuse for devastating parental behaviors, and what I now see as a misunderstanding of love and law, I wanted nothing to do with the Church – or any religion – by the time I was 17.
I remember sitting in sacrament meetings and hearing leaders teach about the promises the Lord makes in the scriptures to the faithful – happiness, peace, joy – and questioned the truthfulness of His words. The home as a “heaven on earth” was a laughable suggestion. When I heard people teach of outer darkness and the weeping, whaling, and gnashing of teeth, that I could believe.
I wrote the following op-ed piece for the Seattle Times in November 2019. They politely declined. I called for people to lay down their differences and learn to care about their neighbors for times such as these.
Note* When I talk about isolation, I am not referring to social distancing. Rather, I am referring to the belief too many of us hold that we do not impact each other and we do not need each other.
Food-starved and love-starved travel the same road: desperation. Both will settle for scraps.
I have run many a mile in my life. An hour or so after a grueling run, my body is so frantic for food I will eat anything within reach. My brain seems to abandon all reason when choosing food because something is better than nothing, even if that something makes me feel sick, bloated, and grumpy.
Similarly, I used to have a soul-encompassing urgency for attention and affection. I wanted someone – anyone- to love me. Not only in a romantic way – though romance was undoubtedly high on my priority list – but in every fathomable relationship.
Every second spent lamenting who you are is stealing a second from realizing your worth and potential. Have you ever thought, “I will be happy when I; lose weight, buy a bigger house, make more money, have more of this or less of that.” How often do you convince yourself happiness lies on the other side of an imaginary line? How much time do you spend cursing your fate because of your perceived shortcomings?
Plans rarely work out the way we want them to. Life happens. Illness, accidents, deaths, births, unexpected and expensive home and car repairs, and so on. Goals and plans meet roadblocks, steep inclines, or require longer paths than we realized.
Destructive coping mechanisms are like resilient pests that keep coming back. Sometimes they are so sneaky you don’t know they are there until you turn around and see the years of damage.
Just as your body compensates for injury to avoid pain, so do your mind and heart. If you sprain your left ankle, you favor your right ankle while it heals. For a time, your right ankle can handle the extra weight. However, if you never learn to walk evenly again, your right side – from your head to your feet – will experience the pain of overcompensating.
Compensations of your mind and heart are not so easily observable.
During a jovial conversation last week, I heard myself say, “If I don’t do it perfectly, I’m garbage.” My friend had a look in her eye as if she didn’t know whether to be concerned or amused. I wasn’t sure how I felt either. I know I hold myself to unrealistic standards but hadn’t before realized I thought of myself as garbage when I prove myself human.
Yes, the nefarious beast of perfectionism had reared its ugly head. It’s the idea that we should look and be flawless — the unachievable standard of precise and impeccable performance accompanied by constant self-criticism without tolerance for being human. Demanding perfection hijacks our power by focusing on the inevitability of shortcomings and failure.