Are Things What They Are, or What We Are?
All is quiet. Sitting, body aching, part of me crying for a hard floor while my head wished for a pillow, I mused.
My mind hungered for stimulation and my fingertips for a voice.
The possessions of accumulated ownership are strewn all about me and I reached for them one by one.
Are they what they are, or partly who I am or hope to be? I touched each thoughtfully: a tiny dried rosebud given by a child long ago; a vase filled with new carnations and baby’s breath, offered from four children, who are not perfect, but who love their imperfect mother; a headband, made of pretty peach coral that accentuates my still-long auburn hair. Each a whispered role, bits and pieces of me in physical form.
Four mini booklets, each a whisper of interests and hopes are stacked neatly. The first is a dusty biography of Julius Caesar, acquired on a long-ago date to a used bookstore, feeding my ever growing quest to know more. The second, a tiny 3×3 collection of love poems called The Embrace: words that become living things in the soft whispers of a lover’s breath; The third, Thoreau’s Walden: nature and the details learned from encompassing oneself within, a paperback well-worn and earmarked, still smelling of the time I took it to a campfire. Last, a thesaurus. One word is never enough and a hundred miss the exact meaning I want to convey. Am I too dissatisfied in general, too curious for more? Afraid that if I miss anything, any chance for progression I’ll fail?
Is my failure or success all up to me?
I look around at the other neighboring objects. Scriptures, well-marked and highlighted; a small oil lamp from the Holy Land; trinkets from France, gifts from friends, an antique hat pin that speaks of my love for days past; a large mirror, where I am no longer afraid to look at the woman inside judging both goodness and weaknesses.
Various family portraits, music CD’s, files and papers, cards and poems — delicate murmurs of love, support, caring — each thing a portion of what lies inside of me, yet none of them all of me. These are all me, yet someone else too. Someone I was; someone I’ll be.
Nearby I have a ‘treasure box.’ This box contains a few items that sometimes make my life easier: a lovely pen, a pretty box of matches, bottled water. One of the items is a smaller box filled with chocolate covered raisins. I scooped up the very last bit of them, and popped a few in my mouth. They tasted a bit stale, but were fine. I glanced down, because the last one sort of crunched. Raisins ought not to crunch. I saw something odd on the side, and brushed it with my fingernail. I thought it was a crumb. No. . . . it was a tiny worm. It wriggled out of the raisin, and my stomach turned. Then I smushed the next one, and it expunged two tiny white worms. I was disgusted, and tossed out the entire handful.
Then . . . I realized that suddenly, it was more than a tiny worm. I had eaten some of them! Not only that, but now the entire box was suspect. I had no way of knowing if it was an isolated incident, or if it was crawling with them. So I dumped it all, keeping only the things that I knew worms could not penetrate. The difficulty was, now everything that was pure and good was now suspect.
What else had been affected? Would I get sick? And on and on. . . my thoughts spilled one against the next. Obviously my mind careened and crashed against a dozen other metaphors. That is the problem with unexpected invaders. Once trust has been breached, suddenly everything else takes on a different face. Things you never would have looked at twice are now possible villains.
Once you see that tiny worm, everything that was good and desirable, now seems different, even if in reality it is not.
Are we ever what we have? Or are we what we enjoy? Do the tiny worms that wriggle into what we thought was good, make everything contaminated?
When my life’s most trusted and sacred hopes turned into dust after my temple marriage of 22 years crashed and burned, I tossed all of my old beliefs. All my old hopes, practices, dreams—they all went into the it doesn’t work file. I tried new ways, new people, and new ideas and yet, I was left equally empty.
There is a saying, “don’t toss the baby out with the bath water.” I thought it a foolish saying until I felt intense pain, tossed out too much and new pain resulted from the new losses. I asked my visiting teachers not to give me lessons of more things I couldn’t do, when I could barely convince myself to get up and get dressed each morning.
I couldn’t read. I hated church and detested listening to conference or reading the Ensign. None of it spoke to me or my situation any longer. No one understood. I dated non-LDS men, tried bars, parties, many on-the-edge-but-not-off activities that allowed me to barely keep my temple recommend while stepping very close to the edge. One day I realized as yet another non-LDS good man told me how hard it was to be with me. We couldn’t do anything, go anywhere on Sunday, be intimate enough for him or relax with a glass of wine. I was still too Mormon. I ached to be accepted, but wasn’t in either society: LDS or non-LDS.
Like the objects of my world, some required tossing. Some were beyond redemption, but not all. I made the grave mistake of tossing everything I’d ever believed; not realizing the empty treasure box was just as terrible as the worm-infested one.
I am the woman who wrote about not being good enough. I see the flaws, the places I could and should do better. That makes it difficult to receive compliments, and to be content with any accomplishment.
When I taught Seminary, we discussed the Sacrament. I knew all the Sunday-school answers. I was well aware of the Seminary answers, the lists of why and how and what. Suddenly however, as I was reading the prayers aloud, I was struck by two words. One – Sanctify. Two – Willing.
Deep into my heart that first word settled. I heard myself telling the students that sanctify meant to make holy. I could literally hear my voice, watch my handwriting on the chalkboard and feel the word like a tangible thing settle into my soul. I’m not in charge of sanctification! It had nothing at all to do with me. I’m simply a willing student, child, servant. If I am willing, I can be sanctified—made holy.
I was not a worm to be tossed out of the kingdom, because I was only half of a couple.
The sacrament means so much more to me now. I am still imperfect. I rarely have a whole Sabbath where I am connected, transcended into spirit when I can respond to the Savior’s agonized request to “watch with me one hour“ (or ten minutes.) I struggle to keep my mind centered, my heart pure, my actions reverent. I still find myself thinking about dinner, about my need to talk to sister-so-and-so, and these days, cuddling my grandbabies. Yet. . . I am not in charge of the sanctification. I am merely in charge of being willing.
Slowly, I replaced the old things. Little by little I found joy again in scriptures, music, prayer, the sacrament, the temple. Anger was replaced by wonder, bitterness by humility, grief by curiosity, and fear by love.
I am willing. I received a calling that I’ve performed six other times in my life. It isn’t my preferred calling; it is physically painful, mentally frustrating, and yet, I am willing to serve. I don’t always serve happily with the attitude I ought, and yet I serve. As I serve, as I give my will to the Lord, I am made holy.
President Eyring said, “Submitting fully to heaven’s will, as this young mother did, is essential to removing the spiritual pavilions we sometimes put over our heads. But it does not guarantee immediate answers to our prayers.”
I was married. I was single. I am married. I tossed, I replaced, I learned.
I found worms in my faux learning, and tossed them when I understood that the blanket tossing was too vigorous. I realized that some of my interests were good, but not sanctifying. I felt the bread of life enrich me physically as well as spiritually. Mostly I realized that all experiences have their place. We are not things, but the things that surround us both show us who we are and who we wish to be. We are not always promised things when we want them, in the way we want them, but they will be for our good.
Again from President Henry B. Eyring – “Although His time is not always our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps His promises. “
Tiny bit of broken bread by tiny bit of broken bread. Little sip of water by little sip of water. Sacrament participation by sacrament partaking.
Small services, open hearts, tears, smiles, failures and trying again, each individually turn my heart towards sanctification. I am not perfect. Most days I struggle for the good let alone the better or best. . . but I KNOW I am willing. Perhaps that is what is most important. Perhaps that is what makes me holy. Perhaps I am more than I appear, even to myself.
- How are you connecting with sanctification?
- Where do you recognize your willingness, perhaps even not in joy?
- What do you do to help and maintain focus on who you want to be?