17 May 2007

A Letter to a Friend
(no, not THAT "Letter to a Friend")

Another blast from the past: an e-mail I sent about two years ago to a friend of mine in response to some advice she sent me.

I originally posted this (almost exactly two years ago) to an online group as an example of how I tried to help a friend understand I'm doing my best despite my non-dating status without fully explaining my situation (I didn't think she was ready to hear it and/or I didn't have the energy to go there with her at that time). I have since gone there.

The 'doctrinal foray' refers to life in general, but I think it's applicable to same-gender attraction and the disagreements often found among those of us who experience it in our various ways.

Her response was positive, and I'm grateful for such good friends who can dish out advice and a take some in return. :-)

The e-mail:
As for dating, I don't regret anything I've done or not done. I just hope people will trust I'm doing my best, but if not, I'll try to respect that and continue accepting all the counsel people 'feel' they need to give me. That said, most of what you said to me is true and applicable, even if not exactly in the way you intended it or _immediately_ applicable. Even when people feel inspired to say things, I believe they often do not know why, though they may think they do. Revelation is usually pretty specific, so we must take care when assuming anything extra, no matter how much sense it makes to do so.

About marriage, I understand some people think my happiness would be greatly increased by grabbing an eternal companion ASAP or at least shopping more aggressively, but I wish people would trust others a bit more in their decisions or apparent indecisions. Elder Oaks gave great counsel related to that at the last CES Fireside.

The funny thing is, I'm beginning to think all this time spent 'going nowhere' was more going 'somewhere' than I've thought, in many ways. Sure, there's been wasted time. Sure, I might've figured some things out faster. But who knows what would have been different or what I _wouldn't_ have figured out? Looking back and playing 'what if' seem ungrateful.

A doctrinal foray:
I don't think all people are meant to be baptized right away or married by twenty-five or blessed by their patriarch by age 18 or to determine a major in the first years of college. Now you're probably thinking, "Come on, you're several years into college and still floundering to nail down a career path, and you're (in your mid-twenties) and apparently not dating." Fine. Be that way. :-) But hear me out nonetheless. You may already know all of this, but I think it's important to remember:

People do put off right decisions. They may miss blessings. They may be wasting away in indecision or idleness. They may be giving in to fear or faithlessness. But I don't believe _every_ person who takes three years to be baptized is 'guilty' of such. Are most? Maybe. But is it my job to decide who is and who is not? Can I really, truly know how hard someone is trying (excluding, perhaps, revelation regarding someone under my stewardship)? No. Can I offer counsel? Sure, but I ought to remember that I don't know everything about that person's life or motivations, no matter how much I think I do know. I can hope or trust they'll do what's right, and then I may need to let it go. To doubt someone is doing what's right because they don't do it when I think it's obvious they should is, in my opinion, a form of pride, one of which I have often been guilty.

There may be purpose in some delays. Many people may look back and wish they had decided or acted sooner. They may believe they missed blessings. They may very well have. But in some instances, they may have experienced a delay according to the Lord's own due time. There may be blessings they could have had and didn't, but by waiting, other blessings may have been in store that otherwise wouldn't have been, like family members coming to terms with their loved one's baptism and getting baptized, themselves, maybe even sooner than _they_ might have had the first person been baptized immediately. Couldn't the Lord orchestrate things to play out that way? You could say, "Just do it now, and the Lord will bless you and your family." But what if that's not the way the LORD plans it? Repentance is always better today than tomorrow. But is marriage? Is baptism? Always? What about wisdom and order? What about unseen obstacles or the Lord's unforeseeable plans? Potentially dangerous philosophy in the wrong mind, but isn't most truth?

So we work things out, each one with the Lord's help. And I thank God he doesn't work with each one of us the same way. No, he's a thoroughly personal God. So each person has a different track even having been given the same commandments. Each person has different roads to follow and different challenges to meet and different times to make different decisions. The important part is that we never abandon our direction or ignore bits and pieces of the gospel we may not be comfortable with. We don't give up. We continue on as well as we can, not faster than we have strength but with all diligence and an eye single, in wisdom and in order. We understand we can't do everything at once yet don't assume ourselves to be an exception to the commandments. The atonement covers all human frailty and changes us into celestial beings, but it doesn't necessarily change everything now, or in the way we might hope. Those rare occasions when it does are called 'translation.' :-)

So line upon line, day by day... Wouldn't it be nice if life were just neat and simple, and following the commandments were something we could just decide to do one day and have it done, going on to help countless others change in the twinkling of an eye? Wouldn't it be nice if decisions were simple and outcomes clearly defined? Some things are sure and some consequences predictable, but I've found little in life is simple. On the other hand, fewer decisions than some of us may think are terribly complex or require years of humming and hawing, committee meetings, discussion, and analysis...

We are given a clearly marked set of commandments and guidance...and some guidance that's not so cut and dry but is helpful in making decisions. We are given a path to follow that will lead to peace and joy, and each one of us has different branches in that path, different potholes, different bridges out. It's the very fact that we desire to follow the path but run into various obstacles, sometimes nearly or entirely insuperable, that turns us to our living Father in Heaven for _personal_ understanding and guidance. He gives commandments through scripture and prophets, we all try to follow them, we realize we can't do it all, we realize we lack drive or ability, we turn to the atonement, we try again, and sometimes, he says, "Let's come back to that one later." And sometimes he says, "Ah, you made it to this crossing but found the bridge out. I'm glad you came to me; there's something we need to talk about before you can go further in that direction. You need to take a journey first. It may be a long road, but you need to take it, and when the time is right, the road will lead you back here, your bridge will be prepared, and I will help you cross."

We all have different bridges out. We all have our side journeys to take. Most of these are extremely subtle and fairly personal. They may be brief and simple, or they may be life-long and too complex for our feeble minds. Many times, we don't even know our OWN journeys or why we're on them, but when we look back, we see where we have been and how we have progressed. Most of us have no idea exactly what journeys others around us, even those closest to us, are taking. We take some journeys alone, and we take some with friends, and we take some together with spouses and family. But hopefully we all have some form of support and encouragement, as well as friendly counsel, along those journeys.

You may wonder at my ability to attempt to make indecision and faithlessness seem grand and doctrinal. Well, you have to call them as you see them, I suppose. :-)

As for your assertions that I'm 'not trying,' 'not looking,' and 'not making enough of an effort,' many people agree with you. That's OK, I guess. I'm used to it. Again, most of what you wrote is great counsel, and it sums up some thoughts I haven't yet recorded in my journal, so you've saved me some trouble. :-)

1 comment:

Samantha said...

I despise the morm-norm timeline--and I tell my seminary kids to never pay attention to what the timeline says they _should_ do. We were blessed with entire lifetimes--and the only thing the Lord asks of us is a broken heart and contrite spirit. Everything else is incidental.

Of course, I also tell my seminary kids that they have no business judging others and assigning them to a kingdom of glory--it's not their job! The only thing they have to worry about is making sure their own lives and hearts are as they should be, and having compassion and love for everyone else. So easy, yes???