Monday, December 8, 2008

Communal At-One-Ment

I gave a talk a while ago in which I spoke about guilt caused by expectations based on incorrect perceptions of others' righteousness. I talked, with permission, of those who see my children sitting quietly in Sacrament Meeting but don't see the battles in our home. I mentioned how hard it is for me to remember to pray each day vocally. My wife and I both have rather prominent callings, so it surprised some people, but it would have surprised more people if I hadn't shared similar things in private conversations and other group discussions.

This is going to sound really weird, but the whole struggle to find a proper balance between public vulnerability and private confession - between trying to live an ideal but recognizing and accepting our inability to do so - all of these things that are emotionally difficult - form the basis of one of the reasons I love the Restored Gospel so much.

The Atonement was not an easy accomplishment. It took sweat and blood and tears - at an incomprehensible level - and, I believe, covers millions of years. Accepting and embracing it fully (and its accompanying responsibilities) also is not an easy accomplishment. It also requires blood (sometimes) and sweat and tears, and it requires introspection and repentance and service and sacrifice. Finally, it can't be forced or coerced; it has to be attempted from an internal motivation that perseveres even in the absence of communal support - even though it flourishes best in an atmosphere of communal support. It requires we yearn for community (communal unity) and strive for community but don't condemn each other for our failure to achieve true community. It means I need to be willing to bare my soul and hope others join me, but not condemn or judge them if they don't.

It's complicated and profound and beautiful and painful - just like the Atonement itself was.


Tim Malone said...

In today's connected world, we can find ourselves involved in multiple communities. Some are more open, accepting, forgiving and supportive. Wards and stakes, workplaces and schools, civic and sports groups and now online communities. Each benefits from those who give and share in a spirit of love and a a desire to help. In falling short, we forgive, and those who have felt the need for that healing balm themselves, are at one with us. Thanks for your online community involvement, of which I count myself honored to be a part.

Clean Cut said...

I really enjoyed this post. There's a lot of depth to it and I had to read it through twice to begin to more fully appreciate the connection you've made between the reality of life and "realness" the Atonement.

The whole theme of comparing yourself with others is one my wife and I have talked about recently. It's quite liberating to not compare yourself with others, and yet people continue to do it all the time! It robs us of peace and joy that comes from feeling "at one" with each other and appreciating each other without the facade of perfection.

There's quite a variety of people in the Church, and it's interesting to ponder where you personally fall along the spectrum. Some struggle with the guilt that you spoke of, and are trying so hard to be "righteous" and feel so bad that they haven't attained it. They could probably stand to "relax" just a bit, and accept the "good news". But then there are others who perhaps feel too relaxed and comfortable with where they're at. They could stand to be reminded that the Atonement wasn't easy, and truly incorporating it in our lives can't be done in a lazy "comfort zone". True faith requires action, which might entail some dirty work, including blood, sweat, and tears.

So thanks for a thought provoking post. I'll be spending some more time thinking about "what lack I yet" and how I might roll up my sleeves and put more of those thoughts into action.

Papa D said...

Thanks, Tim. That means a lot to me.

Clean Cut, I could have written much more on this topic, and I am trying to figure out exactly how to do it in a post on Mormon Matters or FMH or some other group blog where I think it needs to be heard.

This post could have been 10x longer, but I wanted to give the condensed version here. I'm glad you read it twice, since that says I packed it tightly enough. *grin*

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh, this could have been ten times longer?! i am a VORACIOUS speed reader and your posts take me forever to internalize. you use words with deceptively low numbers of syllables, but they form seriously dense sentences. still, they make me think at a subterranean level, and of course that is where change originates. thanks for your thoughts, ray.