I have been having a hard time this morning organizing what I wanted to talk about. And I am also thinking about why it is so difficult for me to want to go to church this week (and most weeks, for the past while). Part of it was getting out the habit during the 'vid, but it was going on before that too. Part of it is afternoon church (can the single people please take a turn at 11 am?).
But, 5-6 years ago, I loved going to church. I looked forward to it. My friends were there, I had work to do there, I had a purpose for being there. Now I just go and sit for 2 hours and come home. It's easier when I have choir practice, but singing was illegal for a while, so we haven't started that back up yet.
Then I remembered an institute class many years ago in an Old Testament class. We were talking about Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 32, if you are curious). They had just escaped Egypt and were wandering around the wilderness. They left Egypt after countless plagues and miracles on their behalf. The red sea parted and they made their way to freedom.
They escape, they build the tabernacle, the Lord comes and dwells in it in a way they can all witness. They have all seen many miracles. But Moses goes up the mountain to commune with the Lord, and the people start wondering if Moses is ever coming back. He was gone a while. And the people knew they needed the protection of the Lord, but they didn't know how to get it. So, they ask Aaron to help them to find god, and Aaron doesn't know what to do so they build themselves a golden calf to worship.
I remember discussing the very short time it took for these people to go from miracles and worshipping the Lord as His Chosen People to idol worship and I asked whether we were being too hard on them? Can things change this quickly for me? Do I forget the miracles in my own life when things are hard and it feels like the Lord has abandoned me?
At the time, I thought I was doing really well spiritually and couldn't imagine it feeling different or being hard to go to church. But if something changed, would I go searching for another god so quickly?
It turns out, the answer is sort of yes. I still go to church, but I wouldn't say I look forward to it. And I wrote previously about my struggles with the temple. But I'm not doing anything too crazy and I am still committed to the promises I made in the past. My point is that its astonishing how quickly things can change from going great at church to being a real struggle to hold on to the faith I built up.
I think we talk about this all the time when discussing Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon as well. They see an angel and beg Nephi's forgiveness. Nephi rebukes them and shocks them, and they repent and help him build the boat. But quickly they return to complaining and trying to kill everyone.
It turns out that the miracles aren't what builds the faith. I think the work I do in my calling, in my study, in my prayer build the faith. I think looking for my miracles builds the faith. And storing those experiences up to rely on, knowing that it won't always be easy, has been what's kept me here so long.
Not that I think people should try to be like the lost children of Israel or Laman and Lemuel. I tend to think murdering your family is bad most of the time. But it is nice to know that I'm not alone in feeling spiritual ups and downs.
Which leads me to the other side I want to discuss. Which is that everyone has their own journey and finds their own path. Some of us might struggle to attend church or to see God's hand in life, and may decide the church isn't the place for them right now. Some people see problems in church history and can't reconcile them with the pure love of Jesus. Some people have had horrifying experiences at the hands of people they trusted because they were at church, and no longer feel safe there. Whatever the reason, people choose to step back or step away for a time or for a lifetime, and I believe the only appropriate response is love.
When talking about my personal struggles with the church, I am coming from a place of wanting to stay, but many others made a different decision, and I want to emphasize that your path is your own and I am not judging that choice. Everyone has to do what is best for themselves.
I also want to discuss this idea because sometimes we are sitting in church and feeling like everyone else is doing great, but you can't tell how hard it was for that person to put his tie on today or this person to put her makeup on. Sometimes getting out of bed at all is a struggle.
When someone does come in looking like they don't belong, maybe their journey there has been a long one. I know there have been times when I saw someone come into the chapel and "knew" that they didn't belong there. They weren't dressed the way everyone else was, or they were unkempt, or even, a few times, intoxicated. But they were there, looking for God that day.
All that rambling is to say that my journey of spiritual high and low is not the same as someone else's, so when I say I need to pull myself out of the low I feel, that is not a call to action for someone else. Most of these posts are meant to be introspective and the purpose is to organize my own thoughts for how I can be a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday.
I share them in case someone else who feels this way needs to know they aren't alone. Its ok to feel this way. Its ok if you don't too.
I'm doing my best to focus on the beam in my eye, and not the mote in yours. I think we would be happier if we looked inward for improvement and outward with love.
Tell me your thoughts on this if you feel like sharing. How do you handle highs and lows? How do you keep your focus on inward improvement?