Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holiness and Happiness

I’ve said this many times, but I am re-learning God. It’s like moving to a different country with vastly different cultural norms and understandings. How God views me is one of those areas that I am re-learning. There was a saying at the church of my former faith, “God cares more about your holiness than your happiness.” That does not mean they believe God to be an evil dictator, on the contrary they see the fact that we are sinners and the unmerited blessing of God choosing ANY of us for salvation as evidence of His great mercy. I agree that He is a merciful God, but I always had a hard time thinking that He cared about my happiness as a result of some of the teachings. Any failure left me feeling as if I deserved the worst of punishment, after all my holiness is more important than my happiness. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I would still have occasions of failure.

One of the things I found confusing as a new member was the fact that God could be interested in my life outside of obedience to Him. After all the Scriptures speak often of God being the one who deserves all the glory. Why should I have a right to think I deserved anything. Then I was taught a scripture that began a journey for me I am still continuing. Now when I tell you this Scripture, you’ll think me a simpleton. Most of you dear Latter-Day Saints have known this Scripture since childhood and its teaching is as natural to you as breathing. But to me….it was the most foreign concept I had ever come across. Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” I remember thinking could that really be God’s glory? No. We’re supposed to glorify Him. Heaven is all about Him. I had a theocentric view of eternity. It astounded me the thought that my immortality could be God’s glory.  Why would God care about me? My occupation should be glorifying Him, not His glory about helping me.

Yet, as I thought about it more…and yes it took a while….it began to make sense. I’m a mother. I LOVE being a mother. My children mean more to me than life itself. How do I spend my days? I spend all my moments  raising and providing for them. All my energy goes to helping them learn and grow and become the future leaders of our world. My work and glory is often bringing to pass their future. Why wouldn’t God’s be bringing to pass ours? After all, He is my Parent. That opened up an entirely new world to me and it made trusting Him so much easier. Let me try to explain it another way. We once had a dear woman, Sharon Jones, speak in Relief Society who said that in her pre-existence she must have asked Heavenly Father to take very good care of her on the earth because she had an earthly father who was one of the godliest men she knew, and a husband who rivaled him in godliness and treats her like a princess. She spoke about how well loved and cared for she has been her entire life. I never got to meet her father, but everything I’ve heard about him confirms her words. Her husband is my home teacher and I can testify of his godly character and compassion. He is very kind to my family. I’ve also seen the way he treats her, and yes she gets to be a princess. I love watching them.

At the time, her comment made me feel like a complete schlep. My first thought was…Why didn’t I think of that? Was I like the pre-existent idiot who never thought to ask to be cared for? Maybe I was like the stubborn child who, even though the task is way above their abilities, keeps yelling “I can do it myself”. After that though I began to wonder if their might have been something wrong with me. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be cared for the way she did. Could it be that I had done something wrong in the pre-existence? I asked someone, who then often served as my counselor, about that. He said that if he were to speculate it would more likely be that I told Heavenly Father I wanted the advanced course on this earth. That does sound a little like me. If I were given a choice between two chemistry classes with descriptions as follows: Chem A: Here you will learn chemistry or Chem B: Here you will REALLY learn chemistry. It’s four times the amount of work, but at the end of the course you’ll be an expert. I would be the enthusiastic puppy to sign up for the Chem B class. Yes…I’m that stupid.

However, while there could be some truth in all of those explanations, I think it is probably closer to Moses 1:39. God is about bringing to pass our immortality and eternal life. He knows us. He knows what will best instruct us. Therefore He intentionally brings things into our lives that will help us learn the best. He gives each of us special struggles and weaknesses that teach us to depend on Him AND be independent simultaneously. Now I can know that each thing sifted through His hand is truly for my good. Maybe I wouldn’t learn as well if my life were like Sharon’s (though between you and me I’m willing to give it a whirl). Heavenly Father knows Sharon too. He knows how she learns best. Those are the things that will bring about her immortality and eternal life.

I now have a better understanding that God can and does love me, but not only that, He is interested in more than my submission. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to have a good future. Sometimes, when I saw my weaknesses and failures, I worried that maybe He loves me because He is my Father, but that I’m a real disappointment to Him. Though, when I was really worried about that a few weeks ago, He was merciful enough to give me words of encouragement through a blessing. While my home teacher, President Jones, was uttering the words that said my Heavenly Father wanted me to know that He was very proud of me, he could not have known the impact and gratefulness I felt for them. A flood of relief came throughout my soul. You see, even though I don’t always know and understand God correctly yet, I still love Him with all my heart. I want to please Him.

But the constant worrying about each and every failure made it hard for me to see that God could be the least bit interested in my happiness when I lacked so much holiness. Each time things were difficult in my life (and they often are), I was sure it was because I deserved it. How could God bless a person who has as many unkind thoughts as I do? Or who sometimes gets jealous of other women who are loved and cared for? Now I realize the difficulties aren’t because I lack holiness, they’re to help me develop it. It has completely changed the way I forge through trials. Though the end result of both mindsets was to be more holy, I realize now that the trial is the source of holiness, not the cattle prod to keep me straight. I can look at the trial and think eternally. What in this trial can I learn that will make me more like my Savior? What is in this that is designed to bring me closer to immortality and eternal life.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I feel like this is one big ramble where I ‘m trying to order my new thoughts correctly, but cannot. I guess I’m trying to say Heavenly Father is interested in both our holiness AND our happiness. He is busying Himself and bringing Himself glory by bringing us to eternity. If we remember that, we can look at every trial as another stair step to the celestial kingdom brought to us directly by our Father who truly loves us and knows best how we learn.

1 comment:

Kassie said...

Love your thoughts. This scripture has had a big impact on my life as well and is such a simple statement of a beatiful concept.