9/07/2007

because of my weakness...

The acknowledgment of our weakness
is the first step in repairing our loss.
~Thomas Kempis

While I was at the Sunstone Symposium in August, sitting in a session about women and the Mormon church, I had to fight the urge to flee the room.

In sitting there I realized that the rationales, the angst, and the pain of gender inequity--those were the things that I'd been so relieved to leave behind when I stopped attending LDS church. Being confronted with them again was repulsive and pulled me back to that dark place where I'd been a few years ago: a sort of dark cave where I felt stranded. Where I couldn't see how god could bless an institution that was so biased, so short-sighted. And at the same time afraid of the pain that would come to me and to my extended family should I choose to walk away.

As these thoughts ran through my mind I felt a pendulum of emotion shifting to and fro inside of me and I was on the verge of tears. And then I realized something about myself...I'm just not one of the "strong ones" who can continue on in the LDS church while being fully aware all of its flaws. My soul and my spirit just aren't up for the task. I am too weak. Too fragile. I need a spiritual home where I am buoyed and supported and affirmed. The dissonance of being Mormon was literally ripping my spirit into pieces. I felt no hope there.

For me, the move to practicing as a Quaker is not just transferring my allegiance to a new religious institution. It's about adopting a spiritual practice and community based on the yearnings of my heart and not based on my pedigree and my upbringing. It's a choice for comfort and peace. It's laying down the struggle of trying to fit into the LDS mold--the continued abrasiveness of being a square peg that can't adapt to the expectations and orthodoxies of Mormonism. It's about recognizing my own weakness and accepting it.

The Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, compared his spiritual journey to that of a rough stone rolling down a mountain. He saw each of his experiences as chipping away at himself, smoothing away his raw edges. Me, I'm not up for a similar trajectory, or perhaps my body has just had enough trauma. I'm seeking an angle of repose.

Let me quote from a favorite author who has walked a similar path:
Spirituality is solitary...At times, it is lonely, often informed by pain. On other occasions, it is the body submerged in a phosphorescent tide, every movement sparking a trail of illumination. Afterwards, we sit on the shore in moonlight. No candles are necessary. Spirituality exists when we are present, buoyed up by the waters of attention. We learn the courage of faith. It is peace that is earned. We can take solace in the heat of doubt knowing this is the pulse of poetry.
~Terry Tempest Williams, Leap (2000)

5 comments:

journeygal said...

Thanks for sharing the quote. Angle of Repose looks like a worthwhile book - I think I'll add it to my list of books to read before the year is up. :-)

The decision to leave or stay was very difficult and still tears at me. I envy those who have been able to choose one or the other definitively and stick with it. I feel like I'm constantly second-guessing myself spiritually.

catbonny said...

When you talk about being a square peg and also about the stone rolling down the mountain and even why you chose Quakerism, I feel like I can really relate.

I guess kind of thinking about the stone and wearing away the edges, I have heard many sermons in which preachers talk about when precious metals are harvested they heat them to a really high temperature to melt all the impurities away, and how Christian faith can be similar, because the Fire of God can melt away all those impurities. Now that I am in another place I just think about the fact that all those impurities and things that don't fit completely with that faith are parts of me- like it or not. And it's not that I want to embrace the bad things about me, but more so that I want to embrace who I am without feeling like I always need to apologize for who I am and try to purge myself of all the impurities. Life is really not long enough to spend it feeling guilty of inadequate and like a constant failure, and I feel like that was the type of faith that I was experiencing.

Sorry for going on and on, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and your entry really struck a chord for me. Thanks for giving me something to relate to. It makes me feel slightly less crazy. =)

journeygal said...

I was getting on to revise my language from my comment b/c I've been thinking about this post and my response came out wrong. Catbonny, you said "but more so that I want to embrace who I am without feeling like I always need to apologize for who I am " - that is what I meant to say.

I don't second guess myself, I just feel like I wish I were more confident in my decisions. Several times a year - usually when I've just spent the weekend with family and felt a bit of their disappointment in who I am - I re-evaluate my decisions spiritually. And I always come to the conclusion that my decisions were right for me and have put me in the right place, I am just excited for the day when I become confident definite enough that I'm not re-evaluating anymore.

catbonny said...

Journeygal:

I feel confident in my choices, and at the same time sometimes my reevaluation moments come daily and I think to myself 'What if they were right, and I was wrong? And what if being wrong means I am damned?' I really hate those moments!

I don't know if it is because my new faith choices are really recent or what, but I totally get what you are saying about feeling confident in your choices, but not being able to get past those moments that cause you to lack confidence. I am sure we'll get there one day.

Behind the Infamous Veil (the blogger formerly known as "Bored in Vernal") said...

As I read this post and its comments, I find myself saying, "Amen, and Amen" over and over again. Jana, thank you for these lovely thoughts which resonate with so many of us. And catbonny, yes, I'm always wondering if the things inside me that just don't fit are impurities to be burned out, or idiosyncrasies to be celebrated. Revelation on this is so nebulous and uncertain. I do long for the peace you describe, Jana, but so far the fear of seeking it in other places overrides all.