Thursday, October 17, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet of Prayer

Matthew 6:6
I had somehow come to believe that my ability to sacrifice (works) was more valuable than my ability to ask for help (faith).  At some point in my subconscious mind I became ashamed of my weaknesses--my need to receive.  But there was no getting around it.  I was weak.  I was in need.  So I entered into my closet, shut the door, and prayed...a lot...and for a long time.  Now I'm coming out.

That word--weakness--is one of those words that most people don't want to be associated with.  No one wants to be weak let alone APPEAR weak.  But this is what I mean when I use the word weakness:

My Divine Heritage
These are weaknesses I can’t change and don’t want to.  For example, I’m a woman so I don’t have certain strengths that a man has.  A man is a man so he doesn’t have certain strengths that a woman has.  These things I don’t want to change.  We will forever need each other and there's nothing I am more grateful for than that (1Corinthians11:11).

 My Hard Ground
These are weaknesses that can’t be changed in this life.  Disabilities, chronic injuries or diseases, inevitable physical degeneration of the body, my nose

My Responsibility
These are weaknesses that I currently am unable to change but am working on.  Sometimes I see an ability, talent, or characteristic I would like to have and I desire it.  But no matter how hard I try, I just can't do it, excel in it, or be that way.  I’m not that skilled yet.  Others may already have mastered it and may even regard it as a simple skill.  But because of who I am and what I've been through (or haven't been through), this particular ability comes hard for me.  It takes time and the development of foundational abilities to be able to master higher abilities.  Just because I see it and desire it doesn’t mean I can automatically have it.  I have to be patient with myself and with the required training.  Some abilities have to be quietly woven into my soul over time.  Some pathways need to be walked over and over before the resultant depth finally creates a habit. 

I have come to see that having weaknesses doesn't deprive me of Joy.  It's how I evaluate the fact that I have them.  If this evaluation is skewed, I may indeed foster greater sorrow in my life. 
For example, in the historical fiction series written by Dean Hughes, Childrenof the Promise, based on the true events in World War II, there is a story line about a young woman named Bobbie who enlists as a nurse.  She's stationed in Hawaii to care for the injured soldiers in the South Pacific.  She meets a soldier named Richard, they fall in love, and shortly thereafter he gets sent out to sea.  Their separation causes Bobbie some pretty intense suffering from the fear of not knowing whether he will make it back.  One day she receives news that he is MIA.  She doesn't know if he is dead or alive and the more time passes without any news, the more she is forced to believe he is gone.  Finally she receives the news that he IS ALIVE but has sustained some pretty serious injuries to both of his hands.  
When he gets back, he pushes Bobbie away because of his injuries even though he is deeply in love with her.  And she is deeply in love with him.  For her, his injuries are so minor a burden for her to carry compared to the one she thought she was going to have to bear--his death.  All she wants to do is hold him, love him, marry him.  But because he has this weakness he pushes her away.  He doesn’t want to burden her with what may be a pretty severe handicap for the rest of his life.  And he doesn't seem to understand that Bobbie may very well have the strength to bear it.  Because he is ashamed of his weakness and doesn’t want her to have to sacrifice for him, he withholds himself.  He deprives both her and himself of what could possibly be an eternal relationship full of love, companionship, and complete and utter attraction.  Fortunately Richard does see the light and...well, you'll have to read the book to see what happens. : )

This story illustrates how my evaluation of my weaknesses can lead me to make decisions that deprive not only me but others of Joy.  I am my own worst critic.  Sometimes I look at myself with the weaknesses I have and believe I can’t be loved.  I believe that I am unworthy to be loved because of a, b, or c.  So instead of allowing others to sacrifice for me, I push them away.  I don’t want them to have to carry my burden.  I think they don’t want to.  I think they will resent me or view me as less of a person because of it. 

Hiding my weaknesses from those who have been put into a position to help me only causes me to seek support from conflicting sources.  To those who could and should be my comfort and support I say, “Oh, everything is fine.  No I don’t need anything.”

Balancing my Evaluation

A weakness is just an opportunity for someone else to exercise their value.  It’s a chance for them to use the strengths, abilities, talents they have been given.  It's a chance for us to combine in a relationship.  And when they help, it’s an amazing feeling for both of us!  It enables the Energy to flow through them which is an integral part of Joy.  Allowing and indeed inviting another to sacrifice for me is a foundational part of a healthy relationship. 

Herniated Disc

A few years ago I started taking Yoga for the first time and I loved it!  I loved it so much that I wanted to go more and more often so that I could become a superstar at it!  I wanted to be able to do THIS:

I didn't quite get there but over time muscles that I didn’t know I had were strengthened.  I found that this improved my overall strength and posture so that I was better able to handle my everyday activities.  But with the increase in frequency and intensity of Yoga classes, there was one area of my body that wasn’t so happy.  My lower back seemed to be getting weaker over time.  I thought it was muscular.  I thought I was just experiencing DOMS (delayed onset muscular soreness)and just needed to be more consistent in attending classes so that my lower back muscles would strengthen.  I asked a Yoga instructor about it and she directed me to strengthening my core muscles.  I worked on that but the pain in my back continued and increased after each Yoga class.  There were periods of time when I was walking around like an age-ed woman and bending over ever-so-carefully to put each dish in the dishwasher. 
One day I went for a 3-mile run because I also decided that I wanted to start training for a half-marathon!  Yeah!  I was sure I’d learn crucial life lessons with that and feel my value.  Well, that 3-mile run was the end of Yoga and half-marathons for me (at least for a long while).  My disk herniated.  It’s guts squished out so that a bulge was pressing on my nerve.  And it was so painful for such a loooong time!  : (

So what did I learn from this?  I seriously have the tendency to get over-excited about the things I enjoy and the prospect of obtaining new abilities.  So much so that I try to get there at too fast a pace.  I’m willing to put up with quite a bit of pain in the sacrifice.  But this kind of pain wasn’t the kind I needed to endure in order to reap my reward.  This was WARNING PAIN.  “Stop now.  Stop.  Go back.  Do not proceed any further.  Long term painful injury, longer than you’ve ever had to endure before, ahead!”  And I misread it!

Paradoxical Results:  Reading Pain and Sorrow Signals

With every long term sacrifice to obtain a goal there is pain and sorrow that I need to endure.  The question is when is that pain/sorrow warning me to stop what I’m doing and when is it something I just need to endure?  Should I change or should I hold steadfast?

This is what I’ve learned:

I engage in a sacrifice process over time to obtain a goal (check out the diagram above).  I’m really excited about it in the beginning!  Lots of Energy!  I can’t wait to see results!  If over time the pain/sorrow increases and the Energy (or Joy) that I experience decreases to the point that I can’t keep my regular commitments, I need to change my sacrifice process.  I’m doing something wrong.  I may not be doing the whole thing wrong so I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.  But I need to reevaluate the situation.  Most of the time the problem is that I need to take more time developing foundational, core strength first and then proceed to higher levels.


On the other hand, if I engage in a sacrifice process to obtain a goal and the initial pain/sorrow decreases over time and my Energy (or Joy) increases, then I know I need to remain steadfast.  The above diagram depicts how strength is established, an ability is formed, or a talent is gained.  But it is also true that adjustments might need to be made along the way.  The level of sacrifice could increase as my capacity to bear it increases.  Or the continued sacrifice may in time reveal a weakness I can’t change that I didn’t know I had.  Thus I reevaluate the situation and figure out what I can do to strengthen the muscles around that weakness.  Or maybe I find that I need to rely on someone else’s muscle in order to keep going.

A Cause
In past posts I have mentioned the concept of a New Parent.  In my studies I have generalized the parent role to include all individuals who are assigned to a position of influence.  These are people who either have the responsibility or desire to influence me, train me, provide for me, evaluate me, be an example for me.  I call this role by a more general name:  CAUSEA Cause can be a teacher, a boss, an older sibling, a coach, a supervisor, spouse, or even a friend.    In the dictionary Cause is defined as “a person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition.”  When we sacrifice, serve, give, provide, teach we are acting as a Cause.  When we sing, paint, write, or exercise whatever talents we have been given, we act as a Cause.  I have sited several Causes in my posts.  Here is an index:  Cause Index.

So what is pressuring or Cause-ing me to believe I need to overdo it instead of inviting and allowing others to help me out?  Why do I sometimes get so "cumbered about much serving" (Luke 10:38-42)?  Why do I want to run faster than I have strength?  Why am I always having to beat down my kick-butt mentality?

When a child is raised by a Survival Cause, she is expected to make sacrifices she isn’t yet capable of.  She will grow up with the kick-butt, overdoing-it mentality.  She will believe running faster than she has strength is actually running at a normal pace.  She doesn’t look for grace as much as she looks for ways she can work through whatever conflicts come her way on her own.  She’s not used to help and may even think asking for help IS WEAKNESS.  She lives off of praise and is not so much into empathy, compassion, and recognizing her humanity.

"Responsibility and Choice"

Hymn #85
Evaluating Causes
Before I evaluate the Survival tendencies of my parents or any other Cause, I need to include an evaluation of their Causes.  Either they were also raised by Survival Causes OR they currently do not have a Paradoxical Cause they can depend on.  Even if we’re all grown up, we need a Cause.  It’s just one of those weaknesses that we can’t get around.  Married or unmarried, if there is not a secure relationship with a Paradoxical Cause, a parent will deviate into Survival Parenting.

No parent is perfect.  That means all of us have grown up with a degree of inability to be a Paradoxical Cause.  Some of us have a greater degree of inability than others and this causes strife in relationships.  It helps me to remember that I am culpable to the degree I have been Paradoxically Parented.  I do not use how I was raised as an excuse to continue acting as a Survival Cause.  When I recognized what was going on I realized it was my responsibility to find a Cause—one who would not only teach me Paradoxical Skills but also be a Cause that met my needs through his sacrifice.  I needed to be taught.  And I needed his empathy, compassion, Peace, love in order to heal.  I needed a companion who was balanced and always available. 

Coming Out of the Closet

Who is in your closet with you?  Who do you go to for help with your weaknesses?  

If you are in search of a Cause like I've described here, may I introduce you to my Cause?  His office hours are 24/7.  He doesn’t require you to pay him money but he does need your commitment.  You will need to become a Cause like he is to the degree you are capable.  That means you pass on to others what he teaches you in word AND in action.  Your allegiance is required.  You cannot turn to conflicting Causes who serve up chocolate cake when the going gets tough.  (And chocolate cake is a metaphor for whatever it is you turn to that does not have the power to support you now AND in the long run.) You need to turn to him instead.  Always trust him.  He is a Paradoxical Cause.  So to whatever degree you didn’t get this growing up, he will allocate a space in time for you to be retrained.  You are not condemned for what someone else has done to you and your resultant weaknesses (Article of Faith #2).  Objectively and subjectively you will develop the skills you desire.  He will always be there for you.  For weaknesses that can’t be changed, he will either put others into your life who will serve as your Para-Symbiotic Causes or he will do so himself.
 Elder Richard G. Scott: “Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”

In case it hasn’t been clear in my past posts, my Cause is Jesus Christ.  He's the one in my "closet."  The way I have witnessed my allegiance to him is by being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I’m a Christian.  And I'm a Mormon.  I engage in the general sacrifices as described in the scriptures, which we believe to be the word of God.  We believe in prophets who expound upon the scriptures to accurately apply their core principles to the specific situations we are faced with today.  These men are governed by the Cause of Christ.  We are counseled to connect directly with our God through prayer and obedience to know in our hearts what is true and what is false (Moroni 10:4-6).  In reporting my Paradoxical Results of sacrificing in this way—the way this church advocates—my Joy increases in depth continuously over time (Alma 32:27-42).