Monday, May 11, 2015

The Belly of the Whale

In identifying our New Year’s Goals and keeping our commitments to obtain them, we become better parents.  Achieving our general and specific goals makes us happy!  I have found that if I am not happy, I can’t be a very good parent. 

When we achieve our goals, we achieve results.  Results are habitual states, predominant moods or feelings.  They are habits, abilities, conditions, characteristics, and relationships. They can be desirable or undesirable.  The most general desirable result is Sustainable Joy.  It is lasting joy.  Yeah, things do go wrong for me and I go through tough times but like a rubber band, Sustainable Joy always snatches me back (Mosiah 27:28-29).  This wasn’t always the case.  In fact, in the past it was the opposite.  I had moments of joy but for the most part I was struggling just to keep my head above water or out of what I sometimes call the Belly of the Whale (#Jonah).  The Belly of the Whale is the most general undesirable result.  It’s Virulent Sorrow.  It’s a living hell.

Survival of the Fittest Living
So Jonah had received a commission to go and teach the people of Nineveh.  He was supposed to teach them about the general process to obtain joy and the General Cause that makes that possible.  Thus far the majority of these people had been engaged in survival desire obtainment processes.  Obtaining joy was all about what they could grab for themselves in the moment.  They didn’t much think on Sustainable Joy and Paradoxical Living.  It was all about A-#1, Me first—“What will make me happy right now?” Jonah’s job was to tell them about Paradoxical Living.  That is, he was asked to “cry repentance” to the city of Nineveh.  The concern was they may be happy right now but without Sustainable Joy, they would end in a black hole.  Our General Cause does everything in his power to prevent that from happening while still honoring our agency—our right to choose for ourselves how we will obtain what we desire and how we will resolve our conflicts.

Well, Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh.  Survival people are never a joy to work with.  They are selfish, lazy, mean, rude, deceitful, dishonest, prideful, envious, reactive, contentious, etc.  Our own survival reactions to this kind of treatment is to hope for their demise.  We know if they keep acting this way, they will eventually get what’s coming to them.  That’s the law of our General Cause.  No one can escape it.....unless they repent.  But Jonah didn’t want them to have the mercy that repentance offers.  He wanted inevitable Justice to come down upon them.  So he tried to run from this commission.
He boarded a ship headed to Tarshish.  But the issue is, we can never hide from our General Cause (#the Lord) and general results.  They will come to pass.  For our good or for our bad, they are what they are.  Repentance is a gift to change those results with practice, experience, and time.  The story continues with Jonah on the ship: “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so the ship was like to be broken” (Jonah 1:4).

Summarizing this next part, the mariners assessed that the cause of the storm was Jonah.  Jonah confirmed that assessment.  He told them to throw him overboard and the storm would cease.  The mariners did not want to do this and tried everything in their power to row the ship to shore.  They were dealing with a major conflict.  They did not want to take a man’s life yet their entire crew would be lost if they did not.  (Hmm...sounds like a familiar story. #Atonement Matt 12:39-40).  Their final decision was to comply with Jonah’s instructions and throw him overboard.  When they did, the storm ceased.
The account in the Bible then says, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

It is this Belly of the fish (or Whale) that I refer to when I think of a state that is opposite that of Sustainable Joy.  In Jonah 2:2 it is also described as “the belly of hell.”  This symbolic description has fit so closely with how I feel when I am trapped in a pit of sorrow and can’t get out.

“For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about:  all thy billows and thy waves passed over me...”

“The water compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds wrapped about my head.”

“I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever...” ~Jonah 2:3-6

Several years ago the Belly of the Whale is where I seemed to be more often than not.   I wrote about this in one of my first blog posts:  Anxiety and Depression.  I kept being pulled back into the Belly even though I had some happy times.  Thanks to my Cause the reverse is true for me now.
I know this doesn’t even need to be restated but we are better parents when we obtain the general result of Sustainable Joy.  Again, residing in this state doesn’t mean we’re happy-go-lucky all the time.  We’re not.  We experience trials.  We even have events where we get sucked into the Belly of the Whale because we’re still learning, growing, repenting.  Life happens.  But the difference is, we always return to that state of Joy.  And even during the Sorrow events, we maintain an underlying peace and a hope that this too shall pass.
 “The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life. That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place—stepping-stones to further growth and attainment.”  ~Elder Richard G. Scott, The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness

Because I once dwelt predominantly in the Belly of the Whale and have been snatched out of it, “vomited upon dry land” as Jonah was, and thankfully taught how to live Paradoxically, I write these blog posts (Jonah 2:10).  They are my field notes to the journey my Cause took me through to get out.  Much of the reason I was constantly there had to do with my lack of Paradoxical Parenting skills.  Understanding this particular story about Jonah was a huge part of my learning process:  I end up in the Belly of the Whale when I engage in Survival of the Fittest Living, when I don’t forgive others, when I neglect to do what my Cause commissions me to do, or when I listen to conflicting Causes, which ends me up doing one or all of the first three things.  My hope is that what I’m writing will help others stuck in that hellish place to get out of it by passing on how my Cause got me out.

While I was in that place, I struggled with being a good mom to my kids.  I did it out of duty because when in the Belly, being motivated by Joy was NOT happening.  I forced myself to be good.  But once my Cause got me out and Joy became Sustainable for me, that all changed.

So what I’m saying is the pathway I was taken on is what I have been describing in all my blog posts and in the Servant Program.     

Creating Protective Boundaries
To reiterate this, the first step is to:  Identify my goals—what did I want?  Then I identified my Cause, seeing for the first time that if I didn’t put up boundaries against looking for validation from conflicting Causes, I was only going to be trapped in the Belly for the rest of my life (and so were my kids).   

I wrote down the processes I knew my Cause wanted me to do.  For me that included: 
  • Eat right (had to learn what this meant)
  • Exercise in Moderation
  • Control my tongue in all of my relationships
  • Prayer (included taking the conflicts that made me want to lose control of my tongue to my Cause FIRST)
  • Scripture Study (included the official Word of God as well as healthy stories and other good reads)
  • Keep house clean
  • Look for the good in others and in myself
  • Teach and do these things with my kids
The Listener by James C. Christensen
Paying more attention to my general Effects was a critical step in getting out.  I began to notice just how often I was listening to some voice in my head that put me down.  Would my Cause talk to me like that?  Would I choose to continue hanging out with someone who talked to me like that?  No way!  So I started to delete those voices and listen to the things that I knew a loving Cause would be communicating to me.  Not that these were always the easiest to hear.  But with experience, I could tell the difference between Satanic, “You are worthless and will never amount to anything” thoughts and Christian, “There is a line I can’t cross over, but if you want it deeply enough, I can show you the way and help you get there” thoughts.
Evaluating my results has given me certainty, security, and evidence.  If my good feelings don’t last, if I cannot maintain hope in what I’m trying to accomplish, I know I need to go back to the drawing board.  But if they do last, if they are Sustainable, if my hope goes on and on in excitement while my soul is comforted throughout the journey, then I know I’m on the right track.

Making sure my specific Desires (goals), Causes, Processes, Effects, and Results are in alignment with my general is the key to my ongoing growth and transition (#Repentance).

Hey Listen!
Then I turned around and taught my kids what my Cause was teaching me.  I became a specific Cause to them, trying hard to keep myself aligned with my own Cause.  I asked them the same questions I had been asked.
    These questions were the foundation for Kid Report, the weekly meetings we had with our kids.  These meetings keep their minds focused on WHY they are doing what they are doing.  They enable them to stay motivated to keep their commitments so they can obtain Sustainable Joy.  And that brings me Sustainable Joy!

    Listen:  Need You Now (How Many Times) by Plumb