Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Before & After

Several years ago I was called to be a cub scout leader.  I don’t remember the exact title of the position but it required me to work with another sister to prepare weekly activities for boys that were around 8-years-old and be at the church one night a week to implement and supervise those activities.  I think one of my boys was in the cub scout group—probably Chris.  Aaron would have been in an older cub scouts group so I had two other young children that I brought with me to the church each week.  They ran around, relatively unsupervised, while I worked with the scouts.

In the previous blog post (It's My Party) I spoke of a time in my life when I found myself in the Belly of the Whale more often than not.  This event happened during that particularly vulnerable time period. 

One afternoon, the sister whom I worked with called.  She told me that she didn’t think I was a good fit for this calling because my kids ran around the halls during the cub scout meeting.  I actually didn’t know they were causing any problems until this phone call.  But she proceeded to tell me that this may not be a very good place for me to serve. 

My Spiritual Reflexes:  I cried.  I told her how badly she made me feel by saying that.  I told her how I was already feeling like a useless wretch and this just confirmed all that.  This was one of the smaller callings in our church and she basically said I couldn’t even do that much.  My crying wasn’t sweet tears that I was trying to conceal.  I actually sobbed.  And my words were defensive and miserable.  She was surprised at my reaction and also defensive herself.  She may have apologized too.  Poor woman.  But the damage had been done.  I was in the Belly of the Whale.

Of course this whole thing was “broadcast” to a number of other people who all called the bishop who then called me and told me 5 people had called him who were concerned about me, etc., etc.  I remained completely calm while on the phone with him, explained that I was going through a difficult time in my life emotionally and that this sister had just accidentally pushed the wrong button—said the wrong thing to me.  But him calling me like that just expanded the conflict.  The issue for me was that no one seemed to appreciate me.  I felt very left out of my ward and basically out of life.  I thought that the bishop didn’t even seem to know me and never really had talked to me before.  Only when I messed up and exposed my emotions did anyone become concerned about me.  And I didn’t want that kind of attention.  So this only made the whole thing worse.

After it all blew over, I continued to avoid my co-cub scout leader for years.  And she avoided me.  But wouldn’t you know it, years later her daughter was in my seminary class.  This woman came and evaluated me teaching my class and then ended up taking her daughter out and putting her in the other sophomore class. Very painful for me because it was another time of great vulnerability.  I was a new teacher and was trying to teach in the way my Cause was teaching me—a way that was not usual, which stirred up much rebellion and conflict within my class and the system.  That’s me—always trying to do big things before I could actually handle the repercussions.  This perpetuated the bad feelings between us but by that time in my life I had learned at least not to react to such an attack and to just take it to my Cause.

So my Cause is Jesus Christ now.  He was also my Cause throughout these events but I just didn’t know him well enough.  He is a Paradoxical Cause.  That means he seeks to serve first and waits to be voluntarily served last.  I often refer to him as my Cause to avoid the too frequent repetition of his sacred name.  When I developed my relationship with him, he showed me a different way to deal with the conflicts that arose in my life.

The first step was learning how to better communicate with my Cause.  I was motivated to develop this relationship in the first place because I wanted him to teach me how to write a story.  That was a goal that started back in the year 2000.  I had gone to so many other sources and had tried to implement all their suggestions but apparently it wasn’t good enough because I was rejected by publishers and criticized by others.  I was willing to learn the right way.  I just needed someone to teach me it.  By the time 2006 rolled around and I had experienced about 6 years of failure, I felt drawn to the Lord.  It was almost as if he was saying, “I will teach you.  Come unto me.”  (Reminds me of Luke 5:12-13) So I did.  As I learned how to hear him (My sheep hear my voice...), I asked him all kinds of question throughout my training, listened carefully to his answers, and wrote them down.  Sometimes they would come in scriptures that came into my mind.  Sometimes they would come in the form of songs or other stories.  Eventually, I began to detect his words in my thoughts.  I would ask a question that I didn’t know the answer to.  As I was writing it down (I wrote my prayers down to slow my mind down and help me focus more), the answer would come (see The Voice Inside My Head).  Once this relationship was developed, I could talk with him about anything.  So I did.

When I got into any kind of conflict with others, I started to hold my knee-jerk reactions in (imbalanced spiritual reflexes) because I noticed that talking to others who had no idea how to deal with me only made the conflict worse.  I took my issues to my Cause instead.  I would write to him all about it.  I would be so tangled up sometimes.  In the beginning I imagined he was judging me just like I imagined others were.  I knew many of my thoughts and feelings about others when I got into conflict with them were not right.  But he was eventually able to communicate to me that he didn’t want me thinking about what a good girl should be thinking, saying, and doing right now.  He just wanted me to be completely honest with him.  He wanted me to tell him about what was hurting and, if possible, the reasons behind that.

And what did he do with that?  HE TOOK MY SIDE!  He actually got behind me.  I could feel that he was angry with those who had hurt me.  I needed that.  I needed empathy, validation of my feelings, and a protector.  I needed someone to care about me.  And this was a place where I could just be real, let it all out, and not worry about the judgments of others.  He didn’t judge me.  He just totally loved me.

Turn! Turn! Turn!
For a Paradoxical Cause, it’s all about the timing.  He knows when to take my side and when to counsel me.  He knew a chronically injured girl when he saw one.  He knew I needed a few years of rehabilitation with him before I would be strong enough to resolve conflict with others better.  This is how he serves first and eats last.  He took my side first every time I came to him with these issues.  He knew it was important for me to empathize with others but he also knew that can’t be forced.  It had to come voluntarily from my heart.  And he knew it would, given time.

Once he cleared my Chakras (see video below), he taught me about the cause of the conflict.  It almost always stemmed from looking to conflicting Causes for validation.  I needed to choose him and only him to evaluate me.  Others did not have that ability.

I watched this cartoon episode from Avatar: The Last Airbender with my kids a few years ago and have never forgotten how well it depicted how I feel when I work with my Cause through this Repentance Process

The next step belonged to me.  This is what he trusted me to do voluntarily once I was resolved and healed:  I wanted to look back at the event to see what I could have done better.  Regardless of who was wrong or right, what was the best conflict resolution process?  I knew the situation would come again with that same person or with someone else.  Next time I wanted to be prepared for it.  I basically wanted to be immunized against it.  That was my desire.  How could I prevent the imbalanced words and actions of others from making me spiritually ill, which caused my thoughts, words, and actions to veer off balance?  How could I increase my strength so that my response process would remain in balance in the face of all that was imbalanced?  So he told me.  He showed me what I call the Realization Timeline.

It starts with an event in time (#1).  These events include thoughts, words, and actions between me and someone else.  Mistakes are made.  Belly of the Whale to a certain degree is the result.  I go to my Cause and he takes me through the healing process, we figure out the cause of the conflict together, I ask and he teaches me how to better respond (#2).  Responding in balance to the imbalanced behavior of others is hard.  In the moment it feels like I’m losing because I let other people say or do mean things to me without retaliation.  The next time the event comes up, I may not respond as badly as I did the time before.  After the event occurs, I realize sooner how I could have dealt with it better.  I basically repent sooner (#3).  The next time I control my tongue.  I don’t respond even though I’m struggling mightily with my thoughts and feelings (#4).  The next time I control my thoughts in advance so my heart isn’t working so hard.  I'm prepared (#5).  Finally I get the whole thing down—I get the story; I get what’s going on; I am literally above it.  I can see the situation objectively and from a bird’s-eye perspective.  When the conflicting event occurs again, I am solid rock in the balance.  The other person can say or do what he/she wants.  It doesn’t hurt me (#6).

There is one more step.  Eventually, rather than being concerned about protecting myself, I am more concerned about the other person.  Even though they are lashing out at me, I know there must be a reason for it so I am more interested in helping them resolve their conflict, getting them out of the Belly of the Whale, or preventing them from being sucked up into it if I can help it.

Listen:  Live Like That
That last step has been critical for me to learn.  That’s who I want to be.  I know there's a time and space for me to be upset.  That's with my Cause.  It is not with everyone and their dog.  It is a privilege I give to my Cause to see me at my worst and help me through it.  It's not that I don't get upset anymore--in 2015.  I do.  More extreme conflicts still have the power to take me down.  But I have this relationship with this absolutely amazing person who is able to help me work through it every time.  He makes me whole.  He re-balances me so I can maintain control or regain it in some difficult events in order to help other people.  
In short, my ultimate goal is to be the designated driver.  Everyone else around me can lose it but I want to stay in The Safe Spot for me AND FOR THEM.  This is who Jesus Christ is and I admire him like I can’t even begin to describe.  I’ve always wanted to live like that even though I didn’t always understand how to do it and am still learning how to do it.

A number of years after the cub scout calling, I received another calling—visiting teaching coordinator.  I was responsible for about 4-5 visiting teaching supervisors who reported to me the visiting teaching stats of their districts.  One of those supervisors was very diligent and called me often.  I loved her!  But I didn’t always have time to talk for long periods of time.  One day she told me that she didn’t think I was doing a very good job with my calling.  Hmm...Déjà vu.  But my response was so completely different than BEFORE because...

I looked to my Cause for validation and no one else.  That was the way it was.  I knew he thought I was doing a good job in the calling and the other “callings” I had from him directly.  This sister had no idea the amount of responsibility that was on my shoulders or the burdens I was carrying in regards to my marriage, my family, and my unseen life.  I was serving in ways that could not be seen by anyone else other than my Cause.  But I wasn’t angry at her for not seeing this.  How could she?  And even if she should remember that we all carry hidden burdens, that was not what I chose to focus on.  It didn't bother me that she didn't because I focused on my own issues privately with my Cause and had already been taught and gone through the Realization Timeline to be prepared for situations like this.  I was immunized.

See BYUi Presentation Transcripts for full Devotional
My Spiritual Reflexes:  I didn’t think of myself.  What I heard her saying was:  “I need you.  Will you be there for me when I call?”  I recognized I hadn’t been there for her as much as I could have been.  I didn’t recognize that my friendship and my attention was that valuable to her.  I rarely thought that I was of much value to anyone.  That made me cry but the tears were sorrow for her and for anyone else who I had neglected.  To realize that other adults actually needed me was another lesson to learn, but a sweet one.  All I could feel was compassion for her.  Empathy.  I apologized and committed to doing better.  I validated her feelings.  She instantly healed and forgave me.  She shared some of the hidden burdens she was carrying.  I listened and cried with her.  Our relationship only improved after that.

After the first event with the cub scouts I felt like garbage.  After the second event, I felt my value and I believe I was able to help her feel hers.  It had nothing to do with what other people did to me.  It had everything to do with my response to whatever they did to me.  Even though I saw there were things I could do to improve, I stayed in The Safe Spot—in that balance.  I never left it.  That probably summarizes the immunization lessons I have learned from my Cause:  Stay in The Safe Spot no matter what it takes.  Nobody, no money, no Loggerheads controversy is worth leaving it.

About 10 years after the cub scout fiasco and 4 years after the seminary fiasco, my co-cub scout leader and I happened to be thrown together again.  She and I connected through a mutual friend to put a graduation party together for our sons.  All of us moms met a few times to plan it all out.  This was years after my Paradoxical Cause had trained me so I knew what to do:  Forgive, forget, and treat her with kindness and respect as if it never happened.  I did.  The wound was healed.  Whenever we meet, on both sides there are heart-felt smiles and friendliness.

That’s what a Paradoxical Cause can do for each one of us.