Friday, February 29, 2008

You Don't Have to Control Yourself Yourself

This has been an interesting week filled with epiphanies.

It all started in the family relations class. Now you have to know that my husband is ward mission leader and my close friend has a husband who works on Sunday so the two of us go spouse-less to this discussion on marriage, which can get a little dangerous. (My comments might be a little more restrained if I had Greg poking me in the ribs instead of Sonja egging me on.) Anyway, we were talking about anger and other extreme emotions and the teacher said that we had the power to control not only what we did but how we felt. Immediately my hand shot up. "There is no way," I said, "We have the power to choose how we react to our feelings and whether we feed them into something horrible, but the initial response is totally out of our control." She shook her head and claimed we did. So I turned to Sonja, my partner in crime, who shrugged her shoulders and agreed with the stinking teacher. I left furious. Some people have as their gift and curse a very active limbic system, they love more and freak out more. What about depression? Are we expected to simply control that with our minds? The more I chewed on it, the more angry I felt.

On the way home I blew. Greg asked me about my lesson and I told him that the pee brains in family relations said we could control our emotions- have you ever heard something so asinine?! Greg laughed and said it was the natural man in me speaking and left it at that. In the hustle and bustle of preparing Sunday dinner for a small army, the subject was left behind but somehow the Lord wasn't done with me yet.

Monday we had an abbreviated FHE. I assigned the lesson to George who pulled a slip of paper from his scriptures, obviously left over from an old lesson. It was a quote from David O. McKay which said, "Spirituality is victory over self, coupled with communion with the infinite." Each person in the family talked about how they could become a better victor over themselves and I was reminded of trying to control my emotions but I thought secretly that I try so hard to control my reaction to my feelings that if I was required to try to manhandle my heart-- well, just chuck me down to hell right now because it would be impossible.

On Wednesday afternoon I picked up Rachel after school and brought her to my house for the missionary discussions. She is a young woman who has started coming to mutual and wants to be baptised. I love her desire to learn and when I picked her up she immediately began to ask me what it meant by the baptism of fire talked about in 2 Nephi 31. I told her that was when we receive the Holy Ghost. She asked me if it happened during the ordinance after baptism. I said that was part of it but the real baptism with the Holy Ghost is a personal thing, it is when you are filled with the Spirit and make the commitment to try to keep it with you always.

Although the struggle to maintain the spirit is a lifelong pursuit, that initial baptism of fire can happen in a moment and be life changing. I remember soon after I was baptised, sitting in Primary (it was on Tuesday afternoon right after school) and listening to the prelude, "There is a Green Hill Far Away." I pulled out the hymnal and began to read the words to myself, when suddenly I was bathed in the fact that this was real. The whole church thing wasn't some myth my parents had stupidly swallowed. Jesus really, really loved me, died for me, and was alive and watching over me right that very minute. I could feel it almost at a cellular level. I began to cry and my friend poked me to ask what was wrong. I said, "it's true!" and she thought I was weird- which I was, but it was still true.

As I talked to Rachel, there was this little voice at the back of my brain trying to be heard. She left and I pulled out my scriptures and read about the people who had had that profound experience of being baptised by fire. First, there were the apostles on the day of pentecost. After they spoke in tongues and Peter explained what was going on to the people, those that had once mocked were "pricked in their hearts" and asked what they should do. Their desires were changed. Second, look at the people who listened to King Benjamin's address. The Scriptures say that everyone of them said, "because the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2) Finally when Ammon, the arm-cutter, preaches the gospel to King Lamoni, the man faints and later his wife does the same thing. After a while the people become contentious and Abish wakes them up. Immediately the king tells the people about all the incredible things he had learned. Although many wouldn't listen, they declared that "their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil." (Alma 19:32)

For me, maybe this change of heart is the change of emotions, initial reactions, we talked about on Sunday but I can't do it alone- just as the people in the scriptures couldn't. We need the Holy Ghost to help and we need to ask for that help. Sometimes the answers might come as the automatic gift of being faithful but other times it can come through inspiration to find physical or medical answers that give us direction and added strength. At other times the answer may be that we have to endure the "thorn in our side" a little longer, but if we can buck up and do our best, we are promised it will be removed. And when that thorn is removed, we will be blessed with empathy and strength that would never have been ours without it.

It was yesterday morning that the last nail got whammed in my heart and I gave up and believed. I was walking with Sonja and talking about my son who is a senior. We had planned on him going to BYUi this next semester but through a combination of him dragging his feet and me not pushing hard enough, he missed the deadline. I took this as a personal failure but my friend told me that maybe my son didn't really want to go to school yet and what if that was the right thing for him. She asked if he was reading his scriptures and living the gospel. I said, of course. Then Sonja asked that if he had the spirit, then don't you think his desires or the lack of them are the right thing and therefore righteous.

I went home crying because there was that "desire" thing again. So if we open our heart to the spirit, our hearts will be changed, and eventually our desires will be righteous. George didn't want to go to school until the winter; I don't think it was laziness, he just wasn't ready. What a stretch that was for me to trust his feelings, and my own. If we really have the Spirit, then our passions and desires can be just what the Lord would have us do. Lately, I have felt so driven to write. The ideas seem to ooze from my brain, unlike any time in my life. What if that is coming from Heavenly Father. It is my time. Now I can go overboard and get in trouble. Heaven knows, I am well aware of the sound of the echoing whoosh you hear with the Spirit leaves. It is black and white for me. I know if I only write while the kids are in school then I think my desires might actually be righteous- what a concept- actually wanting and enjoying doing the right thing.

This doesn't mean that the natural man won't scream at me now and again with things that are inappropriate but the key is to recognize where our desires are coming from. Mine are still probably 2/3rds to 1/3 but as I feed the best desires, I can hope for a complete change of heart until "I have no more desire to do evil." And when that day comes I will never again want to jump out of my car and wring another driver's neck or clobber my twelve year old for forgetting his homework again or want to play hookey from church meetings, taxes, obligations or life and just drive away and be FREE! I can't wait for that day but for now I'll feed the Spirit, starve the natural man and finish doing my taxes. Yuck!

No comments: