Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Holy Cause

As I have already posted, a little over a year ago, I came to a deeper understanding of my personal value -an understanding that I am of infinite worth and that nothing I do and nothing that happens to me will ever change my value. Looking back over the last year or so however, coming to this understanding has caused me to have to reevaluate other aspects of my life. I used to place a lot of value on being part of the Church. I used to believe that I was valuable because "I am a Mormon" and "I am a Sunday school teacher" and "because I did this or that for the Church." It made me feel like I was part of something greater than myself -which is good. It caused me to really work for something that wasn't completely selfish and I felt like my life contributed something of value to a holy cause. Additionally it gave me a sense of status as I received complements on a lesson or a pat on the back for following through with an assignment. And so, I allowed my actions, whether "positive or negative," "good or bad" to dictate the value of my soul.

But something was deeply lacking. I suffered from crippling perfectionism. I was so concerned that I wasn't good enough and I felt that my weaknesses kept me from really progressing. It affected the way that I perceived God. I saw God looking down at me like some Zeus-like figure -ready at any moment to strike me with lightning because of my imperfections and flaws. I thought that maybe if I could be better or more perfect I would be able to make myself valuable to God and his church. And even though I was able to accomplish many good works, in the end my works were counter productive to my self esteem and I never allowed myself to dig into my weaknesses and use them as strengths. Instead I was in denial of my flaws. It was too scary to look at my weaknesses and really accept them as part of my life -part of my mortal experience.

Making peace with my mortality was one of the most renewing, beautiful, and liberating experiences of my life. Nevertheless, upon realizing that my works in the Church really didn't affect my personal value suddenly made a lot of my works seem somewhat valueless. Apparently my motivations for "selfless acts" in the Church had in reality been selfish. And even though my motivations were less than honorable, I won't deny that I received many of the benefits of honorable
motivations. But in many ways my holy cause didn't give a full return because my life still had much lacking; primarily my understanding of my self worth.

As a natural consequence to my paradigm shift, I lost interest in church-related activities. This was evidence to me that I had never truly received a "knowledge of the truthfulness" that the Church was true. After all, if I believe it to be true, shouldn't faith support me through all trials and all experiences in life? I won't deny that I have had many wonderful, spiritual experiences that made me feel that the Church was right, but with my new set of reality glasses, I realized perfectionism was replaced with cynicism and ultimately if I desired to stay in the Church I would need a holier reason than the vanity of perfectionism.

As my interest in the Church faded, I found that I replaced my activities of devotion with self serving activities.
Every culture has its strengths and weaknesses; virtues and vices. I fell prey to one of the greatest sicknesses of American culture. I began to seek entertainment. Not that entertainment in arbitrarily wrong, but there is a growing threat to the civil society of the American people because of the desire to be entertained rather than contribute to a cause or a lifestyle or belief system. This often leads to an emptiness that is nearly insatiable. Unfortunately, all too often people attempt to fill this void, but like a black hole this void draws the elements and does not let go. I began to feed myself with the disease of consumerism -purchasing this or that without thought for need or personal economy. And so I began working so that I could spend. I began to live beyond my means to support myself because of this insatiable hunger for value in my life. I used to be very wise with my money and considered it sacred. But now instead of self control with my money I entitle myself to entertainment or social status or style.

It's taken me a while to realize what it is that my life still lacks despite my perceived wisdom in my paradigm shift of more than a year ago. I have lost my holy cause, the value
in my life as opposed to the value of my life. I realize that in order to truly be happy I need to find a holy cause. One of the greatest losses to the value of my life when I left the church was feeling like I was part of something greater than myself. I felt like I was important to the Church and I felt needed by others. Feeling unneeded has made me feel lonely at times and a desire to receive attention from others. This need to receive love and attention in a holy or righteous way may explain some of my most saddening and desperate moments in my recent history. I made some pretty bad choices in which I sacrificed my hard earned money and more importantly, my personal values -all for the sake of feeling needed.

I haven't completely given up on the Church though I have a number of concerns, but more importantly I haven't given up on God. For a while I didn't want to talk to God. At first my silence was for bitterness and cynicism which evolved into insecurity as to what I believed to be truth, and eventually into fear that God would tell me to live a life that would bring me unhappiness. I know it sounds funny to think that God would would tell me that happiness is out of the question for my life, but I really subconsciously felt that God would forbid happiness for me. And so, I stopped talking to God for some time.

I'm not afraid anymore though. I still don't know what I believe in, but I am willing to listen to what God has to say. I need to find a holy cause and a reason for living. I need to contribute my time and talents to something greater than myself.


Beck said...

I have found that the Church has more meaning in my life when I am completely engaged in a calling. Callings typically push me to do things and "become" better than I would have been otherwise. When I am selflessly serving in a calling (be it priesthood leadership, teaching, or organizing the hymn books). There is such satisfaction of "self worth" and "holy cause" when you realize something has happened and you have been a tool for good in someone else's life. For that reason alone, whether it's true or not, the Church is worth it to me.

On the contrary, I find that when I am "put out to pasture" for a season, I get depressed and self-centered and lose my focus of spirituality. I haven't reached the point where I can truly worship just for worshipping sake. I still need a calling to motivate me into participating in the "holy cause".

Anonymous said...

Beware that creeping affluism. It'll get you every time there's not something in your life to fill the emptiness with (what is it that Christ says about the seven devils?).

Glad to hear, though, that working through these things has helped you come to a more balanced state as far as your own personal...orientation (in the real sense)...goes.

Sir Robert Chiltern said...

It's interesting how things fill you with such purpose and importance, no? I can still remember how when I was young I used to think that callings were measures of faithfulness and success.

I still, often, have a rather strong desire to contribute to something, to help out with something bigger than myself. I figure having altruistic desires isn't such a bad thing.