The Renaissance and later the Age of Enlightenment contributed to the change in how we used the word belief over time. (1)
Secularism increased. New knowledge about how the world works was discovered. Things that once were attributed to God's hand or laws could now be explained in a new way, through the laws of nature. Eventually it felt necessary to differentiate.
I believe in God now meant Despite the lack of empirical evidence, I nevertheless believe that God exists.
In turn, this new usage triggered a change in the way the word know is often used in religious context.
Enlightenment Scholar: So you believe in God?
ES: How quaint.
B: No, what I mean is that I know that God exists.
ES: That's adorable.(2)
So flash-forward to today and we are still sometimes trying to strengthen our pro-God stance with the word know. Which is fine, but it's kind of a shame.
It is my opinion that something was definitely lost in translation.
The earlier uses of the word believe more closely fit where I am in my spiritual life today.
I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It gives me purpose and peace. It challenges me and prompts me to self-evaluation and personal improvement. Other times it takes me outside of myself completely and gives me the chance to give to others. It blesses me. It has earned my trust in these regards.
I believe in God. I trust him. I look at my life and I choose to see His hand in it. I feel He is guiding me and I trust where He is trying to take me. I see Him everywhere.
I believe in Jesus Christ. I am a broken soul and the only complete thing about me is my dependence on Him. I love Him. I trust that His sacrifice was real and necessary. I feel His grace touch and heal me. I trust Him.
But amazingly, I feel He trusts me too and this leaves me awed.
I have been trusted with a faithful and kind husband with whom I can love and grow. I have been trusted with three unique souls and charged to love them (I do) and teach them (I give my best). I have been trusted with a band of sweet 6-year-olds in my congregation and charged to love them (I do) and teach them (I give my best).
What a humble honor it is for such an imperfect person to be given such sacred responsibilities. I am touched that I am trusted.
That trust has given me spiritual confidence. The confidence to know what God wants for me and to feel His love. The confidence to raise my children in the ways that they need to be raised even after I walked away from a group of Mormon women and overheard them say as I departed, "Yeah, can you believe some LDS families do that?" The confidence to run a marathon on a Sunday and feel God's approval and to see that He had a plan for me all along in the experience. The confidence to take the words of my leaders and apply the power of discernment to them: This is my Word for you, He tells me; or other times, These are the words of a loving and well-intentioned man, take them into your heart as such.
These are the blessings of being loved and trusted. I have every reason to reciprocate and I do it with the whole of my heart.
(1) This is bad history. I'm a bad historian.
(2) Like seriously. Bad history.
I am going to write a bunch of posts about my spiritual life. (1) They are going to be personal. (2) They will represent where I have been and where I am now. In a year, I will be in a completely different place. Or at least I hope to be.
Line upon line, right?
It's probably necessary for you to know that I have struggled with my religion. (3) About five years ago I was called to teach the Doctrine & Covenants in my congregation's Sunday School class.
Feeling overwhelmed by the task and more than a little inadequate I thought... I should read some history of my church to prepare!
Lol, as they say. (4)
Five years later, I emphatically shake my fist at you, Church Correlated Materials! Sure we all want a clean history with a simple narrative painting us only in the most flattering light. I get that! (5)
But too often the discrepancies between what actually happened and what I had been taught my whole life felt... deceptive. Sometimes the discrepancy itself was more disconcerting to me than, well, what actually happened. Sometimes.
Other times I straight up struggled with the historical truth. (6)
But in between all the sighs and fist-shaking, I felt an assurance from God that it was important to go through this experience, not only because it's 2014 and I have, well... an internet connection, but also because I have children growing up in 2014 with a, well... internet connection. (7) (8)
My children, I felt the spirit prompt, will need to be guided through our collective historical past to arrive at their individual spiritual futures.
I've talked previously here about my wisdoms (few) and wanderings (many). I think it has been important for me to get down this path ahead of my children, hopefully getting as many wanderings out of the way as possible. (Not likely. But I try.)
One thing that I want to be especially sensitive to as I write about the complexity of reconciling the history of men with the desires of God for us is not triggering a crisis of faith for anyone else.
No matter what, my path is not your path. On the other hand, I may need to reference things that were catalysts for me. I'll try to do so carefully. I'll try to walk a self-imposed line of sensitivity to the people (my friends and family) and the things (the Church) I love.
I hope you'll trust me. And when I am done I promise to get right back to talking about Andy Gibb.(9)
(2) Ugh. Gross.
(4) Do they say this? I do, but who am I? Just an old lady with a laptop and an internet connection.
(5) High school? I remember nothing.
(6) Often still do.
(7) Google. A blessing and a curse. But it settles a lot of arguments... quickly.
(8) I did not start this journey with an internet search. I chose sources written by devoted, honest, qualified historians and writers. Of course I knew not to start with the internet. But will our children know this? That will not be their instinct.
(9) I could have saved him.
I'm a sucker for movies that make you laugh and break your heart a little at the same time.
It's not a revolutionary storyline: awkward teen, divorced parents, coming of age, and so on. But the script is funny and touching, the characters and the actors playing them charming (most of them).
I watched it twice. I knew Matthew would love it. He did. He watched it twice.*
The character is the same age as Matthew so I knew he would relate to some of the struggles of being a 14-year-old boy in this world. I also know him well enough to know that he would appreciate the humor.
But there was one truth told that I especially thought Matthew would relate to: We are all subject to the decisions of our parents, for better or for worse.
Last year was a tough one.
First we waited out the layoffs. We no sooner breathed a sigh of relief when we found out that Garett's new job location would more than double his current commute.
Meanwhile, Matthew was struggling. I now have a double dose of junior-high-induced post traumatic stress syndrome. One for my own tortured middle school experience and another for living through my son's.
There were reasons to move our family out of Elk Grove.
There were reasons to stay.
It was so confusing and relentlessly stressful. Options to consider. Consequences to contemplate. Should we stay or should we go?
We sought professional help for us and our son.
Her advice: For God's sake, make a decision.
Our stalling was making things much worse and causing him more pain than the decision itself ever would.
But we weren't trying to stall and we certainly weren't trying to hurt our child. We just wanted to make the right decision... and sometimes God is slow. Or we are slow to hear Him. If you asked me which it was at the time I'd be hard-pressed to say. I felt like I was trying so hard.
It was hard news to swallow, that we were causing him pain. I was embarrassed by it.
But I also didn't know how to avoid it. Today I was reminded of Budda's four noble truths, the first of which is "Life is pain."
It's true, and also a great line from The Princess Bride.
But it's a hard truth.
Not only is life pain, but sometimes the people we love the most, the people who are supposed to love us the most, are the ones causing the pain.
Is there any way around this?
My parents' decisions caused me pain.
I didn't hate them for this as a child and I certainly don't hate them for this as an adult, especially now that I empathize better than ever with what it means to be a parent and a human being at the same time.
There have been times when I've sat through a Sunday school lesson that lands on parenting and I hear everyone go on and on about their seemingly perfect solutions and strategies to raising children... and it's all I can do not to stand up and scream, "What the hell? How is it that you've already arrived at this place of perfect wisdom? I'm still on the freaking path! I've arrived nowhere!"
Sometimes I'm at a loss how to light the path while I'm still stumbling down it myself.
Oh, sorry. I've just veered you off onto a "questioning ecclesiastic authority" fork in the road. Oops!
I guess the idea is that I'm supposed to be further down the path than they are, and I am. But I'm still on my own journey and it's not always linear.
I believe I do have wisdom to impart to my children.
But they are nevertheless subject to my both my wisdom and my wanderings.
When I shared The Way Way Back with Matthew I thought that maybe we could talk about this truth - that we are all subject to our parents' decisions, for better or for worse.
As the credits rolled, the best I could do was point out this theme and say, "You can relate, huh?"
He nodded his head.
Yet, I was satisfied.
I had acknowledged the difficulty of it.
And in that moment, I knew it was enough.
*This movie is rated PG-13. Matthew is 15 next month. There was plenty of colorful language. I considered this before letting Matthew watch it and then proceeded to allow it. Make of that what you will... and make your own choice when choosing to watch it or allow your children to watch it.
My friend Kara was kind enough to ask about the marathon.
This makes her a friend both true and saintly because NO ONE wants to
hear someone else talk about running a marathon.
But, well, since you asked...
It was just great!
Great in the way that childbirth is "great" weeks after you've experienced it and the only thing you are really remembering about the shebang is the beautiful baby they put in your arms right after. (In this case the baby was a piece of flat bread and a cup of soup. The most beautiful cup of soup ever to be birthed on this planet.)
Now, during my marathon training, it is possible that I may have said things like: If you love to run but you'd like to change that, consider training for a marathon.
I am not an
elite athlete, obviously, but I love to run. I really do despite my pre-race protests. And I love the culture of running because it is a very accepting one. Everyone wants one thing; they want to do their personal best. And when it's more about competing with yourself rather than your neighbor, it's a lot easier to cheer each other on.
But this was (for obvious reasons) harder than anything I'd done before and I often wondered if I was good enough to keep going.
My Saturday long runs were more time-sucking than the internet. I would often mentally divide them into
thirds. The first third I ran. The second third I jogged. The last third
I lumbered. Lumbering is just as uncomfortable to witness as you would imagine.
Do I deserve to be doing this? Am I making a fool out of myself?
Clarksburg Country Run - a 20 mile prep race
But after running the preparatory 20 mile race, I was feeling encouraged. I had a good race and I was optimistic that I could finish the full marathon in less than five hours. (YES. That's right. I actually HOPED that I could finish in less than FIVE hours. Remember, pace is relative. I just wanted to beat Katie Holmes. Is that so wrong?)
And then a week after the Clarksburg run I hurt my foot.
I didn't dare have my injury looked at by a medical professional because those crazies be saying ridiculous things like, "You should stop running until this heals." And I really didn't have time for that kind of whack.
So I kept running but took my taper week very seriously, which helped some but didn't completely spare me from feeling a lot of pain on marathon morning. But runners are masochists at the core, heaven help us, and I got through (although I did some walking somewhere after mile 22 or so).
When it was done I cuddled my adorable cup of soup and, despite not coming in under five hours as I had hoped, nevertheless basked in the beautiful California sun and in the pride that I had beaten Katie Holmes.
There is a story in Lunn history about my sister Caitlin that I am about to tell without permission but hopefully with some accuracy.
Some years ago while a small and ridiculously adorable child, Caitlin was invited to a Sunday birthday party. Needless to say, she was desirous to attend. Our father, being of the "teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves" persuasion of parenting, advised our littlest blonde to pray about it.
Solemnly (or so I imagine) she climbed the stairs.
It wasn't long after that she descended with triumph.
"He said yes."
In seven weeks I will run my first full marathon. Like most marathons (that aren't in Utah) it is on a Sunday.
I didn't ask.
But I ask Him lots of other things. (Like A LOT.)
I don't really know why I'm even starting this with the Sunday thing. Probably because I feel a smidge conflicted. And maybe because it's something I've already written about here.
But mostly I feel good about it and that's what is most confusing. Because I feel like this goal is saving my life.
Right now I should be in a serious spiral of depression. The stress of our lives right now is overwhelming. (My husband is currently being tested to see if he has an ulcer. An ulcer. Brought on by stress. Work stress.)
I am over-committed (trigger for depression). I am worried about finances and both my job and my husband's job (trigger for depression). I am running on six or fewer hours of sleep a night (huge trigger for depression). There is a snake living in the walls of my kitchen (trigger for panic).
And, yet. (Knock on wood.)
I have written before how running has aided in my struggles with anxiety. I am fully convinced that its discovery in my life was a gift from a loving Heavenly Father who knew I needed a coping tool.
But maybe I don't have to run 26 miles to reap that benefit, you wonder.
I'm not sure either.
All I know is that I hope you'll be thinking about me on December 8th.
I may not be in church that day but I promise you I'll be praying to God.
If today is any indication it will be right around Mile 16.