A Failure of Faith?

Have you ever had a crisis of faith? Have you ever questioned your faith? Have you ever wondered if you really understood what faith is? Have you ever wondered if you really believed what you thought you believed?

I have

I think sometimes we are afraid of questioning our faith, and trying to understand more about faith and our own personal faith. For me, faith isn't faith, without Jesus Christ. My faith is centered around Him. But in the last couple of years my faith has evolved - it has hopefully grown, at times felt like it was shrinking, and sometimes I wondered if I even knew what faith really was.

 Over the past couple of years, there have been some pretty consistent things that have contributed to my journey in faith.

One was that over the years I've been a member of The LDS Church, I've read or heard probably thousands of stories about miracles that came because of some one's faith in Jesus Christ. Miraculous stories of healing, answered prayers, missionary opportunities, etc. I've always loved stories like this, but the past few years I started to wonder. See for years (probably close to 20 years) I've prayed for a miracle. I prayed, cried and pleaded for a personal miracle. But it didn't and hasn't happened. So I began to wonder if my faith wasn't good enough. If I wasn't doing something "right" in order that I could receive a miracle like the thousands and thousands of others that I had read about.

Another contributing factor was I made some mistakes and choices I never thought I would make. Not that any of us ever "plan" to make mistakes, but perhaps because I probably at some time or another had thought, "I'll never struggle with such and such," I found myself struggling with that very thing. And it made me question whether I really had the faith that I thought I had.

Lastly, I began to struggle to feel I was receiving personal revelation. What at times in the past had felt easy to feel and recognize, I could seem to tell when or if I was receiving answers and guidance to questions I had sought help for in my prayers. I felt I was still striving to live the gospel, keep the commandments, repent, etc. as I had in the past but it just seemed like a think curtain was between me and the Lord. Answers just wouldn't seem to come. And one of the biggest places I had received personal revelation and guidance was in my writing. Every single blogpost I've written, I would at times try to write, it wouldn't come but one day it would just feel right and the words would just flow out of me. But I would sit down, time and time again with what I thought was a wonderful idea and after much prayer and struggling, nothing seemed to come.

I began to feel very frustrated and to question myself and my understanding of faith and my ability to have faith. But then some things happened.

Not the miracles I expected, and nothing I had necessarily been asking for or seeking, but miracles nonetheless that showed me once again, the Lord knew me, He was hearing and answering my prayers, just not in the ways I had looked for or perhaps expected. And only now am I beginning to see how several things have built on each other, that at the time I couldn't seem them very clearly as the miracles they were.

April or May of this year I found out I would need to move before August. Now, don't get me wrong - 3 months should be plenty of time to found a new place to live. Given my personality, I got right on trying to find a place to live. I searched and searched, visited quite a few places, put in a bunch of applications but kept not getting the places I applied for. Even though it hadn't been long I started to get frustrated because I felt I was putting in the work and had asked for the Lord's help. So one day I went to the temple after work. I felt inspired that it appropriate to put my name on the temple roll - something I'd never felt I should do and hadn't done before. But I did it because I wanted the additional help! As I got out of the temple and turned my phone on I had a messaged from a potential place I'd texted about earlier. I had been sent shortly after I went into the temple so I worried I was too late. I hurried and called, and it wasn't too late! In fact, I was able to go directly from the temple to view the rental. It seemed a good fit, so I immediately asked the landlord how I could move forward. She emailed me an application, which I filled out right away and sent back. The next day she contacted my references and later that day said they wanted to offer the place to me!

I couldn't believe it! I wasn't the first in line, but something, somehow just worked and it all came together. Some might call it a coincidence but I don't believe in coincidences :)

Fast forward a couple months, I was glad to have a place to live but wasn't particularly enjoying the ward I was in. It is a very young, married ward which is tough for a few reasons. It's always a little tough for me to make friends and I was struggling to have the emotional energy to even try. Then I found out the ward was getting a new Bishop. It hadn't been long enough that I'd really gotten to know the Bishop well yet, but my experience has generally been that I don't feel the Bishop really knows or cares about me personally in most of the wards I've been in. And now I wasn't sure how I felt about getting another new Bishop.

A week before the new Bishop was called, I spoke in Sacrament meeting. After Sacrament meeting before Sunday School started, a guy in the ward sat down in front of me and complimented me on my talk and we chatted for a few minutes until his wife got there and then chatted a couple more minutes. It wasn't a long or even really significant conversation but it was a nice conversation and it is always nice when someone says you did a good job and felt uplifted by something you shared.

I didn't think much of this interaction until next Sunday when that guy was called to be the Bishop. And as he was called and the speakers spoke, one of the woman said, "He has very kind eyes." At that moment I thought, "He does, and he was very kind last week." And then the Spirit witnessed to me, that the Lord had called him to be Bishop. It was a great tender mercy as I felt at that moment that I could rely and trust him as my Bishop.

Another month fast forward, and I got called in to meet with the Bishop. I had a feeling beforehand what was coming, and sure enough I was right. I got asked to be the Relief Society President. This was/is a calling I definitely don't inspire to hold. I don't really feel qualified or the best person for the calling and responsibilities. But while my faith has taken me on a journey the past while, I still have a firm testimony of accepting whatever callings are extended. I then needed to decide who I wanted as my counselors. One name came to mind almost immediately after the calling was extended. What was funny about it, was it was for someone I had only met once semi-briefly.

The week before the calling was extended, we had some visits scheduled for Relief Society. I was serving as the 2nd Counselor and among the visits scheduled I happened to be the one to go visit a particular sister - the sister whose name came to mind immediately as a counselor. The visit was a great visit, though not that long and I have no doubt it wasn't a coincidence that I happened to be the one to visit her.

The name for my other counselor came only a couple hours later and was pretty clear. I'd also had minimal interaction with this sister, but it was a clear thought in my mind. Later, I found out she was from Payson and knew I must have made the right choice :P Thankfully both sisters accepted and have both been a huge support in the short weeks since we were called.

And it is amazing as I thought about the sequence and timing of so many things, how I knew the hand of the Lord was involved. There were clear experiences and situations that showed me He knew me, He was guiding me, and while the miracle(s) I've prayed so long for still haven't happened, He provides tender mercies along the way to buoy me up, give me help and direction and that my faith isn't in blessings. My faith is a complete trust in my Savior Jesus Christ, that miracles will come when it is the right and best time for me, and that He is always there helping and guiding and giving me the opportunities that can really help me become the very best I can.
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So We're Broken....Now What?

Have you ever thought of yourself as broken?

I've thought alot about being broken the last year or so. Mostly because that is how I've felt at times - very broken. Broken in the sense of not working correctly. Broken in the sense of feeling shattered. Broken in the sense of not functioning properly.

We're all broken is some or multiple ways. Broken in our perspective of the world. Broken in our perspective of other people. Broken in how we love. Broken in who we love. Broken in how we love ourselves. Broken in how our bodies function or don't function. Broken in how our bodies work.

Sometimes we are broken because of choices we've made. Often, it is because of the choices of others' that affect us.

Growing up in the LDS Church I never really thought about being broken. Talking about brokenness is not something I really experienced in church. But one of the definitions of broken that I think encompasses all the other definitions is: "not complete or full." This definition fits fully within the doctrines of the Fall, our mortality and human nature. We believe that we aren't complete or full and won't be until after this life - after the resurrection and through the power of the Atonement. We are striving for perfection, which by definition is "complete or whole."

But it's interesting because broken does not have a good connotation and definition in our society. When something is broken, we very often get rid of it or throw it away. Broken lowers the value of something in our eyes or estimation. Basically broken is not a good thing.

So why does it matter to think of yourself as being broken?

The last couple of years I've gone through a broad range of thoughts, emotions, conclusions as I thought of myself as broken. There were times I felt worthless or of little value because of my brokenness. There were times of despair and heartache that my brokenness was affecting my everyday life and my relationships with others. There was a period where I felt very angry with God that after months and years of praying for help overcoming or to be healed it seemed that prayer was going unanswered. Other times I felt I should just embrace my brokenness and allow that to define who I was, how I lived my life and the choices I made in my life.

The world tells us either that we are worthless because we are broken, or since all of us are broken in some ways or others, today it is often - "That is just who you are. You aren't broken. Embrace and live it." It is a very alluring message - we all want to feel valued and that we aren't less because of our brokenness. But it causes us to miss out on the potential for much, much more.

One of my all times favorite thoughts is:

We are immortal beings having a mortal experience.

Our brokenness is a large and major part of our mortal experience. Our Heavenly Father allowed all of us to be broken because it wouldn't be easy. It would present a real and often difficult choice - would we still strive to follow Him and become like Him even with our brokenness? Would we allow our brokenness to define who were are and thus distance ourselves from Him? It would present a veritable test for all of us.

And the thing that often makes it more difficult - God has the power to heal our brokenness. For some of us, in some things, we will experience that healing power in this life. For others, we haven't yet and may never in this life. There was a time in my life where I felt that was so unfair. I felt that perhaps I was then beyond the power of the Atonement since my hours and hours on my knees, sobbing and asking for healing, which hasn't happened.

Because of that there was a time I did consider going a different direction (To Leave The Church or Not). Of turning from God instead of to Him. But I've learned some things in the ensuing months - I'm not less in God's eyes because I'm broken. That it is very possible I will deal with the most difficult aspects of my brokenness for my entire life. But that my brokenness does not define who I am - it is a part of mortality but I am only a mortal being right now. So who do I want to be in the eternities when my complete and full nature is revealed in the resurrection?

I want to have sought daily to be more like the Savior. That is what I want to embrace - my efforts to allow my nature to slowly be molded over time to become truly like Him. To gain characteristics and attributes that are only possible to gain through much struggle and trial. I want my brokenness to direct me to Him and that power of the Atonement, which may not heal me right now or in this life, but daily can give me the strength to change and become better. And that means that right now, I have to give up some things I think I want right now, for what and who I want to be in the eternities - even when I'm not sure exactly how it will look or things will work out.

But something I know beyond a shadow of a doubt - some how they will and it will be more glorious and magnificent than I can even imagine. And the things I "gave up" in this life, won't feel like I gave anything up.

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