“It is impossible for the inhabitants of different worlds to walk or sit or stand on the same floor, because they have differing conceptions of what is horizontal and what is vertical. Yet they may well share the use of the same staircase.”
M.C. Escher, 1953
Baby Girl has ADD. It takes her four hours to do 30 math problems. For grade three and most of grade four we medicated her with Adderall. It did what it says it will do- it helped her pay attention. It also sucked away a great deal of her personality and appetite. So, while she was getting good grades and finishing her classwork in a more timely manner, she was emotionally vacant and on the verge of becoming dangerously thin.
5th grade in our neck o’ the woods marks the start of Middle School. Middle School presents many new circumstances which Baby Girl thrives upon. Among them are independence, lots of social interaction and physical movement. The challenges are also formidable; anonymity, higher expectations among teachers and less communication with the parents.
Baby Girl has had to stay in from recess on numerous occasions to finish work, as well as received demerits for the same. She comes home from school and spends most of her time on homework. (We do pad work time with down time- it is much more important to have a healthy happy kid than a burnt-out kid with completed work.) Needless to say, this gives me a great deal of stress. A GREAT DEAL. She, on the other hand, is pretty much okay with the flow of things.
Today I took #2 son to the library. I ran into a girl that was baptized a couple of years ago but hasn’t been back to church in almost as much time. She remarked that it was interesting that she ran into me because she had recently determined that she was lacking in her spiritual life and was on a quest to find the truth. She confessed that she thought about hiding from me so I wouldn’t talk to her.
Her story is much like many who leave the church- too much pressure to be “just right.” It seemed idiotic to her that God wouldn’t accept her if she smoked a cigarette on her way to service or drank coffee. I agreed. I also told her that the Church had a lot of issues, and that a great deal of the members didn’t make it real easy to want to continue to go. I said that the doctrine is pure, but the Church is not.
She and I were never really close, but I think we could be friends if she were willing to accept my acceptance of her. She would always be waiting for me to call her to repentance or criticize her life choices.
After a lengthy discussion in where I strongly encouraged her to find her truth- as truth can be found everywhere- I left feeling quite empty. According to my mind, I said all of the right things: God loves and accepts you no matter what you do; you will find your truth in the world because truth is universal and you need only to find the version that resonates with your spirit; The Church is not the right place for you; etc. . . All of those things I said do contain the truth, but deep down inside, I wasn’t being honest. Deep down inside I believe that there are threads of truth through all schools of thought, but there really is one truth, and I know it.
I have shied away from that teensy tiny bit of info because I am a coward. I don’t like confrontation and I don’t like making others feel uncomfortable. Mostly I want to be liked. I don’t want people to think that I am closed-minded and unaccepting. (I’m neither of those, but when it comes to differing opinions on religion and belief, it is easy to jump to that conclusion.) I don’t like missionary work for that reason. I don’t even like Visiting Teaching because of it. I want everyone to come to their own version of the truth and for God to accept it and for all of us to live happily ever after. Because after all, who are any of us to judge what another knows, or is capable of knowing or feeling or experiencing?
On one hand, that is true. We, as human beings are incapable, and admonished not to judge another. (Unless you have been set apart by one who has authority with divine attributes to act in that capacity for a time- and even then, I’m positive that human-ness gets in the way of judgment.) But we have also been admonished to preach the one true gospel of Jesus Christ. But where does preaching end, and judging begin? That is where these two stories come together.
It is impossible for me to comprehend the world of another. I can try; I can read, I can discuss, I can share, and I can even pray for discernment, but I cannot completely understand anothers perspective. So I make mistakes in my interactions with them. I try to convince my child that she needs to hurry up, and that she is capable of more because I KNOW that she is. But is she? Really? Just because I was a model student and the idea of lollygagging my way through a school day is incomprehensible to me, doesn’t mean that she is suffering because she isn’t having my same experience.
I have no idea what feelings or experiences or cellular function added up to cause Dawn* to join the Church in the first place, and really I cannot comprehend why exactly she left. We are in different worlds, but we share the same staircase. That staircase is what urges me on to judge her and her capabilities, and urges me to withhold my true feelings. I feel empty after my talk with Dawn because I didn’t tell the whole truth. I preached to her more of what she can get from any Dr. Phil episode, not the true feelings of my heart. (I do that on this blog too. I water down my testimony to make my writing more universal. I want acceptance, but who from? Really, does acceptance gained from semi truths amount to much of what I am truly seeking? Not at all.)
The next time I have a Dawn experience, I will not call her to repentance. I will not offer her conditional acceptance. I will love her with all my heart as I tell her exactly what I told her today, but add to that my belief- which is that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am a devoted, and cherished daughter of God. That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may not be perfect in its function, but it most certainly is perfect in its doctrine, and that I love that church. And when I say those words I won’t come away feeling empty like I did today. I will be filled with the approval and love of my Savior and with tears in my eyes will thank Him for His acceptance.
I will refrain from judgment based on my perspective- on how I view the world. I will instead love with open arms both the person I am with, as well as myself, and take the risk. If I trust in Him, any fall will not be significant. Better yet- once in a great while, I may even gain something.
* Not her real name. You know, in case you are ever in my teeny little town and somehow run into this person. You know.