Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Still Pray

I still pray. Mostly my prayers are expressions of gratitude, since gratitude doesn't expect God to do anything differently. My prayer requests are mostly just for myself, to muster the courage and will to do things I feel like I need/want to do for the benefit of my family and myself. I'm not much for closing in the name of Jesus Christ anymore. My experience and study have led my to a place where I believe that Jesus is just another name for the higher power that is sought out and appealed to in almost all religions. Every religion has their name(s) for God. Why should our name for God be more special or true than other religions'?

I have fewer answers these days, and more mystery and questions. I do not know why some people suffer, and others seem to escape suffering. I don't have a lot of tolerance these days for our leaders' threats, promises, and dogmatic exhortations, but occasionally they do have some keen insights, like Boyd K. Packer in his talk "The Choice":

"Some are tested by poor health, some by a body that is deformed or homely. Others are tested by handsome and healthy bodies; some by the passion of youth; others by the erosions of age.
"Some suffer disappointment in marriage, family problems; others live in poverty and obscurity. Some (perhaps this is the hardest test) find ease and luxury.
"All are part of the test, and there is more equality in this testing than sometimes we suspect" (Oct 1980).

But I don't believe anymore that life is a black-and-white, pass-fail "test." I do believe that we are here to have experiences, "good", "bad" (although I don't think we always categorize them correctly), and "other." And all our collective human choices and mortality along with natural phenomena and chance mix together to form the experiences and feelings that we do, in fact, have "the choice" to respond to. I believe in trying to choose joy, love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement in the face of what life brings us. I believe in trying to eschew fear and feelings of superiority, righteousness, and privilege over others. Our choices determine what kind of person we become, and what kind of soul we develop.

I am trying to cultivate goodness and love in myself. I have stopped trying to cultivate the self-sacrificing, be-a-martyr, perfect goodness of Jesus. I am not against sacrifice and martyrdom, but such choices should spring wholly out of the willing and unconditional love of the person making the sacrifice.