Tag Archives: Church

Suicide and the Atonement

Today in church, we watched a video of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Before they enter the garden, he says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” When I heard that, I thought, “I know how that feels.” That’s what I felt like with suicide. The longer I watched, the more it seemed to apply.

Christ’s experience in the garden was much like my experience with suicide attempts. He asks his disciples, his friends, to tarry and watch with him. Even though they want to, even though they would do anything for their beloved leader and friend, they fall asleep. They cannot be there for him like he wants and needs them to be. The same was true of my friends. They wanted to be there for me in my darkness, but they couldn’t.

Christ goes back to them looking for emotional support and asks, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” I have felt like that many times in my darkness. Could my friends not be there for me in that moment I desperately needed them? Could they not just stay with me for a little while until the pain had passed?

The part that affected me most though, was when the angel comes to strengthen Christ. During one of my suicide attempts, Christ was my angel. He came and strengthened me and gave me the hope to stop trying to die, at least for that night.

That’s what I want you to know about the atonement and suicide. Christ understands. He has walked the long and lonely road so that he could know how we feel. He won’t leave us alone because he knows what it’s like to face the pain alone. He knows the heaviness and weariness. He knows what it’s like to fall to your knees and beg for any other way.

“Because the Savior walked such a long and lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to.” He will succor us. He will be there for us. As someone who has contemplated suicide multiple times and attempted suicide more than once, I can honestly say that Christ understands and will be there for you. That’s what Easter means to me. It means, I need never be alone because there is one who will always understand.

The Sabbath is a Delight

I have always enjoyed Sundays. Other than having to wear a skirt, it was a day that I looked forward to for learning and relaxation. I did good things on Sunday like spending time with family, listening to music or talks, and watching church produced movies and bible videos.

The problem was that there was always an element missing from my Sundays, me. Sundays were about tuning out more than tuning in. They were about getting out of the world, taking a break from cares of the week, allowing myself to breathe. They also included service and learning and spiritual growth, but those were side effects rather than results.

I have not been well for a long time. I have fluctuated between health issues and depression for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t suffering from one, I was struggling with the other. Sundays were a break from the week, but also a reminder that I was not okay. The quietness of a Sunday afternoon accentuated the loudness of my mind and body. I had time to realize just how bad I really felt and to get it out before having to face my week again.

Feeling the mental clarity I am now experiencing was an anomaly if not an impossibility. I needed Sunday to recharge. I needed Sunday to process what I was going through and handle life. I needed Sunday to be my escape. Sunday was a day of rest, but it was not yet “a delight”.

However, now that I am feeling better, I have discovered a whole new level to Sundays that I was unaware of before. I have discovered why Sunday can be called “a delight”. I have learned how to be present in my Sunday rather than a casual observer or catatonic absorber.

Sundays are not simply days of relaxation. They are days of action. There is much to be done. I have a million goals for my life, books I want to read, people I want to get to know, things I want to experience. Sunday has become a day to work towards those good things, to become better, and to form more meaningful relationships with God and others.

Sunday is not simply meant to give us a break from the world. Instead, Sunday should give us a new way to experience the world. Sunday should help us see the beauty in the little things, the brightness of someone’s countenance, the need behind someone’s distance.

Sunday isn’t just a day to rest; it is a day to experience THE rest. It is a day to feel what we don’t feel during the week because we don’t have time to notice or we just don’t think about it. Sunday is a day to experience the rest of the world apart from school or work or other demands. It is a day to be. It is a day to live.

I have read lists of ideas on what to do on Sunday, but I think the key is really what to be on Sunday. Are we being present? Are we experiencing our families in a different light? Are we engaging in a spiritual dialogue with our Savior and using that dialogue to make connections and gain personal insights? Are we being seekers of truth, doers of the word, lights unto the world?

I believe that making Sunday a delight consists of being rather than doing. It is a frame of mind, an attitude and perspective, rather than an adherence to a set of rules and regulations. Sunday is a delight, not because of what the day is, but because of what I am in that day. Insert yourself in your Sunday, engage in everything you do, and be fully present. Then I think you will find that Sunday is indeed a delight.

Praying Always

Prayer is a relationship. Our prayers are not singular events or single moments of getting on our knees. Prayers can and should be a continuation of our daily conversation with God.

I believe that praying always is more of an attitude than an event. Praying always doesn’t mean opening a prayer to God the Father and closing it in the name of Jesus Christ. Praying always is living your life worthy to have Christ’s spirit with you. It is having a friendship so close with God that when we say our prayer at the end of the day, it’s like we never stopped talking.

Praying always means that you have a continuous conversation with God- consistently aligning your will with His. It is following promptings you receive and asking God throughout the day what else you can do. It is being observant of others and their needs and acting as Christ would.

Praying always is creating a two-way relationship with God, showing God that you will stop to listen when He tells you something or gives you an answer you have been searching for. We cannot expect God to be there for us when we need Him if we haven’t put in the time to get to know Him.

God is our father. He is your father. I think He must have become emotional as He gave His final counsel before sending us to Earth. I imagine the conversation to have gone a little like this:

“My dear child, I am sending you to Earth because there are things you need to learn there that you cannot experience here. But the world can be hard and I am afraid you will forget me. Please don’t forget me. Please seek me. Please pray to me, because I will miss you.”

Don’t make God miss you. He loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants to develop a relationship with you. He loves you. Please pray to Him. I promise He will listen.

Continue in Prayer

Sometimes we feel our prayers aren’t answered even though we’re praying for good things. Sometimes this means we need to change our prayers, and sometimes it means we need to pray for other things while we wait for God’s timing.

Two examples in my life illustrate these points.

The first was praying for a friend. I prayed for 15 years for a friend who would spend time with me. I had people who were friendly towards me, but no one who would consistently spend time with me. I wasn’t invited to birthday parties. I wasn’t invited to sleepovers. I wasn’t invited to come over after school. And I didn’t feel welcome when someone took pity on me and did invite me to something.

So I prayed over and over for just someone that I could feel like wanted me around. And it took 15 years. It took 15 years for that prayer to be answered. But it has been answered over and over again over the last 5-6 years. And every time I think about it, I’m not bitter that it took so long. I’m just grateful for how miraculously it was answered and for how grateful I feel now because of how long it took.

The second example illustrates the need for changing my prayers. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. I have prayed for depression to be taken away. I prayed for life to not be so hard. But I was answered that depression would not go away for me. Instead, I was prompted to pray for things like strength to not listen to my suicidal thoughts, peace despite the whirlwinds of anxiety, patience in my trials, and perseverance to handle it all.

No, not all of our prayers will be answered with miraculous healing or changing of our situation. Sometimes our prayers are answered by us changing instead, and perhaps those are the most miraculous answers of all.

Prayer

I gave a talk last week about prayer. I tried to talk about all of the things I wish I would have known or been taught 10 years ago, but that I have learned through reading, talks, and experiences since then. Anyway, I thought I would share those thoughts with all of you since you might like to know as well. I’m going to break up my talk into a few topics and multiple posts to make it easier to read and understand.

Promptings are a form of praying

One of my favorite definitions of prayer comes from the Bible Dictionary: Prayer is “the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.”

By this definition, promptings that we choose to follow are prayers because our will is brought into correspondence with God’s. In this sense, praying always is simply continually aligning our will to God’s.

Short disclaimer: Except for the quotes, all statements made and views represented are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect accepted doctrine. 

But if Not

Live freely. Live joyfully. Live like you know the plan God has for you.
But… Don’t be afraid to hurt. Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t be afraid to be lonely.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is where Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo say that the Lord is able to deliver them, but if not, they will still only worship God.

I think about that over and over with my trials. Sometimes, the answer is a pure and simple no. Sometimes God says something like, “No, you need this more than you need me to take it away.”

I know it’s hard to believe. I get it. How can something this hard or this painful possibly mean that God loves you? But I believe it. Yes, God could take away all my problems, but the fact that He doesn’t is not an indication that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t there.

I have asked for God to take away my autism, depression, gender identity issues, and health problems. So far, the answer has been no. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that though. I don’t know who I would be without all of these problems, or the good that I could do if I didn’t struggle with these things. However, I do have a glimpse of the good I have done because of my problems.

I know I have saved lives, changed people, given hope, been an example, and made a difference- all because I suffered. So, when I get a no answer, or when I ask for a yes, I’ll continue to say, “but if not, I’ll still believe,” because I know that God has a much bigger plan for me.

Life isn’t always easy. It gets hard and you forget how to breathe sometimes. But there is a God who loves you, and He can carry you through and lift your burdens so you can hardly feel them, but if not, know this… it will be for the good. Maybe not necessarily your good, at least not at first… but someone’s good.

A Broken Heart

There are times in my life when I have been so incredibly happy that it seems nothing can bring me down. I just love life, and I love people, and everything is good. During some of these times, I have wondered what it means to have a broken heart as it says in the scriptures. How can we have a broken heart when we are happy? How can we feel broken when we have become whole? I can’t explain everything I have learned about this concept, but I will explain what I feel pertains most to us in the world right now.

I think having a broken heart doesn’t mean that you feel broken all the time, but rather that your heart is capable of breaking. I think about when Christ wept with Mary and Martha because Lazarus died. He knew that it wasn’t permanent and that Lazarus would live again, but he wept because his heart broke with theirs. He had compassion. He suffered with them.

I think about all of the bad things going on in the world right now. The terrorist attacks all over the world, refugees fleeing from their homes, shootings that happen every day break my heart. I cannot think about all of the bad things that happen every day. I do not listen to or watch or read the news and I avoid it for the most part because I cannot handle my heart breaking that much.

The beautiful part about all of this though is that we go to Christ with a broken heart, not because he wants our hearts to be broken but because he wants to make us whole. Christ came to Earth, lived, and died so that we can be whole. Yes, we sacrifice to God a broken heart and a contrite spirit, but not because God wants broken hearts. God wants whole hearts, we just sacrifice the brokenness of them.

I hope that this Christmas season and all year long, we will be willing to not harden our hearts to the bad things in the world but instead let our hearts break and take that brokenness and sacrifice it for the one who understands all brokenness. May your heart be made whole as you allow it to be broken for the suffering of the world. And in the breaking of our hearts, hopefully we will allow the healer of all hearts to help us heal and help others. Hopefully, we choose to allow that brokenness to move us to do good and to be better, and maybe one day the sacrifice of our broken hearts will have helped many hearts become whole.

Fasting

I get sick every fast Sunday. I’m either in the bathroom constantly before church or constantly at church. Luckily it usually hits before church.

In general, if I do not eat within an hour of waking up, I start to feel sick. So, why do I do this to myself month after month? Why did I get so excited about fasting that I would do it even twice a month sometimes?

My best friend could tell you how much of a jerk I was on fast Sunday. I was a bear to be around, easily upset, short tempered, and even aggressive. I wish I could say that has all gone away. It hasn’t. I still feel that way more often than I would like to. But I keep fasting once every month because of how much better it makes me the rest of the time.

I am a better person now than I used to be because of fasting. I have seen miracles happen in my life because of fasting. I am closer to God because of fasting.

And on days like this when the pain seems almost unbearable and I don’t want to be around people for fear of snapping at someone, I can pray for strength and know that God will answer. I will break my fast soon, but first I wanted to bear my testimony that fasting changes things. Christ said of a devil that his disciples couldn’t cast out, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Sometimes that is how it is in our lives. We can only overcome certain things by fasting. That’s why I continue to fast even though it doesn’t feel good at the time; it makes me better later.

Inadequate to Visit Teach

I visit teach this amazing girl in my singles ward. I’ve been doing it alone for a few months because the singles ward is constantly changing and I haven’t been assigned a new companion yet. I have a visit tentatively scheduled for tomorrow, but today I just feel so inadequate for this calling.

I feel inadequate to visit someone else. I look at the holes in my shoes, my somewhat messy room, and my growing stack of letters I wrote but never gave, and I think, “who am I to visit someone else?”

I, myself, haven’t been visited since I came to the singles ward. I wonder if it’s for the same reason. Maybe everyone feels inadequate to visit someone else. Maybe we all look at the holes in our lives, the messiness, and the regrets, and we wonder, “who am I to visit someone else?”

The thing is, the person I visit teach thinks I’m completely amazing just because I show up, because I try. Yes, I still feel inadequate. But I keep trying. I keep going, not because I’m great but because I’m small. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

Visiting teaching is a small and simple thing. Reaching outside of yourself and helping or talking to someone else is small, but it can do great things. If we don’t reach out to each other, we are only a church about Christ. It is only through visiting, serving, and fellowshipping that we become Christ’s church instead of simply a church about Christ.

Learning About God

Sometimes you pray to know God.

Sometimes you pray to know yourself.

Over the last few years, I have prayed a lot to know God. But recently, I have been praying to know myself. And in the process, I discovered something that I didn’t realize before- I’m too smart for my own good. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I mean it literally.

Throughout my life I have sought for knowledge above everything else. I wanted love; I wanted to be understood; I wanted friendship; I wanted help; I wanted so many things that I didn’t understand. And I thought that maybe if I could understand them, I could figure out how to receive them. If I just knew enough about love, maybe I could figure out how to make myself lovable. If I knew enough about God, maybe I could figure out how to be like him.

What I have realized though is that you can’t learn enough about certain things to make them happen. You can learn about chemical reactions and what causes them and then initiate some reactions, but no matter how much you learn about the sun, you can’t initiate or replicate its heat. You may get close, but you will never completely succeed.

The same is true with God. You can learn about God. You can learn a lot about God. But… that knowledge won’t initiate his grace or replicate his glory, at least not on its own. Only Christ and his atonement can initiate the process of change within us. Learning about God does not make me like him. In fact, it almost makes me less like him because some things can only be understood on the spiritual level and as long as I keep trying to understand it intellectually, I can’t fully accept it spiritually.

So recently, I have been trying to learn less about God and more about myself. The more I am learning about myself, the less I want to be like me. And that is really the most amazing part about all of this. God shows me who I am so that he can show me who he wants me to be. And as I learn to see my flaws, I learn to rely more on God, which teaches me more about him than I ever learned by reading and studying about him. I am learning to learn less and feel more, and as I am doing so, I am learning more than I ever thought I could.