Jen is an artist who realized that her sketchbook has more words than sketches and now calls herself a writer. She’s completing her bachelors’s degree in psychology and will be ready for grad school about the same time her oldest child starts college. As stay at home mom married for 20 years she’s also loved other people’s children as a foster parent. Her current residence is Iowa, although she’s spread her heart across the US- most recently living in Pennsylvania. She’s been blogging for 5 years, currently at jendoop.blogspot.com and RealIntent.org
All quotes are from Elder Quentin L. Cook: “The Doctrine of the Father”
I attract dysfunctional people. My good friend Mary is a Catholic, with the usual guilt, and has alcoholic parents. My friend Katie is recovering from an abusive marriage and the recent death of her parents. After just a few conversations with a new friend, Jill, she admitted that she suffers from depression and doesn’t stay on her medication. It seems that I subconsciously seek out people like this.
As a child I didn’t have the traditional Mormon upbringing, although when people find out that I was raised in the church they assume I did. Much of my childhood was painful and confusing. As children often do, I turned pain and confusion inward and believed that I was utterly defective.
During high school I was so broken there was no hope, except a little light feeling during seminary. That little light told me that even if no one else knew how broken I was, God did, and he gave me that little light anyway.
“Understanding how He [God] feels about us gives us the power to love Him more purely and fully. Personally feeling the reality, love, and power of that relationship is the source of the deepest and sweetest emotions and desires that can come to a man or woman in mortality. These deep emotions of love can motivate us and give us power in times of difficulty and trial to draw closer to our Father.”
Fast forward many long years that seemed to stretch far longer than 365 days, past dark days of depression, and now I sit here: in a pew, with a leadership calling, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things; the same things that someone with a “normal” childhood would say. Until someone gets too close and hints at my secret by pointing out a mistake or flaw. Then I feel ALL wrong. The secret that I talked myself out of rushes back as their critical words pull me back 35 years. I feel like a helpless child again. I am not a helpless child, God has told me so.
“Within each of us lie the latent seeds of godliness that can be given flower and fruition by His blessing and by following the path of strict obedience shown to us by Jesus.”
Temptation tells me that this flaw is evidence of my wholesale corruption which they will use to bludgeon me. I become a wounded animal, my fight or flight instinct takes over. There is nowhere to flee; this is my home, my ward, where I go for connection to God. So the other option is fight, except that God has told me not to fight, to turn the other cheek.
“The purpose of all that the Father has revealed, commanded, and initiated for the inhabitants of earth is to help us come to know Him, emulate Him, and become like Him so we can return to His holy presence. “
I can’t fight my attacker so I fight myself. I fight that old instinct telling me that I am a deep ball of ugly on the inside. This instinct never seems to die, only hibernates.
On the worst days I secretly practice a kind of monastic masochism. I get up in the painfully early hours to exercise until my body twitches with fatigue. I bite my fingernails to hold in the attacking words that would spill from my mouth in speech and fingers in writing. In the shower I turn the water hot until it stings to pull myself from the battle inside to the wonder of earth outside. I eat and drink things that are not healthy but taste good so I will feel something good. I don’t know when this latest round of attacks will be over until I wake up one morning refreshed, instead of wracked by dramatic dreams and a pounding headache.
Yesterday in an effort to calm my fighting instincts I talked to an old wise man. After briefly describing the situation I said, “I feel like I’m being pecked to death.”
He said, “You know, when a chicken is sick and the other chickens realize it they peck it to death. It’s instinct, they can’t help it.”
I feel like I’m being attacked because I am. Yet, because of that little light I know that I am no animal.
“Some build their sense of personal worth by comparing themselves to others. That approach can lead to feelings of inadequacy or superiority. It is preferable to look directly to our Father for our sense of self-worth.”
I connect with my brothers and sisters who have the same war raging inside. We sick chickens stand side by side in instability, leaning against each other to hold ourselves up. This is why I subconsciously seek them out, we understand each other.
It feels as if this animal instinct will never be fully severed from me in this life because of the physical distance from my Heavenly Father. I hope it is one of the things that dies with this mortal body and will not resurrect with my perfected body, when I can be with God because through Christ I will have been made clean to enter His presence. Until then I keep nursing my wounds, because even when the ones inflicted by others heal, I continue to fight myself.
“[The] social challenges of our day make it harder for those who suffer them to comprehend, hope for, and have faith in a righteous, loving, and caring Father. Just as the Father seeks to help us to know Him, the adversary uses every means possible to come between the Father and us. Fortunately, there is no power, sin, or condition that can keep us from the love of the Father (see Romans 8:38–39). Because God loved us first, we can come to know Him and love Him (see 1 John 4:16, 19).”