The weekend of the 12th, our family went to Utah. I had a couple of conferences to attend for the non-profit I’m working with, and it was the beginning of the kids’ Spring Break. We stayed with my brother, Mike, and his wife, Brittany, and their two awesome pups. I think we were almost more excited to see the pups! We love Rari and Kaci.
Here’s a “painting” my brother, Steve, sent me. We look kinda rich, right? Like the kind of people who hold lap dogs and sit for paintings.
As we rolled into Salt Lake on Friday evening, Mike and Brittany fed us bok choy and chicken and rice noodles and peanut sauce. We were in heaven, and we didn’t think it could get any better… but then they took us out for gelato. So good!
Meanwhile, Danny and I were scribbling notes down so fast our hands were cramping. My handwriting muscles are WAY out of shape! My typing muscles are in fine form though…
We atteneded Utah Coalition Against Pornography and as I tweeted and instagrammed through it, I absorbed the info like a sponge. Danny went with me to a class on teaching kids about “all this stuff” which is what we like to say when we talk about it.
All this stuff.
It just sounds better than all the other words.
But the lady teaching the class didn’t mind the other words. She used them ALL. Danny and I squirmed in our seats. It was really hard to sit through. I left the class feeling like maybe I should have taken it BEFORE I had kids so that I would have been wise enough to know that I SHOULDN’T HAVE KIDS IN THIS WORLD.
Irrational, I know. Feelings aren’t reality, true. But feelings ARE REAL. Grey area for me sometimes -it was that day.
One thing stood out though -one common theme that went through the entire conference for me: we are drawn to things that aren’t always good for us, and that means we’re working just like we were built to.
Let me explain:
In another class, a man who had struggled with addiction since childhood and was now over 10 years into recovery said this, “I knew what I saw [pornography] was bad. I knew that in my mind. But I liked what I saw. So I decided that because I liked a bad thing, I must be bad.”
That logic is so familiar to me!
“Gosh, I just ate that entire bag of Cadburry mini-eggs. That was a bad choice. But I liked it. I suck.”
I mulled over this thought and talked it over with my husband whenever we had a minute, which was rare.
Tuesday morning, Lacy went with me on my morning walk and I decided to chance the topic with her.
“Lacy, do you know what a soul is?”
“My spirit, right?”
“Partly right, yeah! We are taught in church that the soul is actually the combination of our BODY and OUR SPIRIT.” I brought my two fists together to illustrate.
I continued on, “Where did our body come from?”
“Here?” her pretty eyes squinted up at me.
“Yeah, our bodies came from the earth. From down here. And they LOVE everything that comes from down here… they love too much chocolate…”
“YES!” she cheered.
“… and they love too much TV, they love swearing… you like that, right?”
“Well… yeah, but it makes me feel bad.”
“Right! So what does that mean? You feel bad about it, so does that mean YOU are bad?”
“I don’t think so. But I FEEL bad… and I feel like I am bad for doing it.”
***Her swearing stories are just about the cutest in existence, by the way. One goes like, “I heard a Mom on TV say, “DAMMIT!” and I hid in your room and just said it like her and felt bad so I repented right away.”***
“Right, so if our bodies come from the earth, where do our Spirits come from?”
“And they love everything that feels like heaven: love, hugs, service, flowers, nature… and so our souls are made halfway of earth-things and halfway of heaven-things. Souls are usually in harmony. Do you know what harmony is?”
“Like in music when you play two different parts, but they go together even though they are different?” she asked.
“Yeah, just like that,” I nodded, “Sometimes things come up, like swearing, and our BODY likes it but our soul is offended… so there’s part of us that goes, ‘ooh, I like that’ and another part of us that goes, ‘I AM OFFENDED’. And our soul stops being in harmony and starts being at war.” I punched my fists together, “there’s lots of stuff that does this to us.”
“Like too much chocolate,” she smiled.
“Yeah, and seeing stuff in movies… pornography does that too. There’s a part of us that is wired to LIKE it. So when you see it and your body likes it, that doesn’t mean you’re bad. Actually it means your body is working right.”
“That makes sense,” she said.
“The other part of us kicks in too… it says, ‘this isn’t good for us!’ and that’s good too! It means your SPIRIT is working right. So then we want to get our body and spirit back in harmony instead of being at war. Any ideas about how to get the harmony back? It’s probably different for everyone…”
“Like good music and prayer? Does it always have to be spiritual?”
We talked about how for some people it might be a good run, some might camp or fish, some might clean, some might play piano or cook or paint or nap. The only common “harmony getter” I could think of was The Atonement.
The Atonement is The Great Equalizer -Christ died to redeem THE SOULS of man, to physically restore our bodies and spiritually restore our spirits. He suffered body and spirit, meaning his suffering was SOUL SUFFERING. He died for the rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate, the tall, the small… for ALL.
I can’t understand the Atonement fully, but I appreciate the opportunity to talk it over with Lacy. I appreciate the way discussion opens my eyes, heart and mind for MORE insight.
It seems like each day is a battle ground, testing ground for my soul. Each decision I make seems to carry tactical weight.
This morning, I had a friend say that the word “sin” comes from an archery term meaning, “missing the mark.” I love that. When I eat the bag of chocolates and my spirit turns on my body, it feels just like that. My body’s appetite took over with little regard for my spirit. OF COURSE my spirit is kicking back. I missed the Harmony Mark. Does that mean I suck? No.
Though eating a bag of chocolates can be kind of a light-hearted example, I think it illustrates what I’m driving at. My appetite for chocolate isn’t what I thought it was. I thought it was THE THING keeping me from God, but as it turns out, it is the thing that BINDS me to God because I need Him!
Were it not for my weaknesses, I wouldn’t need God or Christ’s Atonement.
But I am weak, blessedly weak. I find myself walking a wobbly line, each day trying to find harmony in the present moment.
It is really hard, and you know what? When I focus on THAT, it becomes impossible to find harmony. When I focus on THE BIG PICTURE: the past and future, I lose my balance and fall into a paralyzing numbness characterized by Netflix binges and empty packets of processed food on my laundry-strewn carpet. The Atonement covers Numb Days too. But when I give my past to Christ, give others’ pasts to Christ, give the future to Christ, give others’ futures to Christ and then I hold my empty hands out to God and ask, “What do I fill this with?” The answer is usually something right in front of me… sun, giggles, lunch, a batch of dishes. The PRESENT is God’s present to me. It is void of anxiety and filled to the brim with opportunities to discover gratitude.
A few weeks ago, I was blow drying Alice’s hair at her request and I was struck at how much she loved it. The warm air next to her little body put her in a cute little euphoric standing coma. When was the last time I stopped to enjoy the warmth of my blow dryer? I spend my time frustrated with how long it takes, usually longing for my hair to be different: fuller, curlier, shorter, longer… But in that moment, Alice was relaxed and grateful and fulfilled. She felt and exuded harmony.
After the Saturday conferences where other people were honest about their own struggles for harmonious balance, I felt something *click* and life has carried substantially less self-judgement since then which means there’s a lot less judgement toward others as well.
It’s a SOUL thing. It’s the marriage of two beings inside of me who are different but have the same goal in mind -they need to be equally yoked. The body without the spirit would cease to be living. The spirit without the body wouldn’t have life either. I’ve been absolutely hating my body, I think, in deeper ways than I realized.