Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A new man

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day!
Earth's joy grow dim – her glories melt away.
Change and decay in all around I see -
O, thou who changest not – abide with me!
(“Abide with me!” Hymns no. 166, also the concluding quote)

While reading some of my sociological texts, I came across a description of some of the seeming paradoxes of our lives; the need for intimacy in an impersonal world; the trust of unknown strangers in lieu of personal relationships with each of the thousands of individuals who impact our lives. As I was reading, the author identified one of my heart's struggles:

“Our craving for 'deep' and 'wholesome' personal relationships grows in intensity the wider and less penetrable is the network of impersonal dependencies in which we are entangled. ... Everywhere I feel that only a small section of my self is present. I must constantly watch myself not to allow the rest of my self to interfere, as its other aspects are irrelevant and unwelcome in this particular context. And thus nowhere do I truly feel myself; nowhere am I fully at home. All in all, I begin to feel like a collection of the many different roles I play, each one among different people and in a different place. Is there something to connect them? Who am I in the end – the true, real 'I'?” (Bauman, Thinking Sociologically, 99 “Gift and Exchange”).

Bauman was describing the different people we are in the office, in the store, and at a political rally, but I find it describes my personal social movements. I recently told a friend surprised by my behavior that I am “multifaceted;” I ought to have uttered that statement with shame. It is unfortunately true - I act differently around different groups of people. My character varies based on my circumstance. I yearn for wholeness, for oneness, for reconciliation with myself; I long for the integrity I lack.

The Gospel answers Bauman's question. I am a son of God with the potential to become like Him. I wish to Heaven that I lived that answer! That I lived like a son of God in every instant! But I am not yet even a man for all seasons, far less a man for each moment. I saw that in a social event with some friends of mine from my old ward: I could see the history of my relationship with them in their eyes, for good and ill, and I felt myself struggling with the echoes of a man who died in Africa and who I cannot and will not revive.

Africa changed everything. It was a purifying fire. In agony, I prayed more earnestly, and was comforted. The residual and continuing effects of that same Spirit bring me closer to reconciliation. I am reminded somewhat of one of my favorite films, a portion of which I have linked to here. Though I fortunately do not carry the burdens of sexual sin implied in the linked video clip, I feel I too am being led to confront the demons in my soul. The translation is poor, but sufficient for this post, I believe.


Thankfully – and blessed be the name of my God for it! - I do know that mercy exists through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that it can be accessed through faith in His power and mercy coupled with sincere repentance.

The Lord promised Saul a new heart. Through the Atonement of Christ, we become a new creature – fitted jointly together, whole. Repentance and and receiving the forgiveness of God brings spiritual healing – again, being made whole. “Behold, He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord remember [his sins] no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-43).

Repentance includes restitution – attempting to right the wrongs we - I - have done, including emotional injuries inflicted out of carelessness, selfishness, or fear. As a disciple of Christ, or as one who would follow Him, I can no longer start new and simply jettison my past lives. To allow Him to heal my heart, I must do my part and apologize to those I have hurt. I must face my shame and in humility apologize to girls I have led on, dated briefly, given false hope, and then dashed. Again, I do not speak here of egregious sexual transgression, but even so, to find peace, I cannot simply move on. I must work while the sun shines, before the night of darkness comes, to right as best I can the poor decisions I have made. “And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 12:24). Though it is painful, this semester's associations seem to give me a chance to apologize, to repent, and to develop a different nature with the Lord's help.

This perhaps seems melodramatic; having not committed “great” crimes, why agonize? But what I am discussing here is the substance of a soul's relation to another, the expression of love or hate in daily circumstance. Lives are made up of exactly the types of patterns I describe, in the daily relationships and interactions that define who we are and what we stand for – “every, every moment” (Oscar Wilde, Our Town).

I need thy presence every passing hour!
What but thy grace can foil the tempters' power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine Lord: abide with me!

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