My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

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Curt Sunshine
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My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Curt Sunshine » 26 Mar 2009, 12:21

I started to share this in a private message, since it is deeply personal for a public post, but it is absolutely central to how I see the LDS Church, so I decided to share it publicly with everyone. It is in response to magicmusician's description of the bricks and the sand in the Church:

I have been married for a little over 22 years to the love of my life - my eternal companion - my split-apart. It literally was love at first sight. I love her with all my heart. We have six beautiful children, and, if I had the opportunity to go back in time and change anything about my life, I would ask one question first:
Would making this change damage my relationship with my sweetheart in any way?
If so, I would not change it. Period.

Having said that, my wife is not an immaculate housekeeper. She knows where everything is, but that's only because she knows the piles that constitute the clutter that is our house. She is a pack rat of the highest order, and with six kids . . . Really, our house is more than cluttered; it is messy. Sometimes I feel like our bedroom is a maze, with walkways created through the stuff she just can't throw or give away. Add to that the fact that she needs to be in control of those things - that she still is learning how to let go and allow others to do some of the housekeeping things that affect her clutter. Sometimes that is frustrating for me, since we are very different in this area, but I bite my tongue and accept it, because living with her is worth everything that otherwise would constitute sand - and because clearing away the sand by myself would hurt her in a very real way. I have done that in the past; I will not do so again. Ever.

There are similar things that she could say about me.

My point: Our bricks are FAR more important to me than our sand.

That's exactly how I feel about the Church. I recognize the sand, but I'm not willing to give up the bricks because of the sand. In fact, I'll stay with it (and her) even if the sand never diminishes, because the bricks I have with it (and her) mean enough to me to endure the sand. I'll keep walking through the little aisles it (and she) has created and be grateful for those aisles (trying to help widen them, but doing so carefully and subtly and never in a harmful way), because they give me the chance to live with the beauty that is inside it (and her) - that constitutes its (and her) core - even though that means I must live amid the messiness that is my church (and our home).

I'm at home in my communal church mess, and I overlook it explicitly because my fellow congregants need to have me overlook it. If they are willing to give me of themselves, I am willing to give them of myself and focus on them - not the less important messiness they leave in their wake.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Brian Johnston
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Brian Johnston » 26 Mar 2009, 14:10

Great example pulled from the realities of life. Thanks for sharing that Ray.

(we have a lot of life experience "stuff" in common btw, i'm sure you already realized that)
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Orson » 27 Mar 2009, 12:25

I like it Ray, thanks for that.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Curt Sunshine » 21 Aug 2009, 21:53

Given how many new people there are since I wrote this in March, and given how many of those new people have commented about their marriages in one way or another, I thought I would bump this post back up toward the top of the active topics list. Totally self-serving, perhaps, but it feels right tonight to do so.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

believeroftruth
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by believeroftruth » 21 Aug 2009, 22:14

Thank you for this Ray. It truly helps to put what is most important into perspective.

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Bill Atkinson
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Bill Atkinson » 23 Aug 2009, 22:01

Thank you Ray and at this point of the night I think you were perfectly right in bumping it up, I would never have found it, there is just too much, heck I have only managed to read through 8 pages of the Joseph Smith material!!!

I will need to process this carefully, messiness can be lived with because of love. Let the love be the determining, dominating, in control emotion and outlook and not the annoyance that the messiness might bring.

I will be thinking on this a lot.
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner

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Heber13
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Heber13 » 25 Sep 2009, 04:55

Ray, your analogy is spot on, and really has a great spirit of love and faith about it. It certainly applies to how I choose to view my church, and how I have worked through issues in my family with my wife ... and really how I navigate through life with demands for careers, friends, family, and other people I come in contact with. It is beyond just looking at the glass half empty or half full...it is accepting nothing in this life is 100% perfect, and that I can learn to love and be happy with imperfect things (including loving myself the way I am).

My wife is not perfect. I hope she never holds me to the standard of being perfect.

The church and its history and its teachings are not perfect. Yes, there may be what I perceive as "sand" in the church. But the church also has those "bricks" that are of such value, I hold on to them with faith they can bless my life and my family's.

I feel it is important in this probationary period for me to learn to love something or someone that is not perfect, yet love it with all my heart, accepting it for what it is, the way it is, with faith it will continue to improve and develop as I dedicate myself to be a part of building up the kingdom of God and building up my marriage.
Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Colossians 3:19
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Curt Sunshine » 02 Jan 2010, 19:56

I have done this once already, but I am bumping this up again - just because the thought hit me totally out of the blue that I should. There was a tangible reason last time; there isn't this time.

I hope the thought was inspiration. If not, oh well.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by LaLaLove » 03 Jan 2010, 22:18

I like this. I wouldn't say the Church is as important as my marriage but the Church, as of right now exists and is needed for my marriage to be equal and open.
I've only been a member for five years so I don't have the "tribe" mentality of .. I've been here for a long time .. I've changed .. It's still mine and I'm staying. I do love the gospel of JC, I do love my DH my MIL and my FIL, who are the only family ties to the Church but I don't personally love the bricks anymore than the bricks that I had previously known about, repentance .. charity .. forgivness .. kindness .. etc .. , in the Church. Right now I've personally felt that the sand, which I would call culture (being my big problem) is covering it's own bricks .. and I'm trying to dig out and dust off the bricks but the bricks keep getting covered back up with sand quicker than I can uncover them .. and it makes me irritated. However somedays they are readily there .. and I am happy to have them.
You have every right to love the bricks .. ! Especially if you worked so hard to keep the sand from hiding them! If it will make me happy someday I wouldn't mind the feeling of bricks over sand. :)

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Heber13
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Re: My Marriage as a Metaphor for My Church

Post by Heber13 » 04 Jan 2010, 12:49

I heard on NPR radio this morning on the way into work, that people who are in relationships are happier than those who are not. Yet studies have shown that people are less happy with their marriage the longer the marriage goes on. However, most trends are that after the kids have left the house, and the couple can focus on their relationship and what makes them happy (like the early dating and honeymoon stage), they find older couples that have focused on their relationship are even happier than younger couples. And so it seems that there are ups and downs in relationships, and different stages.

I find this true in my marriage and also in my relationship to the church.

This section of Ulrich's article from FAIR summarizes the stages I feel I'm going through, and am currently working on stage 4 in both church and my marriage:
http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences ... ience.html
Wendy Ulrich, PhD wrote:"Believest thou...?": Faith, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Psychology of Religious Experience
by Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D
...
These relationships, these pearls of great price, are worth the sacrifices and the disappointments and the askance looks of our friends who wonder what we could be thinking.

And so we say with the father of the lunatic child, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." We recognize that our beliefs matter more than our doubts, though we will have some of both. We recognize the need for commitment despite uncertainty, frustration, and disillusionment. In fact, people who study long-term marriage relationships tell us that they go through four predictable stages that include both high hopes and deep discouragement. Psychologist Allen Bergin proposes that these stages are equally applicable in all long-term, committed relationships, including relationships with children, parents, the Church, and God.

The first of these stages is a honeymoon stage of blinding idealism, in which we delight in our new partner and are sure that the problems faced by other couples, other parents, other believers will not bother us. We are in love, full of hope, enthusiastic about our new relationship. ... We finally know how to be in a relationship, or how to get answers to prayers, or how to be part of a community. We are happy, sure that little problems that come up will be readily resolved. This stage lasts weeks and sometimes years, but it intermittently gives way to the second stage of committed relationships, the power struggle.

As the power struggle gradually takes over more and more of the relationship we begin to wrestle for control. We may try any of a number of old or new tactics to try to coerce, cajole, reason, manipulate, blackmail, convince, bribe, punish, or flatter our partner in the relationship into changing to give us what we want, whether what we want is a spouse who does the laundry or a God who explains Himself to our satisfaction. ... We want the world back the way it was when we were innocent and full of hope and before we had discovered the snakes in the grass, but He evicts us from the garden and tells us to keep walking. ... We are sure that if we could just change them we could get things back to the honeymoon, not realizing that this is not only impossible, but unhelpful.

The third stage of committed relationships, which usually comes after years of vacillating between lingering idealism and the increasing futility of the power struggle, is withdrawal. At this stage we essentially give up, although we may not leave. We resign ourselves to not really getting what we want, not really changing the other party, and not really being happy. We are tired of fighting, but we can't recoup our lost idealism. ... This is a risky stage, a stage when some people decide there is nothing to hold onto because they are no longer in love (stage 1) and no longer have hope for change (stage 2). But as we continue to work on ourselves, see reality more clearly, and resolve our own issues we have a chance of moving toward stage 4.

The fourth and final stage of committed relationships is about renewal. Not exactly a renewal of the honeymoon, but a more mature, realistic, and truly loving renewal. We come to accept our spouse or our parents or the Church, and we come to accept ourselves. We allow God to run the universe, and we become more content to let go of things we cannot change. A deeper, more mature love begins to emerge, with fewer power struggles and less disengagement. We do not need to see all the answers, and we do not need perfection by our standards in order to not be embarrassed or ashamed of our Church, our partner, or our God. We reinvest in the relationship, not because we have decided to risk yet one more time that we will not get hurt only to have the rug pulled out yet one more time from under us, but because we have learned that hurt can be survived, that this is a risk worth taking, and that it does not mean we cannot be happy or that we are irrational suckers or that we are doomed to failure because we take another chance on trust or because we fail or are failed again. We see ourselves and our partner more realistically, and we do not run from either vision. We recognize that we can be hurt by being betrayed or we can be hurt by not trusting, but we don't get the no-hurt choice because there isn't one, at least not until we simply choose not to read betrayal into every ecclesiastical failure, or abandonment into every unanswered prayer.
I am re-engaging at church...but I am not trying to go back to my stage 1 faith as Bergen and Ulrich desribe it (or Fowler's stage 3 faith).

I appreciate Ray's description of comparing my church and my marriage. It is very fitting.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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