I recently finished reading a book. A very good book.  The book was one I have been anxiously waiting to read.  I picked up and devoured Kelle Hampton’s Bloom.

It is a book that will be given as a gift to many. It is a book that will adorn my bookshelf saved for those especially memorable reads. It will be one that I reread and eventually mark. It was everything I had hoped for when I plucked it off the shelf at Target…it was probably more.

I will most likely blog about a lot of thoughts that came to me while reading this book. The first one I want to start with is Kelle’s discussion of Church versus God and how Church has good intentions but often misses the mark. Church often misses God and everything that accompanies God: goodness, forgiveness, love, humility, etc.

As an avid church goer (with a strong belief in attending church regularly no matter where you go) this caused me to pause. {I think this is a good thing. I make no apologies that there are times I reevaluate where my personal innate beliefs sit in conjunction with the religion I practice. I am honest and I am always learning. Some may see this as weak in my faith, but that’s not really anyone else’s worry.}

I spent several days pondering those statements. It may come as a surprise to  many, but I agree with Kelle. I am a member of  a Church, I attend church weekly, I hold a calling (job) in my ward, I pay tithing, I do a lot of things that I am taught and believe are right. But I do agree…Church is people and God is God and there’s really no competition. God wins. Hands down. Always.

People are fallible and imperfect. All people. Including President Monson, the Pope,  Mother Teresa, and Ghandi. All people are fallible no matter how good they are or what incredible leaders they make.

I think sometimes those of us who belong to a church and are taught to adhere to a set of standards often overlook the person behind the standards (God) and instead focus on living the standards. I know I have.

I know that the time in my life that I feel I sinned the most deeply, was one of the worst experiences in my life. I wouldn’t wish that feeling upon anyone. The thing was, I fell from a set of standards. In that, though, I felt like I had let my Heavenly Father down. I felt like He was upset with me. I guess I never really thought this through all the way, but in some ways I felt that He loved me less. Less than someone who didn’t make such massive mistakes. Someone who said what they believed and lived it all.the.time.

Sin was incredibly painful because I missed the mark. My church never taught me that when you sin Heavenly Father loves you less. NEVER! But because I was so focused on a set of standards, I wasn’t really paying attention to what really matters. I think it’s something that can happen to any of us or has happened to all of us.  Until recently, I didn’t choose to focus on my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love for me. I focused on living the “right way.”

While I do believe there are fundamental rights and wrongs the “right way’ to live is different for everyone. The important thing to remember is that Heavenly Father loves us.

Living a life of obedience to a set of principles does not teach me that Heavenly Father loves me. It does not make Him love me any more than he loves Adolf Hitler. I know this from the bottom of my heart. I accept it and understand it more now, today, than I ever did before.

{Source}

So why obey? If He loves us all anyway no matter what, why follow a set of standards? Why live a life of obedience? Why raise my kids that way? Why?

Because I have learned a whole heck of a lot through obedience:

1. I’ve learned that it’s not about Him loving me, it’s about me loving Him. I learn to love Him by getting to know Him. My church focuses primarily on living a Christ-like life through service. I cannot tell you how many times we are asked to serve (whether in our callings, at the orchard, cleaning the building, attending the temple, helping someone move, yard work, the cannery, visiting/home teaching, and the list goes on). And that’s just being asked to serve. We are instructed to be constantly serving inside our families first and foremost and then focusing on those around us. One of the reasons young men are advised to serve missions at 19 for two years is to teach them to serve and love others. Service. Service. Service. I will admit, I cringe when this topic comes up, as it frequently does. But the primary goal? To help us become people who Heavenly Father needs us to be. To help each other and love each other, to serve as His hands–there are lots of people in this world…He needs us to help him. You know those you work with, right? So if we are serving the Master, we come to know him. Obedience to a set of standards helps me to become the person I want to be through getting to know The Ultimate Exemplar.

2. I learn to love myself. While serving others and creating discipline in areas of weakness in myself, I learn to understand more about what Heavenly Father has in store for me. I begin to see myself in His eyes (oh how I wish this happened more frequently than it does) but those little glimpses teach me so much about me. They teach me about my potential. I am more clearly able to recognize who I am and love that person.

3. I learn to love others and I learn compassion. By getting to know others through acts of service, you also start to see them through His eyes. You learn to love them. You learn compassion. While some people it seems just have this gift, others don’t. I think obedience is a way to work together to share our strengths and weaknesses and help build each other up.

4. I learn strength and discipline. Oh, how I love to be home at night with my husband. Preferably in my pj’s at an early hour devouring our latest show accompanied with a bowl of banana soft-serve. It is my favorite thing EVER! But I don’t learn from that. (I’m a big believer that a happy home life is invaluable and I will NOT give that up, but yes…I should spend time visiting people in my ward, making dinner for someone who needs it, and spending time at the church orchard, too).  And while trials come our way and teach us whether we are wanting to learn or not, obedience continues to teach and refine us whether we are happy or sad. Whether our lives are going swimmingly or we’re in the depths of despair. Obedience gives us a chance to constantly strengthen our character and chisel away at weakness no matter what.

5. I gain a better perspective of the big picture. When you are changing your will to God’s will, you see the bigger picture. You realize that He is, in fact, molding you into something more and it makes “rules” to follow seem less restrictive and more supportive. You see them as something that can build not break a person. You recognize the benefits from living your life in tune with a higher law.

I don’t feel like people who live their lives differently are not learning these things. That’s not what I’m saying. There’s a lot about God and Church that I don’t understand. A lot. But I do know that for me, all I need to worry about is me. Why I obey. Not whether or not someone else is. Not whether or not God loves me (because that’s a given, regardless of my choices).

Through pondering those thoughts on God versus Church there’s so much I agree with Kelle about that it really spent my mind spiraling. But that’s good, I’ve learned a little more about myself through the soul-searching I’ve done in trying to get my head wrapped around the “why” of church for me. I do have a reason for belonging to a church. Though I don’t always understand (or yes, honestly, agree with everything) I have a deep-rooted testimony of the fundamentals and I know that by living a life of obedience, I am happier because I am constantly learning some of the most important lessons. It works for me and it works very well.

I walked away with this epiphany just so much more aware of Heavenly Father’s love. Realizing that I dont’ live a life of obedience to gain His approval or love, but rather to allow Him to shape me into the best version of myself. There is no one else who can do it but Him.

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