Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Finding

Monday, February 5, 2018

Part 4 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.
Read Part 2, "Losing" here.
Read Part 3, "Seeking" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

Answers came. They were slow and often fine as the morning mist that rolls over land by the sea; intangible as breath.

But they were real. I could taste their salt.

I needed to find my Heavenly Mother. I felt strongly that if I knew her, if I could see her, I could peacefully allay the echoes of patriarchy I heard within in the walls of church. I sought her out for months, searching at length for any mention of her. It did not matter to me if the source was LDS or not, I absorbed every truth I could find, knowing eventually they would all combine into a singular answer. I sought earnestly, asking a bold thing:

"Mother, let me see your face."

I do not subscribe to the wide-spread idea that Heavenly mother is secretly sacred - that Heavenly Father keeps her hidden away to protect her. I believe she is his equal in every way. She loves and understands the humanity of her children to the depths the Father does, and therefore can withstand any offense mortals can cause; just as mortal mothers understand the tantrums and unregulated passions of their children. I knew she was present. I knew I could find her. I simply needed to know where and what to look for.

In this podcast episode featuring Rachel Hunt Steenblik, I saw her. 

These are scriptural symbols and imagery of Divine Mother Steenblik mentions in the podcast:
  • Wisdom, capitalized or referred to as female 
  • mountains
  • trees
  • birds (specifically doves)
  • oil
  • tree of life
  • menorah
  • Ruah (a Hebrew word meaning wind or spirit)
  • mother bear

There are other symbols I personally feel she claims, such as:
  • Earth and soil
  • bodies of water, especially oceans and rivers
  • moon
  • seeds and grain

Seeing her changed everything for me.

Reading the scriptures felt more like a treasure hunt instead of trauma. I saw that Mother had a voice and she speaks, just differently than I was accustomed to. Once I learned to tune in to her frequency, I rested in waves of comfort. She taught me bravery, courage, and strength. She helped me use my voice again after years of fearful silence.

Shortly after finding Heavenly Mother, I was asked by my Relief Society president to write a poem/spoken word piece for our Christmas activity. I struggled for words for close to a month, until I was awoken from a deep sleep one December night with words that burned to be written. The exact words are found in my piece, "Who Am I?". It is comprised entirely of inspiration straight from my Divine Mother. The most potent and powerful ideas and rhythms of that piece are not mine to claim; they came from heaven. As I presented that piece that night of the Christmas party and again for two seminary classes a week later, I felt the familiar warmth of a mother's hug around me. It felt like coming home.

In the weeks following, I felt at odds with seemingly two parts of myself: a soul that knew my Mother in the framework of the LDS church, and a heart purposed with a love that looked like equality and democracy to a society in the clutches of hierarchy. Again, I found heaviness and sorrow in my spirituality. I felt I could not keep both. Staying and leaving each brought their own consequences and loss.

Hints of hope were given. 

As I read a book a friend had given me titled the Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan. Gilligan offered me a new framework of connection. Before reading her work, I thought connection was a one-time event. One either had achieved connection or they had not. But Gilligan presented connection as a continuing process of "finding, losing, and finding again." Suddenly, my experience of gaining a testimony and losing it *again* felt less like a failure and more like a normal part of spirituality. I often find and lose my connection with God, but the quality of my relationship is forged by efforts to find again. I lost sight of my Heavenly Mother but through effort, I found her again. Church and I broke ties for a time but with this understanding, losing connection with my religion no longer felt like a death sentence. I was hopeful.

In this podcast episode it was presented that many women of my generation are leaving the LDS church because of issues of equality. It was comforting to hear that because for once I did not feel completely crazy and alone in seeing what I saw. It was said that this loss of women is indeed a loss because their voices and ideas are needed. Women who leave are taking change with them. I knew then that if I left, than I would lose the ability to enact change in my spiritual framework. Hearing this, I made my choice. I would stay because church needed me just as much as I needed the gospel it provides.

I turned to my husband again for insight.
"What does working together look like?" I asked.
"Ah, I see you're asking new questions!", he said with a smile and a wink. He can't help his teasing nature.
"Yeah, yeah," I said, "but I need different ones now."

We talked more
and I began asking again:

How do I stay but not hurt myself and others?
What is my purpose right now?
How do I keep my passions in balance with my purpose?

and this time, 
the answers came clear and glittering as sunlight on a rippling lake surface.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.