Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Center of the Universe

When you're single, the subject of dating, or the lack thereof, is the center of your universe. A high percentage, upwards of 80-90%, of your energy, attention, and time goes towards dating when you are not married. I've got a pretty healthy list of different blogs that I subscribe to and a good amount of them belong to my single friends, and so many of the topics are about what's wrong with guys (most personal blogs belong to women), why nobody knows how to date, or not wanting to be defined as being single.

It's kind of a funny time for me (and Amy, probably). We're recently married, and it's as happy as can be, but we're not consumed with talk about any one thing in particular. We don't have kids so we don't gravitate towards those kinds of discussions, but we're also married so there is no concern about our relationship status because it simply is - we are married. That is it. There's no question about our commitment to each other and where we are going in the future.

What strikes me as funny is that being on this side of things, or between things, I've just kind of forgotten how consuming it is to be single. When you're single, you're concerned with where you could move because of the social scene that is available to you. You worry about your roommates and whether they're involved, either with someone, or with the local social scene (ward). You go to activities and parties and gatherings because you want to make friends and be noticed and be impressionable without being overbearing. For the insecure, you make decisions to make you appear favorable because you're compensating for those areas you think you lack. Your conversation revolves either around why you're not dating, what's wrong with the opposite sex, why you're hesitant to commit or why he or she won't commit to you, and you come up with endless amounts of theories and entire methods of analysis and new approaches to philosophy that attempt to coherently and rationally explain everything in its current state. "Why I am single and nothing works out for me." Your prayers plead for opportunities to meet people, to feel safe with someone, and to meet a person with whom you'll finally click and where things will eventually fall into place. Even your family and friends might pray for that too.

It's completely consuming. And then you get married. Then it's just not anymore. You get home and you play a round of 9 holes for your FHE activity and decide that you'll read from Exodus that night. You'll work on your contribution for your mother-in-law's birthday. Or watch TV in bed together. Or plan your next vacation. Or just look forward to the weekend and just hanging out together and with your friends.

It's the most wonderful thing in the world.

Anyway, I read a talk this afternoon that I thought was really insightful. The Uses of Adversity. Here are a few paragraphs:
I commend the gospel with all of its auxiliaries and the temple to you, but I do not want you to believe for one minute that if you keep all the commandments and live as close to the Lord as you can and do everything right and fight off the entire priests quorum one by one and wait chastely for your missionary to return and pay your tithing and attend your meetings, accept calls from the bishop, and have a temple marriage, I do not want you to believe that bad things will not happen to you. And when that happens, I do not want you to say that God was not true. Or, to say, 'They promised me in Primary, they promised me when I was a Mia Maid, they promised me from the pulpit that if I were very, very good, I would be blessed. But the boy I want doesn't know I exist, or the missionary I've waited for and kept chaste so we both could go to the temple turned out to be a flake,' or far worse things than any of the above. Sad things—children who are sick or developmentally handicapped, husbands who are not faithful, illnesses that can cripple, or violence, betrayals, hurts, deaths, losses—when those things happen, do not say God is not keeping his promises to me. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain.

Now, I do not want to suggest for a moment, nor do I believe, that God visits us with all that pain. I think that may occur in individual cases, but I think we fought a war in heaven for the privilege of coming to a place that was unjust. That was the idea of coming to earth—that it was unjust, that there would be pain and grief and sorrow. As Eve so eloquently said, it is better that we should suffer. Now, her perspective may not be shared by all. But, I am persuaded that she had rare insight, more than her husband, into the necessity of pain, although none of us welcome it.

This is the main thrust of this essay:
So I do not want you to think that I believe anything good about pain. I hate pain. I hate injustice. I hate loss. I hate all the things we all hate. None of us love those things. Nor, as I say, do I think God takes pleasure in the pain that comes to us. But, we came to a world where we are not protected from those things. I want to talk to you not in behalf of pain—heaven forbid—nor do I think that all pain is for the best. I'm certain that's not true. I'm certain pain destroys and embitters far more often than it ennobles. I'm sure injustice is destructive of good things in the world far more often than people rise above it. I'm certain that in this unjust awful world, there are far more victims that do not profit from their experience than those who do. So I do not want you to think I'm saying that pain is good for you. Pain is terrible.

I want to talk rather about when pain unbidden and unwanted and unjustly comes—to you or to those that you love or to these eleven-year-old girls as they get along in their lives. I want to discuss how to encounter that pain in such a way that it does not destroy you, how to find profit in that awful and unrewarding experience. I want to share with you some stories, mostly not my own, although I'm in all of them, but the pain is mainly someone else's. Some of the pain is my own. All of it is real, and all of it taught me. What I want is not to lecture to you or to sermonize you, but to share with you some lessons I have learned through pain, my own and others', that are valuable to me and, in the end, to share with you what I think I have learned from those incremental experiences.

If you have 20 or so minutes, I highly recommend you give a good go of it. He gives a great qualified and insightful voice into adversity. It's also very real adversity he speaks of - abuse, tragedy, etc.

In a lot of ways, I think I have been spared a lot of pain in my life. In just about every way I can imagine, I have had a relatively easy go of things. Life for me is not just good, but "great" coupled with every superlative you could ever think of. I have many moments of wonder about why I should be so blessed when others are not, but my hope is that I can lay up in store for those times when the coffers of blessings begin to empty. I think that essay does a lot to help reorient back to that kind of perspective.

I guess I'm linking the topic of dating to adversity because...well, it should be obvious. Dating is a great treatise in adversity.

1 comment:

Marietta said...

i like this post. I am sick of dating and all that that implies. I happened to have read that same article this last week or so, I just love it. We had to read it for school, and I ran across it again and it's message is just amazing. thanks