I have a seemingly insignificant memory from my early teenage years of walking through the grocery store and spying the front cover of TEEN magazine with Lindsay Lohan on the front cover. I remember the feeling of inferiority that followed and the inner monologue that recognized her success as an actress and pop icon vs my inevitable life of averageness. I felt small. I remember being rescued almost immediately by the reminder that I was a Mormon. I was born into the one true church, of goodly parents and even more than this, I had been born in the latter days. She was not a Mormon. There…all better. The wound had been swaddled and I felt sufficiently “more special” than she. Although I didn’t actually feel “better” than the cute Lindsay Lohan of the 90’s I had the mysterious reassurance of my faith that told me I was important, different and big even. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t make sense of it with my worldly accomplishments (I didn’t have many). In my soul my Heavenly Father saw something strong and special. In time the rest of the world would recognize it as well.
This is one of those memories that seem odd to have been kept while others we wish we could remember are tossed aside. And yet I think about it from time to time these days, these days that I no longer have the same childhood faith. I struggle periodically with the melancholy realization that I’m not “special” as I had once believed. I’d grown accustomed to feeling a part of the ultimate important thing and I was good at it. I could read my scriptures every day, I could pray, I could talk about my faith, and I could teach and lead a group of youth or primary aged children and love the people I served. It’s taking some time to find my niche now that I can no longer contribute in the same way. Sometimes when I see people, especially women, receiving accolades, press or a line of followers who want to hear what she has to say it bares the same sting from my childhood but the reassurance of an all important faith doesn’t rescue me anymore, and this takes some getting used to when you’ve grow accustomed to a worldview that aggrandizes your heavenly popularity. As has been pointed out before, the “one and only true church” idea is likely the churches number one missionary tool. It feels really nice.
All that being said there’s a real beauty to knowing that you’re on equal plane with every human being you come in contact with. A “we’re all in this together” kind of compassion grows from it. In the beginning of my transformation into a person with more of a Universalist spiritual worldview I felt an almost tangible unity with the world in general. I continue to feel a greater sense of global consciousness, a greater curiosity at any and every piece of truth I can get my hands on and a sense of wonder at all that has been and will be in a much more down to earth way than before. My sense of community has grown from one with a very small percentage of the human population to one with almost global capacity. Don’t get me wrong. I have my comfort zone with white, middle class Americans (darnit;) but deep down inside I feel that in the end we’re all alike, human beings feeling the same emotions, dealing with very similar problems trying to make it in what sometimes feels like a very lonely world and other times an exhilarating one. I try to remind myself of that when I am in a foreign or uncomfortable social situation. “She’s so much like me, “ I remind myself, “she’s just like me.” There’s such a peace and a wholeness that comes from this understanding, a peace that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of “special”.
It’s hard to get your bearings in a meandering garden when you’re used to a paved way and a big group to travel the road with. It takes time and I don’t think we ever really conquer any mountains that we never have to climb again. I think there will always be these same hills that we travel over, hills of inferiority, or meandering paths with some far too shady places leading us on a search for our place in the world. But in the end I am thankful for the view that comes around every turn that I choose for myself, even if some of them are mistakes. And even though, at times, I may long for the all too familiar feeling of the paved road beneath my feet and the clear view of the straight and narrow road ahead of me, I am grateful to know the feeling of the soft grass between my toes.