While sitting in sacrament meeting today singing, “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown”, I had an epiphany. It was all clear to me–I could finally see the connection between Angry Birds and the Gospel. Who says sacrament meeting isn’t inspirational?
Before I explain, let me step back and give some necessary background about my faith transition. I have written about this before, but the past couple of years have been difficult as I’ve processed my changing beliefs and sought for a new place within my faith community.
One of the hardest things has been coming face-to-face with the reality that some of the things I believed sincerely and deeply for almost 40 years are things that I cannot believe anymore. In particular, I cannot believe those teachings that subordinate women and exclude gays, that create privilege for some and second-class status for others based only on their anatomy or sexual identity. The most intimate part of my conscience tells me that such teachings are not heavenly and would not be promoted by a god that I would be willing to worship.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this cognitive dissonance–believing in a church and gospel while disbelieving some of its core teachings and practices–led me to reevaluate all my beliefs, including the most fundamental–beliefs in God, in Jesus Christ, in life after death, in Joseph as a prophet. If my leaders could be wrong about some things, what else were they wrong about? How could I know what to believe?
My decades-old infrastructure of belief that had served me well and was closely associated with powerful, uplifting spiritual promptings, came tumbling down and I was compelled to start from scratch, picking up the pieces where I could, casting about for new pieces where I must, trying to build something beautiful and valuable, hopeful yet unsure whether it would leave me Mormon, uncertain if I would remain a legitimate member of the community still able to claim my religious heritage.
I am happy to say that more than two years later I have come to a peaceful place, where I am comfortable with my revised beliefs and confident in my place within Mormonism. Although I know this is not the case for some, for me that place is still within the Church.
But it is not easy. I miss the comfort of “knowing”. I miss the supreme confidence of years gone by, when I was sure that God was out there and Christ was my savior and that soon enough we would all be reunited. Now I am left only with belief, but I think I understand better today why I still believe, and it has to do with something I learned from Angry Birds.
You see, although I am not an expert on Angry Birds, I’ve learned much by osmosis, watching my four year-old twins obsessively play on my wife’s phone. I am deeply impressed by Bomb, the black bird who seems to be able to blow almost anything up–glass, wood, blocks, stalactites–sending a shock wave through the entire angry birdscape.
A few minutes after singing the hymn today I started to think of Bomb (very spiritual, I know–amazing that they let me teach seminary). You see, my life is a lot like the piggie fortresses–I hide inside, protecting myself, safeguarding my vulnerabilities from outside influences, proud of my learning and knowledge and degrees and accomplishments and rationality, sure that my reason can explain and predict all that I face in life, even the irrational Mormon beliefs. The red and blue and yellow birds of conventional religious belief I shuck off, my fortress impervious to their influence.
Then Bomb drops in and explodes my pride, takes apart my self-confident assumptions, sends a penetrating shock wave through my soul that makes me realize that reason is not all, but rather that the mysteries, the beliefs that I cannot explain or justify but that move my soul and make my spirit sing and carry me off on the wings of hope–these are every bit as real as the rational, logical framework that I construct to navigate through life.
And who or what is Bomb? For me it is the realization–one I cannot prove or fully comprehend–that a god came down to seek after me, that a savior valued me enough to not leave me here lost and alone, but endured all that he might clasp me, the prodigal son, in his embrace. This is the story of the hymn:
No creature is so lowly, No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy And thru thy love is saved.
What praises can we offer, To thank thee Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer; in our place thou didst die.
As Lynnette so beautifully wrote:
…because only one who is willing to enter the darkness with us, to come where we are, has the power to bring us back. Christ does not keep a safe distance and shout enthusiastic encouragement. Instead he follows us into the abyss of sin and despair and grief, and in the process he is as deeply wounded as we are–and worse–by all the jagged edges of life.
…how can I resist such a love, one which risks and endures all in an attempt to pierce my rebellious and hardened heart?
I do not understand it, I have no rational explanation for it, but the atonement of Jesus Christ moves me, transforming my soul with its irrational power, its grace and mercy remaking me, I pray, in the image of my maker.
And I believe.