A Non-Cookie-Cutter Life
I have been thinking a great deal about my reality. Is it anywhere close to “the ideal”? No way…no how. And, sometimes it is depressing. Sometimes it is frustrating. And, sometimes…I really wish the ideal was woven more conspicuously throughout my reality. At moments, I have even wished that my life could be a little more “cookie cutter”. Of course I could sit around and pronounce a bunch of “woe is me” statements and focus intently on all the ways life has failed me. But guess what? Life is too short. There is too much to enjoy in life. Sure, life is much different than I planned and anticipated, but the difference has tutored and strengthened me. The difference has shaped me into something different than I planned…something even better than I planned. I have found joy and great blessings in my non-cookie-cutter life, and, I celebrate it.
One of my favorite quotes, which I know I have shared before, has been on my mind the past few weeks as I have talked about non-cookie-cutter lives with a dear friend. So, I share it with you…(it is long, but worth every word!!)
“Even within the Church are certain brothers and sisters who might be considered ‘different’ and who especially need our love and understanding. Their need for love and understanding stems in part from a culture that has developed as we have strived to live according to God’s plan for us. Like all cultures, the culture arising from our efforts to live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ includes certain expectations and morally binding customs. Marriage and family are highly valued, for instance, and fathers and mothers have divinely appointed roles to fulfill. Children and youth are encouraged to live by certain standards and walk prescribed paths to achieve certain educational and spiritual goals.
“The desired outcomes of a gospel-centered life are held up as ideals for which we are all encouraged to strive. Although such ideals are doctrinally based and represent desirable objectives in our quest for eternal life, they can sometimes become sources of disappointment and pain for those whose lives may vary from the ideal.
“Discomfort and unfulfilled expectations may exist, for example, for a divorced Church member, for a person still single though of marriageable age, for a person struggling with bouts of depression or an eating disorder, or for the parents of a wayward child. Other Church members who may feel culturally conspicuous are those in a racial minority, those struggling with feelings of same-gender attraction, or young men who, for whatever reason, choose not to serve a mission at the usual age. Members who repent and whose transgressions require formal and thus more public Church discipline also often find their social interaction in the Church to be quite awkward.
“Even when they are worthy, members whose lives don’t fit the ideal and thus are considered different often feel inferior and guilty. These feelings are heightened when we as their brothers and sisters fail to be as thoughtful and sensitive toward them as we ought to be. Consider, for instance, the unintended impact on a childless married couple when a member of the ward asks them when they are going to have children, not realizing that they have wanted to have children for a long time but have been unable to do so.
“As we work to resolve these challenging situations, it is important to recognize that the solution isn’t to eliminate or even lower the level of the ideal. Prophets and apostles have always had the duty to teach and encourage us to strive for the ideal. It was what the Savior did. His injunction was “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48), not just ‘Have a good day.'” (Marlin K. Jensen, “Those Who Are Different,” Ensign, Aug 2010, 44–46).
The ideal is wonderful and truly essential.
But, reality is an okay place to be.