03095_000_020We’re learning to build bridges between that celestial glimpse and the rocky realities.
After enjoying the peace, the tranquility, and the great beauty of the temple, we felt sure that nothing could ever disrupt the serenity of our lives. Particularly memorable is the mental picture of our four children, clothed spotlessly in white, as they entered the room where they would be sealed to us for all eternity.
Though we knew we could not remain forever in the temple, we left with a very strong desire to return and arranged for two more visits within the next forty days. Each visit was beautiful. Each time we simply did not want to leave.
But the world has a way of intruding, and as the days fled past, our feet were once more plodding earthly paths and our brief contact with heaven was just a memory.
Suddenly my husband and I were in an argument, the cause so trivial and unimportant it is hardly worth remembering. But all at once I felt trapped, locked in, and completely unsure of myself. Why? After tempers had cooled, both my husband and I realized the argument was symptomatic of something far more important than the triviality, and we talked it out. We concluded the problem involved several factors:
1. After the high level of spirituality we had achieved there was a natural letdown which could be compared to the very real “blues” a woman often experiences after the birth of a child. There was a sudden void when our goal of fifteen years had been achieved. Deep spiritual experiences such as our visits to the temple, with the following relaxing of tension, seemed to play havoc with my emotional and spiritual equilibrium.
2. For years before his conversion, I had had the support and help of my husband not only with my own Church work but with the household as well. He was never above lending a hand with cooking and baking, or even heavy scrubbing and window cleaning, and he was frequently our babysitter. But now Jim was a very conscientious home teacher, a Sunday School teacher, and then a Scoutmaster, a member of the Ward Finance Committee, and actively engaged in building fund projects. The free time he had had to help me was now more than filled by his commitments to the Church. I also had Church work to do in addition to keeping up the home. Jim needed help in locating scriptures, having special handouts typed for his Sunday School class, and general support with his growing testimony.
3. Financially we were committed to a heavy building fund assessment, tithing, ward budget and welfare obligations, and a large chunk for accumulation of food storage. The budget had been stretched to near the breaking point. The children’s music lessons had to be cut from weekly to twice monthly. We were thrown back ten years to scrimping and scraping and living from paycheck to paycheck.
4. Maritally, Jim and I seemed to be going in different directions. We knew we shared the same goals, but our time together was reduced to a few moments’ chat before bedtime, and we were often too tired for that.
5. I doubted my ability to live all I had promised. The enormity of the task of perfecting myself seemed more than I could handle. Could I ever become selfless enough to earn the celestial kingdom? Would the rest of our lives be a financial struggle? Was it wrong to want time and money for myself? Church meetings became too routine; the speakers often seemed boring and ill-prepared. Enduring to the end loomed as incredible. I had lost all perspective.
Contributing to the partial loss of spirituality was my feeling of giving constantly, with very little coming back. I seemed to be continually giving to the children, my husband, the Church, and home. I was losing my life in service to others all right, but where was the life I was thus supposed to find?
Then came a call from our elders quorum president. He requested a final meeting of our temple preparation group. Four couples had taken the class and we had all been through the temple. But he felt the need for some additional comments. My husband encouraged our attendance, over my objections.
Sensing there were problems developing among the eight of us, he began by recalling his own thoughts and attitudes after his family had been sealed in the temple. He felt lost, floundering—after the temple, what? Where do you go from there? The celestial kingdom is still a long way off. Comments from other class members reinforced his suspicion that several of us were having problems. The spiritual sensitivity of our elders quorum president was marvelous and we listened intently.
Holding up the article, “Accepted of the Lord: The Doctrine of Making Your Calling and Election Sure,” by Roy W. Doxey (Ensign, July 1976, p. 50), he read, “Although the process of obtaining exaltation continues even into the spirit world, the knowledge that one will become exalted … can be certain in this life.”
The realization that there were definite intermediary goals between the temple and the celestial kingdom began to bring things back into perspective. We read the full article and found comfort and assurance. There was no less to do, but knowing others were struggling too and that there were those in our ward who were sensitive to our needs was reassuring. After we identified our problem areas, we knew that our next step was to find solutions and set goals.
Depression. Simple recognition of the factors involved in our period of instability after our sealing in the temple also helped us put things in the proper light. As a woman I could relate to those “after-the-baby” blues, and I felt relief in realizing I was feeling a release of tensions after such an uplifting experience. It was a natural reaction to a very special, long-anticipated event.
Time and money. A direct look at the covenants we had made prompted the answer to the next two problem areas—having less time and money. Had we not promised the Lord all our time, talent, and financial means if he should need them? Had we meant what we promised? Of course, our family’s exaltation is worth whatever price we have to pay—in time, money, and talent. The memory of those four children in the sealing room was reassurance of that.
Financially, we accepted the fact that we might be in a bind for a while. Before Jim’s conversion, he steadfastly argued that tithing or not, two and two cannot make five. Though at the moment we seem not to have a dime to spare, we can look back over the year since going to the temple and see what has been accomplished. We bought a new car, met our building fund and all other assessments, paid a full tithe, gathered a year’s supply of food, sent a daughter off to Ricks College, purchased an insurance policy that will assure our two sons money enough for missions when they are of age, took a two-week trip to California, and even got away as husband and wife to Canada for four days—something we’ve never been able to manage before. In addition, we have plans to build the house we’ve always wanted—and all still on the same salary (plus a cost-of-living raise) we were making before the temple! Jim was right—two and two cannot make five. When you put the Lord first, two and two make six!
Time for each other. Perhaps the most important realization came when we recognized that a good part of our difficulty stemmed from our failure to spend more time with each other. Being sealed in the temple for all eternity does not eliminate the need for talking and listening to each other, laughing and crying together, and generally nourishing a marriage. How easy it is to lose touch with one another! How quickly grow the seeds of discontent when there is not time to talk over problems, accomplishments, hopes, and daily observations! Our answer was to set aside Friday evening as our special time. Just as Monday is family night, Friday is husband and wife night. We may choose to attend a ward function, or we may feel the need to be alone. We may talk, drive, walk, play tennis, window shop, see a movie—but it is our time to be together. Just as the dating and courting period serves the very real purpose of helping a couple get to know each other, so do special husband and wife dates serve a very real purpose in assuring that we continue to know one another and grow together. We make the time for one another that is necessary for our marriage to be the vital, growing, lively contact we need to be happy.
To gain more time, I adjusted my daily schedule and called upon the children to do more. Children must share in the daily chores of life to appreciate the blessings and grow themselves.
Spirituality. There are any number of ways to feed ourselves spiritually. Basic, of course, is attendance at Sunday meetings. Partaking of the sacrament is necessary to spirituality. Individual scripture study, fasting and prayer, education days or weeks, reading books by General Authorities, and keeping a journal are all ways to keep our spirituality viable and the motivating force it should be in our lives. Jim and I feast spiritually from a visit to the temple. Being fortunate enough to live within four hours’ drive of a temple prompted our decision to attend at least once every two to three months. When we leave after one visit we immediately look forward to the next. When we know we will be coming back soon, it isn’t quite so hard to leave.
Time for one’s self. The identity crisis used to be, in my opinion, a handy catch-all phrase for sociologists and psychiatrists and too neatly categorized many problems. But I’ve come to realize we must all go through such a “crisis” in order to recognize our place as husbands and wives, as fathers and mothers in our families as well as in the Church. Until we come to grips with our roles in these various areas we will never be thoroughly content with much of anything we do.
The question of how much to contribute to family, Church work, profession, and other obligations is one that is likely to be most difficult to analyze. After a woman gives her best to the various roles involved in being wife, mother, daughter of God, how much time, if any, is left for other interests? After a man gives his best to his various roles, how much of his time is left over?
Of course, one of the beauties of the gospel is that we can develop our talents and find personal satisfaction and growth through the many programs of the Church. Creative talents are encouraged and utilized in music, dance, drama, and in the many Church positions that require the development of leadership and teaching abilities. Study of the gospel itself is a lifelong educational opportunity. But whether my individual interest is Church-related or not, for my own mental health, I need something of my very own. Part of my need is filled through keeping a personal journal. Writing about my thoughts and feelings helps me keep a proper perspective in all areas of my life.
The mother who builds her entire life around her children may be left empty when they grow to maturity and begin their own lives. The wife who has no life outside her husband’s interests may run the risk of smothering their relationship and bringing only her needs to their lives rather than making a contribution in her own right. The husband who is a “workaholic” will probably find his wife and children have little interest in him in later years.
Putting just the right amount of energy and devotion into each of our roles in life is the art we need to develop in the years between the temple and the end of our mortal path. It means establishing priorities. In order to get to the temple we had to attend our meetings, pay a full tithe, keep morally clean, be honest, sustain the authorities, etc. After the temple, enduring to the end was added to the list. So after the temple comes the time to organize ourselves, to nourish ourselves, to grow to maturity spiritually, mentally, and emotionally in preparation for a place in our Father’s kingdom.