Fluid glass, flowing like molten lava. But the vision inside would grab my attention even more. I wondered today what it would be like if I could peer into each person’s soul during fast and tesimony meeting. For a testimony, like any public expression, is part artifice–though, at least in this case, it is also part conviction. Still, most who speak in our meetings tell some part of what they think we want to hear. There is less of doubt and more of certainty than resides, I think, in their hearts. This is not to say they decieve us intentionally, but only that there is a judicial distance between the thoughts and feelings of my heart and what I will say from the pulpit. Would I have it be otherwise?
Still, what if, for a day, each person were made of glass? What if instead of the unflapable Bishop, I saw a fellow beset–at times–by grief, pain, and doubt? What if, instead of certainty seemingly rote, I saw conviction forged in the fiery furnace of doubt, inquiry, and wrestling with difficult questions? What if the “I know” became “I did not know, I feared it was not true, and I still succumb to questions on other matters, but some part of my soul is now different–this I know to be true?” And what if, instead of “I love my family,” the struggling mother articulated the weight apparent on her shoulders: “my family life has not been so good of late. My husband leaves me for his church calling and that makes me feel unimportant. My children are often thankless and thoughtless and they have their share of fights. My basement is a mess and I’m lucky if I can straighten the living room in time for the home teachers’ arrival. Sometimes I feel things kareening out of control and I wonder if I can even keep them from whirling completely into chaos…” And then, after honesty, the other truth, just as deep, “and yet, I love my family.”
Somewhere along the line, many Mormons mistook the ideal for what actually ought to be right now and concluded the distance that separated themselves from that vision of perfection was a measure not of their mortality but of their failure–as if every moment not worthy of emulation made them outcasts from the Saints. Consequently, we work up a sweat every day, and especially on sundays, trying to convince ourselves and each other that all is well in Zion and that our family is the one that is spared from the rolling that makes the rough stones smooth–as if we, for some reason, were chosen to come to Earth with the buffing already accomplished.
The sad consequence is that on the day when I am most in need of help, when I feel my imperfection most acutely, I may arrive at the chapel, look around, and think, “no one hear knows how I feel, no one here understands this pain, everyone leads such a charmed life–I wish there were some bone deep empathy from which to drink.”
I can only imagine my reaction if I showed up one day and souls clothed in resplendent glass passed in front to share conviction. If I could see into each soul, I imagine shock would assert itself first–“the stake president thinks that? The Elder’s Quorum president stuggles with this? You mean the perfect family has that much contention and strife?” And yet, after the shock faded–and it would not last all that long–I would find myself easing into my seat, breathing more deeply, and my own facade would quickly melt away, my own shield dissolving into glass as I allowed others to peer into me and to see what grief is alive inside. And out of this mutual admission of the sting and bite of reality would be born transcendent love. For the Gospel was never meant as a sermon to the perfect, but as a salve to the wounded and water to the parched. If we all were covered in glass, we would spend time dressing each others’ wounds rather than trying desperately to hide our hurt from each other.