Monday 30 October 2023

Purifying My Heart

The congregation was singing a hymn at church yesterday and a short phrase hit me with such vigor I couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the day and far into the night. The words merely said, "purify my heart, Oh, Savior . . ." I've sung that beautiful song dozens of times over the years but have never had that particular phrase hit me so forcefully before. What does it actually mean to have one's heart purified? Many ideas came to mind. The foremost being an observable commitment to bringing my own life more in harmony with that of the Savior's--a lifelong endeavor to be sure--or could it be that there was something more personalized and hidden that I had yet to see?

I have been praying for as long as I can remember to be less jealous and judgmental of others who have the blessings I have longed for my entire life but never gotten. Those desires have become so overstated that I often wonder if God still recognizes the anguish I feel over never receiving what I always believed were righteous desires. They were not huge things like wanting fame, fortune, social grace, being one of the beautiful people or even feeling secure in my own skin. They were simple things that related to the life I found myself in because of the actions of others and some very poor choices made on my own. 

Perhaps what I've wanted most was a little clarity and understanding as to why I have never been like other women who feel the freedom to be themselves and discover all the joys life has to offer. I've always told myself that someone has to be different and my disabilities have made me better able to see and interact with others who may not walk, talk or appear as refined as those who have been given different challenges. These so-called social outcasts are generally overlooked, dismissed and even found repulsive by the masses who have never had to worry about feeling included. 

My struggle with self-doubt and uncertainty began when I was five and my mother blamed me for the accident that left my three-year-old brother partially paralyzed and unable to learn like other children. Those feelings of insecurity only intensified when my violin teacher molested me a few years later. My mother refused to believe what I told her because the elderly man in question had given her the same kind of lessons as an adolescent and never touched her inappropriately. But even though I couldn't accurately express what was happening vocally, my body understood. I began pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes and the haunted look in my eyes during those months was clearly discernible in photographs I have in my possession to this day. I was in my fifties before I began to understand even a portion of what had happened during my most formative years and the depth of the scars those experiences had left.

I suppose part of my mother's complacency and verbal attacks came from the struggles she was having herself. She was an overworked homemaker and mother with little money and far too many pressures and responsibilities in a world that was supposed to be somewhat idyllic after a second world war had ended. Adding to that, no one understood the true nature of pedifiles and the devastation to body, mind and spirit their perversions caused. The idea of sexual promiscuity, addiction and depravity were never discussed and out of wedlock pregnancies caused families the deepest shame. I remember one of the teenage girls in our neighborhood becoming pregnant during high school. Her parents sent her to live with relatives and I never saw her again. 

While I'm not entirely sure that I was born an introvert who rarely spoke her mind, that's exactly what I became. My grandmother once told me that I was a very precocious child who could tell the best of stories and loved dancing around in my little homemade dresses. But by the time I was confined to bed with Rheumatic Fever during the third grade I was living almost completely in my head and books had become my best friends. Perhaps it is only a coincidence, but I have never had a really close friend that I felt I could share most anything with. I'm certainly not proud of the fact that it's always been out of sight, out of mind for me when it comes to having even semi-permanent relationships, but during the past decade or so I have come to understand that the detachment I employed for feelings of safety was a defense mechanism adopted to stop the anguish of loss, uncertainty and not believing I was good enough. 

But I digress and need to get back to the concept of purifying my heart. While defense mechanisms can work wonders in protecting us from pain and misunderstanding, they can also prevent us from living life to the fullest as God intended. I have never shared with anyone my biggest stumbling block and life challenge. It's been far too humiliating and I haven't wanted people to look at me with any more derision that I often feel now. Women are defined as being of value by the way they look on the outside, and I have never measured up to any portion of that ideal. And it's not just because I have been trying to hide my greatest source of pain since the age of fifteen but because that trauma has affected every aspect of my life and I have never been able to move past it. 

Perhaps some of you will understand because you have gone through something equally as devastating. I was having my third bout of Rheumatic Fever during my freshman year of high school. That's a particularly difficult time anyway for a girl who was a head taller than most of the boys, wasn't exactly pretty or socially accepted and who gained every ounce of regard she ever felt from studying hard enough to be listed as one of the brightest in her class of nearly 250 students. 

My older sister was going to beauty school and had to practice giving permanents. I didn't want one but my mother insisted. Since I couldn't get out of bed and was scared of her, I was left with little recourse. She told my sister to leave it on for longer than instructed because she wanted to make sure it was good and tight. I just wanted to wear my hair long and flowing like the most popular girls at school but had no reason to believe she would understand because she never had in the past. 

The chemicals in those early perms were unregulated and horrid and three days later when I washed my hair half of it fell out. My mother told me to quit acting like a baby because it would grow back but it never did. From then on I became addicted to hairspray and teasing my hair so it wouldn't lie limp and thin and repulsive on my head. I hated to look in the mirror and could never run with the wind, go swimming, play sports or even have a boy touch my hair because it wasn't soft and shimmery like every other girl's. I became a slave to a situation not of my choosing and one that could never be undone. I've prayed nearly every night and morning of my life for a miracle that would allow me to feel like most every other female on the planet who takes what she has been blessed with for granted--a full head of hair that makes her feel feminine, beautiful and desirable. 

When I was twenty-three, after graduating from college without marrying any of the guys who proposed, I found myself saying yes to a man I wasn't particularly attracted to and didn't exactly love. He was strong-willed and domineering and had to be right all the time--a real copy of my mother in jeans who drove a sport's car and needed to be admired. He was thirty minutes late for the wedding and I spent that entire time praying he wouldn't show up. Everything in my life went spiraling downward from that point on. I've written before how he took one look at me on our wedding night and said I'd married him under false pretenses because my breasts weren't as big as he though they were. 

Part of his reason for wanting to marry me was because he said he knew I would be a good mother. In retrospect, that comment may have contributed to my never telling him about my first miscarriage when he was working a job away from home during the week and I nearly bled to death laying on the bathroom floor before realizing had badly I needed help. Nor did I tell him about many of the other miscarriages I had during those early years. Most of them Mother Nature took care of on her own because I wasn't far enough along to need medical care. But when I did, I simply went to the hospital alone or had a neighbor take me. My former husband let me know in no uncertain terms that he would never be agreeable to adoption because he wanted biological children or none at all. He blamed me for each baby I lost because as he put it he could get me pregnant, I was the one who couldn't carry it.

For those two reasons--losing half my hair and all my babies--along with other less dramatic ordeals, I fear I have been far less than the person I always wanted to be. My mind is often consumed with jealousy when it comes to women who have what I have been denied and then complain because they want more. I question my own humanity for not being charitable enough, judging others without having all the facts and feeling guilty because it's easier to stay hidden away at home than go out into the public where I know I will never fit in. 

Those feelings, however just or unjust, have intensified the past few months as our country continues to unravel and our God-inspired constitution hangs by an increasingly thinner thread. I haven't listened to mainstream media news since the Covid virus hit because all their news is scripted by the same group of people on the far left who can lie without the slightest grimace. Even studying independent news sources isn't giving me all I'm looking for because the evils the patriots are trying to unearth have been meticulously hidden for centuries and uncovering the truth takes time. 

I guess you could say that I'm finally awake and want to see something happen NOW. But that isn't the way this process works. It will be line upon line until every last detail is in place. Glenn Beck said it best on one of his podcasts last week when he told his viewers to trust no one, do your own research and then determine what feels right to you. Another podcaster said that we need to remember that God has already won the war but we must still be vigilant in helping to fight each battle for freedom whether it be on the world stage or in our own backyard. So the question remains, how do I purify my heart in a world of turmoil when I know things will only get worse before the Savior returns?

There are so many things that stop us from becoming the person we were meant to be. I've shared with you a few of my major stumbling blocks, and it's never as easy as my sister, the one who gave me the permanent, says. "Just buy a cute wig and forget about it." Well, I haven't been able to do that yet and the aging process is only making my predicament worse, but I am trying to do some good each day and think before I speak. I may not be able to do even half of what I was once able to do. Time, finances, energy level and so much more contribute to how much I accomplish each day, but I can recognize discouragement, disillusionment and depression for what they are--Satan's tactics to keep me distracted from doing what I can. 

I've been wanting to write since I got back from my trip but the war in Israel broke out just days after my return and the way certain groups of people have reacted to it has nearly broken my heart. How can anyone cry death to another human being? God loves all of His children equally, but he certainly doesn't love what some of them are doing. Being far less understanding than Him as a mortal, I find it very difficult to justify so much of what is going on, especially the total disregard for life as displayed by those in positions of power who want rid the world of nearly all its inhabitants and put the small number remaining in bondage to them. But that's a topic for another day.

Here are a few thoughts about purifying the heart that I found on the internet just now. You may find some of them applicable just as I did. They certainly brought added clarity and gave me much to think about. "To clean out any wicked thoughts, motives, desires, and intentions ..." "We purify our hearts by following the commandments, seeking the spirit in all we do, become more at one with God's desires for us." "A pure heart is evidenced by openness, clarity, and an uncompromising desire  to please the Lord in all we do." "Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better." "Giving God every corner of our heart." 

You might want to conduct a search of your own. I'm certainly going to work on it because I have a feeling I'm going to need a much purer heart  as the days unfold. We live in exciting times, but they are also times that can and will try men's souls to the point that even some of the brightest, best and most righteous will fall. 

Have a fun Halloween if you're so inclined and definitely try to stay safe, happy and filled with love, patience and joy. 

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