Today, Sunday, was tough. But tough in a somewhat different way that I am used to my tough days being tough. It was not an "Alexander day" (those familiar with the children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" know what I mean.) I was tired and sleepy, but that's not out of the ordinary, as I often simply stay up too late doing "one last thing" and wind up dragging the following day. I wasn't dealing with anger issues; I wasn't feeling particularly sad or lonely.
I was simply feeling disconnected.
It took awhile to define what I was feeling. Even once I defined it. I sat there in Sacrament meeting, listening to the testimonies (next week being General Conference, Fast Sunday was moved to this week), and I heard them all, and said amen, and intellectually understood them but few had little emotional impact on me, and those momentarily.
I realize now that I've felt this way before but I haven't really tried to put it into words, even for myself. And even as I sat there asking myself questions and listening to my answers, it was an almost clinical analysis of the facts. In short, I was there. But I wasn't there. I wasn't "elsewhere", either.
I was aware of who was standing up to bear their testimonies. I was a little more aware of what my closest friends in the ward were saying, as opposed to those I don't know as well. I was aware that the gaps in-between testimonies were wider than usual. I was aware when something was said that I agree with, or sympathize with, and I was aware of the places where I didn't really understand what they were saying. I was aware of the kids playing at my side and that they were getting a little too loud and that their parents were gently reprimanding them, and I was aware of a child behind me kicking the pew. I had feelings of impatience, frustration, sadness; I had feelings of joy, gladness, appreciation over the testimonies born. But I felt these things only superficially, and briefly.
Even when I defined what I was feeling (or rather what I was not) as a "disconnect", I felt somewhat disconnected from that realization itself. It was kind of like Mr. Spock saying, "Fascinating" when humans tried to explain emotions to him.
One testimony which did break through my disconnect, albeit briefly, came from a young man in our ward who has Downs Syndrome. I've known this young man for twenty some years and he bears his testimony every month. He started by saying he loves fasting. That caught my attention, because in the past few years I have found it increasingly difficult to fast, which has not increased my love for it, no matter how I might intellectually believe in its importance. B. said he loves Fast Sunday "because I think of Jesus." I had the clinical, barely emotional thought that perhaps that had something to do with why fasting is difficult for me, beyond a changing metabolism; perhaps I was going without food instead of fasting, which would include thinking a little less of myself and a lot more about Jesus. The disconnect was creeping back when B. announced that Easter is coming, and somehow making a simply statement sound like an admonishment, said "Think of Jesus. Because He loves us. I love Easter. Because I love Jesus."
Other testimonies entered my consciousness in bits and pieces; kids continued to chatter about me and bounce off me seemingly as semi-unaware of me as I of them. My disconnect gradually wore off through the next two meetings. I participated in the Sunday School lesson although I think that was somewhat mechanically, as when I was told afterwards that my comments were appreciated and helpful I could only vaguely remember making them.
Fortunately, by the time church was through, I was connected enough to hear a prompting of the Spirit to go see a family I Home Teach, and I enjoyed that visit and believe it wasn't just for my benefit alone. And an afternoon nap which extended beyond the hour I set the alarm for helped.
After that nap I had opportunity to reflect upon the day. I began to wonder not just about my own feelings of disconnect, but also others.I realized I have felt disconnected for some time, and it seldom stops me from attending to my duties either at church or at work. But perhaps the disconnect still prevents me from being where I want to be - be it spiritually, emotionally, mentally, professionally, civically, etc.
And I wondered if that disconnect is where inactivity starts for some people. When I realized what I was feeling was a disconnect from my surroundings, I found myself thinking about some friends who have, for their own reasons, left the Church and the fellowship of the Saints. When I joined the church 30 years ago I saw things in a much more black-and-white perspective than I do now. I still believe that if you have a testimony that the Gospel is true, then you have the foundation you need to persevere. But I don't believe people stop coming to church because they were not welcomed. I believe they stop coming because they feel unwelcome. Or incapable, or unworthy. I can easily say, from my perspective, how much I myself have done for them or their Bishop or Relief Society president or Elders Quorum president has done for them, but unless they actually feel it themselves, it can very well be for naught. It is what they feel that makes the difference.
And I cannot say it always grievous sin or lack of Gospel knowledge that keeps them from seeing the light and truth which seem so apparent, or even "obvious" to me. My friends talk about moral agency and repentance and the Resurrection and the Atonement much the same way I do. But somehow the connection between the truthfulness of the Gospel and the need to participate in church isn't there for them as it is for me.
In discussing this with a friend tonight, she wisely observed that there is a difference between being active in church and active in the Gospel. I quite agree. There have been many times in my life I've fulfilled my church callings, even sometimes without complaint, and went the extra mile as long as it was on my way, but I ignored promptings to do more, to make an extra effort because I myself felt inadequate to the task and unable to help. So instead of putting forth my imperfect best efforts, I offered my perfected least efforts.
In realizing that my activity in the church has not always extended to being active in the Gospel, I also realize that Satan doesn't particularly care how he drags us down. Whether he stops us from coming to church or lets us go but encourages us to just sit there not doing anything, he still wins. Whether he gets us through sin, addiction, loneliness, or bitterness over what other people did or didn't do for/to/with/because-of/in-spite-of us... he wins. And we let him. And that's sad.
I think one way he does this is disconnecting us. Disconnecting us from the fellowship of the Saints, disconnecting us from family and friends. Disconnecting us from ourselves. Disconnecting us from God. The same life experiences are used by our Savior and Heavenly Father in a wholly different way than they are used by our Adversary. The Savior invites. The Devil dismisses. Our Savior weeps for us; Satan sneers at and mocks us. Jesus says, "Did you fall down? Here, take my hand; get to your feet, you can do it, and I will help." Satan says, "Might as well stay down, you're only going to fall again because you're weak and worthless."
I am grateful for those feeling of disconnect today, for Heavenly Father's teaching me of the implication and bearing that disconnect has on my life. I am grateful for the reminders of other people in my life, for even when I'm not feeling as connected as I'd like to be, I know Heavenly Father is there for me, and for them, and if He is prompting me to think about them, I suspect He wants me to assist Him - and that He trusts me enough to give me a portion of His work.
Because I believe that wheresoever that disconnect comes from, Satan would use it to stupefy us and halt our eternal progression, while our Heavenly Father and our Savior would use that same experience to teach, edify, and exalt us.
To heal all our broken connections. To reconnect us.