I stopped wearing garments in the parking lot of a Sam’s Club just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Claire was standing, slightly hunched, in the small door frame of the Airstream. I could see her frustration from many parking spaces away. At that time every decision felt scrutinized. Sighs and glances communicated sentences. We’d been on the road for six months, crowded in that little airstream. You learn a lot about someone when you have them as constant company.

“You bought them, then,” she said, arm jutting squarely from her hip. Financially, we were a slowly sinking ship; every purchase had to be made confidently.

“I’ll just try them for a bit and see how it feels,” I said, unable to pull the Sam’s Club sized pack of Hanes classics out of the shopping bag while she was watching. The white, 9” briefs, looked Godly compared to the tattered gray garments they would be stored next to.

We’d stayed with our friends Cassi and Braeden in Iowa City a few weeks before, our trailer parked in their amazonian backyard. They showed us what they loved about that little college town, and at night regaled us with stories of their recent departure from Mormonism.

Braeden’s father, a leader in the church, came to visit them earlier that year to help them move. On a trip to a home improvement store, Braeden revealed an underwear waistband branded Fruit of the Loom while bending down to tie his shoe. In thespian form, Braeden’s dad demanded, “Where are your garments of the holy priesthood?”

After fumbling around the truth, that his garments had been lost behind stacks of books in the basement for months, Braeden lied, “I don’t like to wear them while doing chores.” His dad accepted the lie, but later confessed, “I don’t even own gentile garments.”

We all had a good laugh at that rigid, orthodox, kind of resistance his dad personified– we all found it familiar. But amidst the laughing, Braeden and Cassi were also quite vulnerable with us about their fear to tell their parents the truth. It felt like saying, “I don’t wear my garments anymore,” was really communicating, “I don’t want to spend the rest of eternity with you.”

Braeden wished his family could have open conversation about his bisexual sister. Cassi wanted to tell her parents how much better she felt about her own body, now. About how her shame was fading, and how her breasts never felt comfortable in the one-size-fits-all breast size of the garment tops.

And though her body shame was different than mine, I began to wonder if mine too came from those ill fitting garments. I had gained forty some pounds since last buying them, and felt the pressure of a less than perfect body each time I put them on. My temple recommend had expired while on the road, which meant I was stuck with them until we had a set home and ward with a bishop who could approve my worthiness and permit me purchase new ones.

Temple garments are worn by adult members of the LDS church who have made promises of fidelity to God’s commandments. To Church members, the temple garment, worn under your everyday average ol’ secular clothing, represents the sacred and personal aspect of their relationship with God and their commitment to dress modestly and to live good, honorable lives.

Mormons consider garments a step in stride with a long tradition of human devotion to God.

When the church first started, garments nearly covered the entire body. They were quite literally a cloak of modesty and a mark of sainthood. Modern garments are much smaller, sheer, and hidden from sight; mostly existing for abstraction. They’re a personal moral shorthand—full of tiny symbols that represent big ideas about God.

But—uh, for some, they are also a literal shield against the power of the devil. Mormons who think this way have lost all sense of the abstract, cornered into two extremes: cultural mysticism or debasement. Mystic reverence is alive and well in the garment’s demands which parallel the American flag’s—to never touch the ground and be retired by flame. But in their debasement garments stop being simple reminders, lose the abstract, and become practical and affordable underwear, a protection from bullets and car accidents, a breathable and stretchy material for endurance sports, a lace trimmed intimate wear, and protection from the temptation and power of the devil.

While many will shrug their shoulders when presented with the mystic side of those responsibilities, others will readily admit to the debasement of the item. Once the idea becomes literal, the garment’s abstract power is lost.

The vagueness of abstraction makes communication tricky. This is why we have synonyms for a group of related ideas. It creates warmth and nuance. And garments have many nicknames, one for each of their many responsibilities.

Calling garments ‘Jesus jammies’ doesn’t change them physically, but it does trivialize their purpose. If your single context for garments is in hearing them called ‘magic underwear’ you’re going to be picturing Fantasia, while those Mormons who call them ‘garments of the holy priesthood’ are picturing Cinderella. Mickey is putting on his broomstick-breaking robes, and Cinderella is putting on the clothes that will allow her into the realm of nobility. Both are empowering, both are garments, neither are in the same contextual ballpark.

Which is why, while sitting in a Mormon pew in the summertime, sweating through many layers of clothing, doubting their abilities as both magic cloak and ballroom gown, I found myself questioning clothes as a genre altogether.

The lack of nuance pulled me away from the big picture and into the material. Once the idea became literal, the garment’s abstract power was lost.

For a while my two types of underwear—secular and aforementioned—coexisted in a single drawer. I spent a year facing the burden of doubt each morning. Then I bagged up the heaps of light grey mess, cotton thinning at the joins, and unceremoniously tossed them in a far corner beneath the house, near the water heater and behind the two-seater bike trailer. I didn’t want them in my drawer, but I also didn’t want them in the trash. Did God notice that I double bagged them?

I met a man on my mission who had recently returned to full faith Mormonism. He seemed wise to the world and had many opinions about which breed of chicken was best to eat. He hadn’t started to wear his garments again, but we wanted to help get him there. We visited once a week to insist on his continued church attendance.

On a memorable visit when he told us to make sure to have sex before we got married (“because sexual incompatibility is a serious problem and you don’t want to fuck around with that”), he also informed us that “prayer was the first thing to go” on the path to inactivity.

I even wrote that thought in a side margin of my scriptures somewhere.

I wondered later if God could appreciate the repurpose of my garments into shop rags. “This is a type of worship. I am a type of worshiper,” I thought.

I hadn’t stopped believing I was good just for being near to my garments. I call this kind of worship “osmosis righteousness.”

If prayer is the first thing to go, I guess I’d like to add that osmosis righteousness is the last. I knew I had fully changed when I stopped believing I was a good person for being near to things deemed holy. I could be good without God’s marks against my skin.

In true protestant form, Mormonism is founded on miracles, healings, and revelations. And maybe for that reason, it feels impossible as a practicing Mormon to transcend that mystic folk belief. You can’t just believe in morals, or vague good ideas, you must also believe that any one of your neighbors is a cherubic messenger lying in wait to bring you a batch of fresh cookies at God’s will.

We’re told the sacrament, the body and blood of Christ that gets passed in church on Sundays is a remembrance ordinance—as children eat fistfuls off passed around trays. But for most who partake, it’s not enough that the sacrament be an edible WWJD bracelet. It must be bigger. It must also be tangible and mystical and ephemeral seven day salvation.

Garments can’t just be a body sized WWJD bracelet. They must also be mystical and unreasonable protection from the ungodly.

I have a scar just above my underwear line from a bullish boy scout attempt I made to remove a tick with my keychain swiss army knife, two months after buying those Hanes. The scar reminds me of my dog Joshua, who gave me the tick, and who got it from some brush at Rosaryville State Park in Maryland. It was nearly December, and there were signs everywhere reminding us to beware of ticks and to not let your rowdy dog Joshua roam into the piles of fallen deciduous leaves.

We were stopped there for a week to visit our friends Jesse and Leslie. One night we invited them out to the park for dinner and s’mores over a campfire. It was dropping into the low 50s, leaving the park empty. By that time of year, the retired RV traveling couples who fill these parks were in Florida. We let Joshua lurk around while we talked and laughed, knowing he wouldn’t get too far from the fire’s warmth. He was a shorthair, and a wimp.

Our newly installed furnace had gone out a few days before, so we let Joshua cuddle up between our open sleeping bags as we fell asleep. I assume the deal went down then.

When I woke the tick was there, proudly burrowing into my skin. I don’t remember whether protection from Lyme disease is a promise given in the endowments in the temple. Just kidding, of course I remember the Oath, Covenant, and Mark of the Deer Tick.

Whenever I see the scar, now, I think about every Mormon camp leader I’ve ever had telling me that if you pull the tick out you will decapitate the insect, leaving its head in your skin. I think about Frank Loeffler, my tenderfoot scout leader, who taught me through incorrect conjecture to drown the tick in peanut butter until it changes its mind about eating you. I think about how his son taught me through the same erroneous logic to press a recently blown out match to the behind of the tick if the peanut butter does not work. I think about how I learned from my mom, later that night on the phone, that my grandpa wrote his doctoral thesis on ticks and lyme disease, and that everything I’d ever learned about tick removal was wrong.

That same sweet tooth for miracles, angelic visitations, and divine intervention through material inhabitation is in me as much as any Mormon. But there was no miracle. No spirit guided the blade, and no voice called out to me to google search before self surgery. As a reader you can be happy with this tiny miracle: neither I nor Joshua ended up with lyme disease.

Maybe if I’d slept with my garment top on, the whole ordeal could have been avoided. Maybe that’s the whole garment thing—you never get to see all the things they’re protecting you from—it’s the shield against the unforeseen.

But I prize this little memory that jumps out at me, each morning as I dress, of people I love who I don’t see anymore and a memory I would probably forget without that scar to bring it back. It’s a mark and symbol of another commitment I’ve made in my life. It’s shorthand for: take stock in the people you love.

For six years I wore garments. Did I ever once think of my commitment to God when I pulled them around my freckled knees? Or do I think of that commitment more now that they’re gone? Am I reminded more readily of how fragile and ephemeral and spectacular life is as I dress without them?

While my new daily drivers (shiny black adidas) feel like heaven on my thighs, I still give pause when I put on a shirt without a garment top. And more than that pause, some days I wish I had a pair of garments I could put on, just to see if the feeling has changed so that I can wear them again with a holiness and magic that feels bigger than nylon mesh caught on chest hair and loose fabric crowded up high against the groin of my jeans.

Conversations on Doubt

I’m not all onboard with the church anymore. If this is news, I’m sorry we haven’t been in better contact. My decision to stop going to church is complicated.

As I’m writing it, that quick summary feels inauthentic. But then so does forcing you to read an essay. I’ve been earnestly trying to know what’s right in my life. I am having a wonderful, peaceful, time at it. I’m terribly happy but not without my doubts about my decision to leave.

I’m trying not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Tolstoy said of his own doubts, “failing to find an explanation in knowledge I began to search for it in life, hoping to find it among the people around me.”

So on June 1 of this year, after feeling I had exhausted the topic through study, I decided to send out an email to a group of pragmatic and like minded friends. In the email I gave them a summary similar to the one I’ve given above. Then I said,

“Why do you go to church? Does it make you happy? Do you have any doubts or anxieties about the church? Please be yourself. If that means not replying to this email, that’s okay. If that means sending me a link to Finding Faith in Christ and talking to me like a complete stranger, that’s okay too!”

The open call for testimonies wasn’t an attempt to see how intelligent my friends are. It was a call to ethos. I wasn’t then and am still not ready to believe that if Faith is a delusion that it couldn’t also be worthwhile. For the first time in my life I feel open to anything, even the idea that a lie could also be a great cornerstone to base your life on.

I was touched and impressed with the work that many of my friends put into their reply. With their permission, I decided to publish some of them here, anonymously. The back and forth conversations I had with many of them felt very healthy—both for doubter and believer.

This is a really long post, that has been heavily cut back to be more consumable. Everything that follows has been modified for length, focus, and to maintain anonymity. If there is a back and forth, I put my reply in italics.

There isn’t a ton of normal logic to why I go to church currently

First off, this is a pretty common topic around my family these days. [A majority of my brothers] no longer believe it to be something good for their families. I’m still going, But seeing so many people that I respect and love make this decision has only made me more introspective, which is leading to a good thing in my opinion.

There isn’t a ton of normal logic to why I go to church currently. We’ve had a hard time fitting in and feeling welcome in the ward, and besides a few nuggets here and there, we find the services to be a bit dull and repetitive. We asked to be released from our calling because it was freaking us out, and making things much harder for us to understand. My wife really dislikes most of what she has been learning about church history and feels like she had been mislead in certain ways. I really dislike the marketing and business side of the church. I still can’t believe I’m starting to get spam-like emails from the church with buzzfeed-ian subject lines and hashtags.

I like to believe that there is something beyond what I called “normal logic” above. I don’t believe that we know very much in the grand scheme of things and that makes me want to lean on the feelings I have felt more than things that I read. That doesn’t feel quite right to me, as they should go hand in hand, but that is what I’m doing right now.

I remember telling myself during a couple spiritual moments in my life, “Do not forget this. Come back to this feeling if you have doubts.” Right now, I’m riding on the fumes of those feelings. I haven’t done a ton to create new ones lately and it’s running out of steam but there is a past version of myself that is telling me to keep going and I’m not ready to tell him to shove it until I know for sure it was my youthful naivety. I don’t want the pride of my know-it-all 20’s to be the deciding factor.

Right now, it’s not making me the happiest but I also don’t feel depressed or sad at all either. I feel conflicted that I’m not living the gospel well, but I also realize that the happiest way might not be the right way for me. In a lot of areas I choose the path of least resistance and that makes me happy temporarily, so I don’t want that personality trait to make this choice.


Have you made any progress on your feelings here or still about in the same spot? Asking because I’m getting more confused by the day.

I’m finding a small amount of consolation in imagining up a God whose visage is more like a taste than it is a law. Perhaps the lens of faith is a proverbial lens and each person can righteously see things differently. This certainly explains why diversity is still so prevalent among good and well intended people. If God truly did create a testing ground, he would need us each to be different in order for lessons to be learned.

I’ve been reading Seneca’s On The Shortness of Life, in which he says, “It was nature’s intention that there should be no need of great equipment for a good life.” That sentiment feels true to me. It would seem that overcomplicating things is not the answer. Reading and studying has only sent me in circles—and I’m certainly not going to claim knowledge is inherently problematic but I’m getting the sense that it’s a lot like expecting a good curry recipe from a college chemistry class.

A good God gave people their minds and their relationships. For each person, the answer to life is uniquely therein.

I’ve met a few Mormons recently whose sense of religion is one I could get on board with. Is that all that religion really is? If your people aren’t in church, are you really worshiping? If your spouse disagrees, what Christ-like community can you really be entertaining? What have you been feeling? What’s been making you more confused?

When you said “reading and studying has only sent me in circles” — I had to reread the email I sent you because that’s exactly where I am at but didn’t remember mentioning that to you.

The more I read about the history of the church, official and unofficial, the more uneasy I feel about everything. I really expected the opposite to happen, which has me pretty confused. It’s really hard to understand the culture and full story behind what Joseph Smith (and most of the early leaders) were up to and what their motives were and how it applies to me. Like some really weird stuff from my 2015 point of view was going on with my ancestors and my traditions. These folks are my people!

I really like the idea the idea that everyone can see righteousness a bit differently – but it sounds so easy. And coming from a life of extensive doctrine and missionary textbook answers to every question, this thought has me really wrapped up in thinking that it can’t be that simple. We believe in so many steps, ordinances, rituals that we consider vital to glory, it’s hard for me to see a world where for some people those things aren’t required.

But yeah, that’s sort of where I am at. Nowhere near having any answers but hoping I start to feel something more concrete at some point. I definitely can’t spend the rest of my life in the middle confused with touches of guilt.

The rewards are more amorphous

I think Mormons try really hard to be good people, and this counts for a lot as long as they acknowledge they are world class stumblers along with everyone else on the planet.

Along with being generous and patient with each other I think we also have the responsibility to address things that we can improve. In doing so, I try to remember that some things are mine to decide and some are not. Some matters may be very important to me but less so to the community, and that’s ok if we share essential values and remain humble. I’ve seen that when people advocate for change because they feel so strongly about their version of improvement, voices on both sides of the discussion sometimes include judging and belittling.

The reason this all makes sense to me is that I believe wholeheartedly, without reservation, in the agency God grants us. We choose whether to believe, whether to obey, whether to consecrate. This applies to everyone in or out of the church, including prophets and apostles. Their responsibilities and burdens are greater, and one would expect their access to God’s guidance to be greater and perhaps more specific. But I have to believe they are stretched and required to wrestle with things and apply faith and works just like the rest of us. I have no doubt that God interacts with us in ways that we can understand and that we need, providing frequent promptings and occasional dramatic clarity but not always instant feedback for course corrections.

It’s been an interesting process, taking the aggregate responses and trying to have them make sense all at once. Some go to church and hate it, some go to church and love it, some see the church as a utilitarian social structure, others a reasonable system for good living. I’m certain now that no one person is going for the same reason as another. And that feels less exclusionary, in a good way.

I can’t help but worry about the dilemma of choice. It troubles me that if God does care about what we choose that he hasn’t provided a clear enough reward for making the right choice (as he has with good health and other seemingly important choices).

I think the physical health analogy is a pretty good one. Some things make us feel healthier pretty quickly, others don’t change how we feel day to day but we trust in the long-term benefits based on lessons from science, history or personal experience. Some decisions feel like sacrifices but we believe they point us in a good direction. Other things seem harmless or actually feel good, but have a cumulative effect that ends up being catastrophic.

On the spiritual side I do think the rewards are more amorphous or variable. In the church we speak of consequences as if Action A produces Result A (hold family home evening, automatically experience more beauty all around.) But I’ve come to think of those things as secondary — not exactly irrelevant but also not really the point. The primary benefit as I see it is that we become transformed as we exercise faith. Following commandments and embracing covenants is more about becoming something than receiving something.

The pattern I have seen in my life is that most of the time I am expected to act on faith instead of knowledge. This includes beforehand and usually afterward as well. Most of the time it’s a general sense of having done the best you could at the time and under the circumstances, and trusting this is an acceptable offering. Then you build on those experiences so that your best becomes more than what it used to be.

Initially the physical health analogy caught me off guard, and provoked that ever consistent worry I have that perhaps the peace I feel lately is the spiritual equivalent of eating a candy bar. Maybe the nuances of a spiritual diet (when illustrated to a child) don’t make sense when your spirit is so young and flexible. I suppose like children, God designed our spirits to bounce back quite easily from spiritual candy bars as he knew we would eat them often.

That being said, I still struggle with the cumulative catastrophe model as it is the one we most attribute to the devil. It being a more sly or sneaky way of trapping someone into a lifestyle. It seems unlike God to provide laws (regarding eternal salvation) that are not readily apparent until it is too late.

It’s a matter that could be debated, surely, but my issue isn’t with objective good and objective bad (as that model I think there is evidence for) it is with objective truth. Objective spiritual truth seems much less easy to prove. And in that regard, I really wish that consequences were less amorphous!

It’s true because it always tries to be

I want to be edified and feel the spirit there, I believe that the sacrament is necessary, I sometimes gain new spiritual insights. I work with 4 young men and I really want to see them succeed in life (something that is against the odds in their neighborhoods). I think the church can play a big part in that goal. I want to show them an example, and be at church (and our activities) to help them gain testimonies and also try to show them the potential they have.

I also go for social reasons. It help fights the urban isolation that I think a lot of people face in this city.

Does it make me happy? Usually. There are times where I feel a little held back by it or overly stress out about my calling or service in the ward generally. But it gives me goals, a structure, and opportunities to serve I like having quite a bit.

I would classify the majority of my concerns as relatively minor annoyances. For example boy scouts, ugly buildings, and shrouding the temple in mystery unnecessarily. Doubts aside, I do believe it is the only true and living church of God. The living part is probably the more easily definable part of that phrase to me. It is living because it has the authority. Its true because it’s always trying to be.

If you don’t mind my asking, why do you go to church now?

I have wondered that myself. Perhaps old habits, or maybe a longing for community? I spent the last year or so reading theological books, and I’ve decided this year to read memoirs or more emotional takes on the experience of religion. I’ve been reading Tolstoy’s Confession this week, and I can greatly commiserate with him in that he was, “tormented by the problem to live a better life.” I cannot seem to believe in subjective truth and Mormonism at the same time. Yet subjective truth seems to have more evidence in its favor—and it also strikes me as more important if everyone is to be saved or to live a better life!

Kind of a long answer, but I guess it’s because the truth is that I don’t have an answer.

Hey Kyle, just was cleaning out my inbox and found this. Any updates?

This email was sent to ten friends and three of them have surprised me with saying they are inactive or doubting. I’m starting to see that doubting as a lifestyle isn’t very sustaining or desirable.

Eyring said, “however large the kingdom will grow […] you will not ever feel lost or forgotten […]. God will call people to care about you and to teach you.” I’ve met a lot of people lately who are a good archetype for that, but then so are you and others who have worried for me and provided guidance.

I mentioned this before, but it continues to be the theme that presses me of late: I’m trying to go back to how knowledge was when I was at the MTC—not as much a fact as a feeling. Another Eyring thought in this vein, “I knew that what he said came from God and that it was true […]. That was before scholars told me how hard it was to know.” It’s pretty anti-cerebral, but it feels like it’s the only option I have left. Reason answers none of the important questions, Faith provides none of the reasonable facts. Perhaps their lack of overlap suggests they must work hand in hand?


Lately when asked I call myself a secular Mormon. I might watch general conference this weekend, and I try to stay in regular contact with my ward. I’ve attended the wards of good friends, by their insistence, hoping that perhaps there is a Mormon congregation nearby that is healthy for my doubting soul. I can now see that I did not immediately become an ex-Mormon those months ago because of some vague awareness that my ideas might be mistaken.

I am interested in living a considered and meaningful life. I hope I am never closed to the ways by which others find meaning for their lives. I want healthy conversations, and I want to learn more about instincts other than those of my own soul.

And in a large part I detest my own privilege. My ability to dismiss Faith entirely is a showing of my wealth and good fortune. The world’s poor has no time for Tolstoy nor access to Seneca. Am I too good for the system by which billions live and find joy? But also those who I love and keep near to me, who need Faith in their pursuit of goodness as it has lent meaning to their lives—am I not the same as they?

Social Progression — A Mormon Narrative on Common Ideological Issues

Here are some musings on the culture of Mormonism. I have nothing to say on the doctrine, as that is not my place.

“Any man, will go considerably out of his way to pick up a silver dollar; but here are golden words, which the wisest men of antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the wise of every succeeding age have assured us of;—and yet we learn to read only as far as Easy Reading…and our reading, our conversation and thinking, are all on a very low level, worthy only of pygmies…” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I like the idea of Easy Reading. It lends itself well to an analogy I’d like to make about walking.

“We boast that we belong to the Nineteenth Century and are making the most rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its own culture. […] We need to be provoked—goaded like oxen, as we are, into a trot.”

Also for the purpose of my narrative in this analogy: Thoreau’s townsmen are the members of my community: Mormons.

And now, the main event.

The request to lengthen your stride (1) insists that you both become more kind or charitable while also becoming more disciplined. Flexible, and strong. Often the two tasks confound one another. So it’s easier to just pick one and stick to it. Lately Mormons are stuck on obedience—discipline. Easy Walking: good pace keeping.

But the confounding of charity is not necessary. There is room if we are willing to re-examine our gait. The command to lengthen is not to operate beyond your capacity but to operate within the fulness of your capacity, not unlike this commandment from the New Testament, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The command resides within the confines of “all,” the command makes no request for beyond. And within that all is both compassion, and strength.

“It is time that villages were universities…”

Mormonism is the village whereby we learn and grow socially, and culturally. It is our relationships, and the major sum of them are of one mind. Thoreau is not asking that our village gain the bureaucracy, or fraternities, of universities. But that the culture take on the innate, individual, mutability of academia. The fearless longing for truth. Like Oxen, we will push along until the trot changes—collectively, not individually.

“…let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.”

Fear is a dark shadow, drawing a confrontational line that insists we take sides. In fear there is no moderation, there is no grey area. And in ignorance there is no room for compassion.

Because of these looming threats, many of us have not prepared well for mixing personal ideology with lifestyle. So we walk confidently but misguidedly into life, lacking empathy, and treating our personal community with love but those outside (general humanity) with misunderstanding and disrespect. We’re stuck in bomb shelters, having a cold war against intellectuals, feminists, and the state of Colorado.

The guise of better form and longer strides has become a sure way toward social damnation.

Let us have noble villages of men. Let us be proud of a stride which has within it a sense of duty for bettering the world around us. Let our stride not just be disciplined in trot, but open to change of pace and willing to break form for charity, education, and social betterment. Change must become a part of our gait, and understanding manifested within our form.

The Object of Your Concentration

Living in the Airstream, these last seven months, has meant spending a lot of time cleaning. Unlike a house, an Airstream often has direct access to dirt and mud simply because its intention is to not be surrounded by concrete. Likewise, being on the road has done some major damage to the cleanliness of the truck. I spent an hour or so yesterday, deep cleaning the exact same areas I had cleaned a week ago. They looked like years of soda, soil, and dog hair had been piling up. I’m sure you can all all imagine how a road-tripped car floor looks.

But I enjoy it. Cleaning something makes me more grateful over it. It’s a unique time to take an account of things. A time to look at what you own, care for it, summarize its value in your life, and try to return it to the state in which you bought it. Usually by the end of the experience I’m filled with a kind of profound gratitude for that thing which has been so filling to serve me and my needs.

To know something is to clean it.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about life, why we are here, and what God expects of us. I’ve come to more firmly believe that God wants us to experience life, make mistakes, and expect His forgiveness and Love through the example I’ve explained above.

“All things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”

— Moses 1:35

God’s ability to know all of his Children, and to number them, is connected with the time he has spent cleaning them and caring for them.

A Disciple once came to a teacher to learn to meditate on God. The teacher gave him instructions, but the disciple soon returned and said that he could not carry them out; every time he tried to meditate, he found himself thinking about his pet buffalo. “Well then,” said the teacher, “you meditate on that buffalo you’re so fond of.” The disciple shut himself up in a room and began to concentrate on the buffalo. After some days, the teacher knocked at his door and the disciple answered: “sir, I am sorry I can’t come out to greet you. This door is too small. My horns will be in the way.” Then the teacher smiled and said,: “Splendid! You have become identified with the object of your concentration.”

— How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

I have thought often of this passage in the context of modern Christianity, and what it truly means to become the object of your concentration. As Christ is the teacher, in the passage above, I concede that he intends on us becoming as he is through this very same act of meticulous meditation. Not that we live perfect lives, on the contrary, but that we begin to know who Christ is by doing as he does. Perfection, or to be perfect, is not a verb nor an act. When Christ says, “that which ye have seen me do, that must ye also do,” he is talking about the acts of a Christ, of a Savior. And one significant act that we often overlook, as we emulate the savior, is the act of cleaning.

A great teacher was once asked to explain one of the most seemingly mysterious actions recorded in the Gospels, Christ’s cursing of the barren fig tree. “Become a Christ,” he replied smilingly, “and then you will know why he did that.”

— How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

God’s plan was marvelously crafted so that we would be inclined to park our trailers near mud, because he knew the significant gratitude and love we would learn to have in the process of cleaning them. Only by regularly meditating on Christ would we come to know Him and to be known of Him.

I believe we spend too much time mourning for our mistakes, and not enough time emulating Christ through cleaning up our mistakes. The process of having Faith, and seeking repentance through Christ, is the Christlike act of cleaning. In that moment we are able to become the object of our concentration and see ourselves through his eyes.

I have always seen repentance as an act of humility, not as a pursuit of value and knowledge. It’s more clear to me now why God would have us perform this act quite regularly rather than a single proclamation of Faith and a desire to be clean from that moment forward.

In each of these repentant moments we gain esteem and gratitude for our imperfections, and fondness and love for our weaknesses. To know something, is to clean it.