Sunday, November 16, 2008

Learning, by Trials and also by Faith

Dear Family and Friends,

I went to the MTC on Monday and had two more incredible experiences. The first, from two sisters missionaries, was the promise that I would receive blessings beyond my imagination for following the commandments of the Lord. Now I only need to follow them. The next was an Elder who seemed a bit forward in his communication... he asked me about my family and if I ever intended to marry. I was a bit taken aback and responded that it took 2 people... and that I hadn't yet found anyone. Later in the lesson, he promised me that, if I would pray with faith, that the Lord would grant me my heart's desire with regards to my family.

As I walked to my car later that evening, I realized what he had promised. It was a spiritual blank check – like what had happened to King Solomon. The Lord would grant me my heart's desire with regards to my family. Solomon could have asked for wealth, fame, or power... but he asked for wisdom. What would I ask for? What really was the desire of my heart? I began praying out loud and spoke with the Lord. Only moments later, I realized what was happening. The Lord was teaching me a lesson in faith. Even though I want to find my eternal companion beyond almost anything else, there is something I want even more. I want to be the best companion I can be. I want to be a better son, a better brother, a better nephew and grandson and cousin and friend. And so that's what I asked for. I had a thought that maybe there were multiple lines on the blank check, so I then explained that I wanted to find my eternal companion as well... but if the promise was for only one desire, then I wanted to become a better man before I meet her someday.

Looking back, I realize how much I have changed. A year ago, I think I may have asked to find my wife or to understand why it wasn't yet time. Now, I am willing to ask for the spiritual help to become a better man. I've certainly changed; hopefully He can help me to become better.

Wednesday morning I had a nightmare that left me absolutely shaking. Nightmares when I was little were based on fear. I didn't think I was afraid of much, but I was struck with terror at the vision of huge soldiers that would stalk me, their footsteps constantly echoing in the darkness... with no way to hide... and always running. As I've conquered my fears, those nightmares went away. Now my nightmares are revelations on my inner self... mirrors of truth showing me things I really don't want to see.

For the first part of the day, the effects of the nightmare were terrible. I was in shock and shaking. I wondered how I could be such a horrible person – how such a fatal flaw in my character could have gone unchecked for so long. The day went on and I struggled in my classes (only winning in racquetball because my opponent was using his left hand). I held a review session for physics and, after we had gone over basic concepts of rotation, I tried to help the 30 students who were there on their homework. I looked at the problem and had no clue even how to start. I didn't know how to access the solutions, and we were all stuck, so I closed the session and sent the students home. Not only was I a terrible person, I was also a terrible TA.

I got in my car and sat there, thinking about everything that had happened. I hadn't felt this horrible in a while... and I wondered why. And then I realized what was happening. On Monday, I had asked the Lord for help in becoming a better... and He was simply showing me the things I needed to do to improve who I was. With a rueful smile, I remembered the exact words of the missionaries at the MTC. They had promised me that my desire would come “maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon.” Monday = today. Tuesday = tomorrow. On the morning of the 3rd day, Wednesday, my boot camp of perfection began. First lessons: tranquility and humility. I only hoped that I could make it out alive.

But, in the midst of my temporary affliction, the Lord found ways to help me smile. I received news that I had won second place in an essay contest I entered a few months ago. The funny part takes a bit of a story. Tuesday (the day before) was the bookstore's store-wide 20% off sale. I've signed up to take an art class next semester, so after counseling with the art manager (and spending 2 hours looking and choosing) I spent $100 on supplies and other things. I have a really hard time spending any money, so it was impressive that I could spend that much. And then the next day I learned what the prize was for second place in the essay contest: a $200 gift card to the BYU Bookstore. The Lord definitely has a sense of humor.

Each subsequent day had a lesson to be learned. Thursday I got sick and learned some more about gratitude (I sometimes take good health for granted since I try to be very healthy. The Lord just wanted to remind me that He is the one supporting me, even when I eat only healthy food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.). Friday was on the importance of allowing others to be a part of my life, Saturday focused on optimism, and Sunday helped me see the blessings of making and keeping promises to the Lord. (Side note: I also learned how much I rely on the Lord even when I am relying on technology. I finished this letter once, went to save it, and the computer froze. Nothing would convince it to wake back up, so I had to rewrite a few paragraphs. Maybe it's the Lord's way of teaching through repetition?)

In all, it's been a great week. In my classes at BYU, sometimes I wish I could learn faster – that the teacher would just give us all the information at once and let us sort it all out. When the Lord is teaching me, He does exactly that. And though I've wondered if it will completely overwhelm me, I feel great! I know that the Lord is always here beside us. He wants us to become better, and is willing to teach us as quickly as we are willing to learn. Not able – willing. He will enable us to learn more quickly than we ever thought possible. I know that as we become better people, members of our family, and citizens in our community, our lives will be happier and we will be better able to bless the lives of those around us. So – the challenge this week is this: Ask the Lord for help in identifying and changing the things you need to do to become a better person. In the end, you will be happier for the experience, even if it means going through a few days of spiritual boot camp. Brace yourselves... and go out and be missionaries!

I love you all!


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