Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Realm of the Impossible (May 25)

Dear Family and Friends,

Life is great. In the next few days I will finish my polished draft of Watching Cookies in the Oven (my inspirational collection) and then I'll send it off to people to read... and to publishers. Starting Tuesday, when practice for Pirates of Penzance begins, my schedule will again be busy. Not crazy, but busy nonetheless.

I began working in the development department of the MTC on Monday. I'm not supposed to give the details of our work, but the team name is pretty self-explanatory. We develop stuff. I've been assigned as the primary editor for the team. Someone writes a document, gives it to me for feedback, implements my changes, sends it to managers for more feedback, gives it back to me for a final grammar/layout/clarity check, then we send it up the line. They give us feedback and it starts all over before we go up to the next person.

I've really enjoyed editing work. It's an incredible experience to take someone's work, decipher what it is they are really trying to say, then bring it out using clear, concise statements. (Now if I could only do the same thing with all of my own writing!) And I think the best part is that I'm looking at new things almost every time. Most of my experience editing has been with my own writing... and, while editing your own writing can cause it to become incredible, that same editing has usually proven to be a time-consuming process. At work, I'm always working on someone else's writing, so I don't have to worry about whether or not to actually implement the editing changes – only give them and provide explanations if necessary. I'm also in charge of creating our style guide and writing rules, which is an empowering role. Should this be italicized or in quotations? I get to choose (as long as I keep it consistent)!

I also found a small 24-hour gym that is close enough that I can run there, exercise, and run back. Well, almost. It's almost two miles away, and I live on a mountain, so there isn't much running back... and the first time I actually ran there and walked back my legs were sore for days. But the gym is nice (better facilities than the larger gyms), and during peak periods there are only about 5 people there.

Some days, I sit down to write and have this inspiring vision from which to draw. The only difficulty is getting it all on paper. Other days, my mind is woefully blank... and not only do I have to get my thoughts on paper, but I have to find some thoughts to write. Today is one of the latter. But that's really similar to some times in my life. Over the last few months, I've wondered exactly what I should be doing with my life. Should I prepare to teach high school? Go full-time into writing? Find another job in a completely unrelated field? Or do something else entirely. Most of the time, I haven't received a huge amount of direction, so I'm trying to follow the direction that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause... and do many things of their own free will and choice.”

I guess my thoughts this week are on how to live a meaningful life. In the parts of my life where there is divine direction, I make covenants and commitments to be perfect. Not to try to be perfect, or to strive to be perfect, but to actually be perfect. I realize completely that, alone, I will never be able to live up to this commitment. That's why it's a covenant – a major part is living my life worthily so that I can ask God to make up for all my inadequacies.

On my mission, we were instructed to make goals of how many people we would meet and teach each day. Many of our goals, while they were directly affected by our own personal initiative, depended on the actions of others. We could only find new people to teach if they wanted to be taught... and we could only bring them to Church if they wanted to come. Hence, we had to ask God for help in completing our goals. We knew that He had helped us to set them, and we asked Him for help in fulfilling them. We promised Him we would work our best, and He blessed us with success.

After my mission, I entered school and the workplace. Many of my goals involved myself instead of others. I had the desire to take lots of classes, work, volunteer, and be involved in everything at BYU. So I signed up for 24 credits, got a job, accepted callings, and asked the Lord to help me do what I had thought was impossible... and He did.

Accomplishing something that I thought was impossible wasn't an easy task. At first, I was incredibly scared. I'm not a perfectionist, but “I am the slave of duty” (quote from Pirates – how ironic), which means that once I have made a commitment, I move Heaven and Earth to keep it or I feel like the scum of the earth. My fear was this: What if I fill my schedule so full that everything falls apart? What if I tax my body so hard that I get sick and can't keep my commitments to anyone?

I went forward and began by doing what I knew was possible. I signed up for as many credits as I had taken the semester prior and made commitments for other aspects of my time. But then, just as I had “finished” putting together my schedule, a few more opportunities would come my way. After praying for guidance, I felt in almost every case that I should say yes. I said yes, and I moved from the realm of the possible to the impossible.

Most of us live in the world of the possible. We do things that we know we can do, and are very quick to say, “I could never do that” when we see something outside of our realm. We work each day as writers, lawyers, teachers, and we think of ourselves that way. But, in reality, each of us has the potential to be divine. We can learn everything, and we can do everything. In all reality, nothing is impossible... as long as you are working with God. That's the turning point. Hence, perhaps I should redefine my last statement from the previous paragraph. When I took on more than I knew I could handle alone, I moved from the realm of self-reliance on my own skills to a life that, in order to be successful, required help from the Lord – a life requiring faith.

Alma and Moroni taught that faith is only exercised when there is uncertainty. After that, it becomes a perfect knowledge and you must continue on the path in order to exercise more faith. While I often think of this in terms of the Gospel and Gospel understanding, I have learned that God is anxious to be involved in the affairs of the rest of my life, too. The Lord expects us to exercise faith in everything we do – not just while reading our scriptures. And that's why I took so many classes at BYU... why I live a crazy schedule... why I commit to accomplishing more than I believe I can on my own – so that I can develop and exercise faith throughout the daily affairs of my life.

I think that this is actually one of the great truths of life that enables me to live a fulfilling life. Make binding commitments higher than your ability to keep, and then enlist the help of God through faith so you can get there. In doing so, you develop spiritually and physically... and you make a bigger impact on the world. When you have achieved your dreams, raise your vision higher than you thought possible, and begin anew.

The impossible commitments we make during life are different for each of us. Maybe you know that you don't have time to write a journal, but you want the blessings from it. So you make the commitment to do it and ask the Lord to help you. He will help you, and you will find that, while it is still incredibly hard, there will be time and inspiration to write your thoughts... and He will bless you for your efforts. He will make you more efficient in the other things you do so that there is time for the commitments you have made. For me, I just signed up to be the lead tenor in Pirates of Penzance. I've always thought I was a bass, and I have no clue what is going to happen. But I know that if I ask God in faith and do my part He will make me a better man and give me the faith to accomplish my dream... or help me to find one better suited for me.

Each of us ultimately must covenant with God to be perfect. Alone, we will never get there – especially not during this life. But with Him at our side, nothing is impossible. He will give us the tools to accomplish those things which we have committed to doing, after we have truly committed and shown our willingness to sacrifice in order to effect them in our lives. He gives us the tools to do anything... and, ultimately, to be perfect.

I know that God is our Father. He loves us and wants us to be like Him. But, in order to help us, we must first commit to doing something beyond our own personal ability, ask for His help and guidance, and finally live righteously so that we are worthy of His divine guidance. Following those steps, there is nothing that is impossible.

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