Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rough roads... with the Lord at my side

The Lord definitely knew what He was doing when He encouraged me to focus on the little things this week. They were the only things stable in what felt like a massive tumult in every aspect of my life. I still have so much to learn.

During a lesson on Tuesday, I listened to a missionary relate his own recent conversion experience. He had been into drugs, alcohol, and didn't really care about anything else…until he read a letter that his friend’s sister had written from her mission. He went home, knelt down, and prayed to know if he should serve a mission... and felt God's love for him and the knowledge that he needed to serve. He talked to his bishop the next day and began the process. As I listened to that missionary and for the rest of the day, I wondered about my own place in the Lord's work. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm at the front of the war and I wonder if my efforts really make a difference in the tides of battle. Will a lesson I write really influence missionaries to better help others change their lives and come unto Christ? And where could my talents best be used? That is one of my main purposes in life - to help others around me come closer to Christ... and even after serving a mission and writing curriculum for the MTC, I struggle to understand how to accomplish it myself.

Thursday was rough. At the beginning of the day I taught a lesson I've taught half a dozen times, and each time the experience has been incredible. I had prayed, gone to the temple, and done everything I knew how to prepare for the lesson, and Thursday's lesson was amazing. During and after the lesson, the missionaries shared how it helped them in accomplishing their purpose in their work. The people observing who were in the classroom for the entire lesson had a similar experience. I left the lesson walking on air, happy to have been able to make a small difference in their lives.

Moments after the lesson finished, I walked into my boss's office to see if she had observed behind the glass and to let her know how it had gone. She mentioned that there had been a lot of feedback on the lesson and was just finishing with the re-write. That began the shock. Normally feedback that ends in rewrites comes from lessons that struggle, not ones that seem to go off without a hitch. As I sat quietly in her office, she related comments from a dozen different people who had observed for a few minutes behind the one-way glass, each of which criticized, not the lesson itself, but the concept behind it. One after one, while the lesson was still going on and without seeing it in its entirety, people gave her feedback to change the scope and direction of the lesson. And enough had given her feedback that she had re-written the lesson. Not completely, but almost everything was totally different, and the central activity was totally scrapped. I thought about quitting my job. I have strong feelings for this lesson, not only because I wrote it, tested it, and taught it, but because of how it affects missionaries. I could easily go to all the missionaries who ever had the lesson, ask them to relate their experiences, and get 100% to tell me it had changed their outlook on missionary work and the influence of the Spirit on the work. I know because I have asked. She explained that those giving feedback had the responsibility to eventually implement the lessons, so we needed to follow their direction. And, even if missionaries had sublime experiences that changed their lives, it wouldn't matter. Their minds were set and the rewrite was done; the lesson was scrapped. Thankfully, it was Thursday and I had a good excuse to leave shortly thereafter to go teach in Draper. I kept the tears back until I made it to the parking lot, then let myself cry during my commute. The only way I can accurately describe the feeling I had was one of utter shock and total confusion. So I prayed for rain.

If Thursday was rough, Friday was even worse. I had an immense desire to be on a team for our upcoming test. When I learned that one of our part-time employees had been chosen when the manager of training declined, I was heartbroken. Worse than heartbroken, I soon felt awful thoughts welling up inside of me. Why had I been passed over? Didn't I work incredibly hard - longer and more skillfully than anyone else? Didn't I know the lessons better than anyone since I had edited each one? Didn't I understand the perspective and context of the project from being on the team for over a year? Again, I thought about quitting. After a few seconds, I shut off the pain and jealousy and sat staring blankly at the floor. I was on the verge of tears, but this time it was from seeing my own flaws. For years I've tried to rid myself of the feeling of entitlement. Realizing that it was still there inside of me made me want to just give up and go home. I spent the remainder of the day working, worked out at the gym, was utterly exhausted, and went home.

Saturday I did almost nothing of value. My brain and body were still in shock. As I played chauffeur that evening, I realized how bad a state I was in, and why it felt like the world was falling apart around me. I was freezing (which meant that I had a burning fever; I'm never cold otherwise), my head hurt (another sure sign of sickness), and my mind wasn't working. I needed to return a DVD and went 50 blocks in the wrong direction before realizing I was lost. It didn't help that my phone wouldn't work for most of the day and my car began to overheat after only a few miles of driving. I went home, waited for the car to cool down, and drove 50 blocks the other way to make the return, praying that I would be able to make it home safely. I'm not completely sure what is wrong - I think that the fans on the radiator may not be working. The coolant is heating up, but not cooling down. Either way, I need to get it fixed before I can drive my car any appreciable distance, which may preclude going to work tomorrow until at least the afternoon. I went to sleep with two blankets and woke up a few hours later when my fever broke.

But even with the world falling apart around me, even with my body fighting off sickness and my mind fighting off depression, I was buoyed up by the little things in life. Daily scripture study helped me receive personal revelation. Daily prayer helped me know God’s plans for me. Exercising kept me mostly sane, and eating healthily certainly had helped my body in doing what it needs to do to keep me well. And Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it rained – the answer to my prayer for rain and the voice of the Lord speaking to me… assuring me that He loves me, is aware of my problems, and is actively involved in my life. I can’t say that I feel great right now, in body, mind, or spirit. But I know that God loves me, cares about me, and has my best interests at heart, and I know that I am doing what I should be doing. In due time, He will help me see how my experiences can help me progress and come closer to Christ.

Each of us struggles in life. There are times when everything we care about seems to fall apart… and the world is on our shoulders. At those times, we can turn to the Lord and, while He may not lift our burdens, He will let us know that He is there and that He cares. If we continue to turn to Him, He will make us stronger and more able to bear the burdens that shall be placed upon us and help us learn to be happy in the process. When life is hard, turn to Him, and He will bless you with the perspective, faith, and strength to carry on. Go out and be missionaries!

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