Sunday, May 16, 2010

Working too hard... Focusing on the simple things

The Lord told me I’ve been working too hard. That was an interesting conversation. I was just pondering how tired I was as I drove out of the MTC, and He suggested that I take two weeks off and go to Hawaii. It was definitely His voice, but I’m sure it was a joke – while for most people Hawaii would be paradise, the Lord knows as well as I do that a vacation to Hawaii wouldn’t help with my problem. If it really is a problem. That’s still up for grabs. So here’s the deal: my enjoyment in life comes from working towards my goals… drawing closer to the things that are important to me. My favorite thing to do in life, the thing that renews me, fills me with passion and joy, and makes me wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, is to be productive, and to help others do the same. To learn new things, and help others do the same. To make good choices and help others do the same. And that’s all. That’s why work this last week was amazing; I had an important editing project that only I could do that consumed all my time and people constantly asked me to help them with other things. When I’m not productive, I am absolutely miserable, dejected, and depressed. It’s not just who I am – it’s what I’ve believed for as long as I can remember. Moving on the path towards salvation brings happiness. Anything else is miserable. In my mind, it goes further than that – happiness is also related to what the Lord has given you and how you are using it. If you are blessed with a little, then moving forward a little will bring you joy. But if you are blessed with a lot, and as you grow and gain more knowledge and develop more talents, you need to move faster and accomplish more to achieve your full measure of happiness… which grows with your knowledge and ability to do good. Actually discussing that in depth opens a whole new can of worms (doing the best things versus being constantly busy), and I feel like I’ve already been down that road. Everything I do, I do for a reason – to come closer to Christ… and the Lord wasn’t telling me that I needed to reprioritize everything in my life, just that I needed to take more leisure time. More won’t be hard, since I haven’t really allowed myself true leisure time in a long time. I wake up early in the morning, go to work, fill my day with meaningful activities, and fall asleep exhausted, until the next day when it happens again. What He meant was that I need to gain a testimony of leisure time – better understand how to integrate more activities into my life that move me towards my goals but aren’t as stressful as the ones I currently pursue. That sounds ironic… but, then again, I’m only recently realizing what it means to work too hard. So maybe I should take a vacation to Hawaii.

In the aftermath of that revelation, I’ve been wondering exactly what the Lord wants me to do. In the last few months, I’ve felt like I need to be on the lookout for a new job, keep applying to graduate schools, look for an eternal companion, and work on a dozen other projects to share the gospel, improve my talents, and bless the world around me. If I really am working too hard, then I need to change my focus to better align with what the Lord wants me to accomplish. And so I was wondering what the Lord really wants me to do – what I should focus on first, second, and so on. Our subsequent conversation was telling. And the music that just began playing on Utah’s FM 100.3 is telling, as well – “Great Things and Small Things” from the Cumorah’s Hill cantata. The song talks of the things that the Lord asked prophets to accomplish – building an ark, moving mountains, crossing the ocean… and the things that He asks us to do – to love our neighbors, to forgive, to keep our promises. “…and from the small things come the greatest things of all.” The Lord asked me to focus on two things: ensure that I make time for my daily spiritual wellbeing through scripture study, prayer, pondering, and regular temple worship, and time for my physical wellbeing through exercise, sleep, and eating healthily. That’s what He wants me to focus on first. And I can do that.

I think that sometimes I am guilty of the desire of Naaman, who wanted the prophet to call down fire from heaven to heal him of leprosy instead of having him wash in the river. Sometimes I want the Lord to command me to do some great thing to accomplish His will. Sometimes He has. But the Lord doesn’t usually act in great and magnificent ways; instead, He blesses me with new days where I do the same things… with small changes. And, in changing little pieces of my life, I change who I am. I read the Book of Mormon and come closer to God. I pray, and find that the Lord speaks to me and answers my prayers. I ponder, and I learn and apply the lessons that He teaches me.

Each of us has the same predicament in life as I faced this last week. We want to do what is right – to make the best choices in life and come closer to Christ. But sometimes we don’t realize how far we are from truly realizing what the best choices are. We think we need to have a clean house, a better job, and more money in the bank, when, in reality, we would be happier simply doing the little things that the Lord has suggested all along. My project this next week is to focus on the simple things: physical and spiritual health every day. Yes, sometimes the Lord calls us to do amazing things – to heal the sick, to change hearts, to fill callings, to make a difference in the world. But, more often, He calls us to simply move forward in faith… to become better each passing day and to lift those around us in the same pursuit. I invite you to do the same – to become better in the simple things. Go out and be missionaries!

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