Monday, June 28, 2010

Finding direction

Life is good. For some reason, though, this letter has been incredibly difficult to write. Usually, after thinking or writing for a few hours, a certain topic feels right to me each week and I go with it. But I sat down last night and tried to start… only to spend hours staring at the screen with absolutely nothing to show for it. Nothing at all. I tried free writing, where I write everything that comes to my mind, but I ran out of thoughts within a few lines. I tried writing about my experiences, but that didn’t work either. I just sat there… and nothing happened. This has never happened to me; I’ve never felt such a complete lack of direction in my writing. Almost every other week, the topic I should choose is highlighted in my mind and won’t go away until I’ve written about it. But this week I feel totally and completely without direction.

Writing wasn’t working, so I tried taking a nap. I’ve been traveling for the last few days, so maybe my mind needed a rest. But when I woke up half an hour later, my mind made even less sense. I tried talking with family, reading the scriptures, playing the piano, but nothing worked. I finally went to sleep around midnight with less than 200 words written – most of them totally meaningless.

I woke up this morning before 5:00, saw the sun rising, and realized that I needed to write my letter anyway – even if I had no direction. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done plenty of uplifting and compelling things this week. I flew to Chicago to spend a few weeks with my family on Tuesday. Since then, I’ve driven to Ohio to visit grandparents, taught a friend of my cousins how to swim, spent time with aunts and uncles, driven home in a pounding thunderstorm, attended Church in Chicago, and tried to organize the next steps in my life. But each of those felt like the wrong topic… and the right topic was not readily at hand. So, after struggling for hours, I just started writing about this experience. Midway through the first paragraph, I felt the familiar prompting that always comes when I finally find the right topic for my letter. With that feeling, the letter suddenly unfolded in my mind. I saw parallels to my life and what the Lord was trying to teach me… and realized how I could share that here.

My experience writing this letter is just like my current experience choosing a direction in my life. When I look at the problem at the beginning, it looks like I am on my own – that I’ll have to make the decision myself. I feel totally lost. I try to move in a dozen different directions, but each one feels wrong. And there is no indication that the right way will appear anytime soon. So I flounder. Just as I floundered in beginning this letter. In my mind, I wish that the Lord would just reveal the right way to go. He’s done it before, and that would be so much simpler and faster. I know when He is speaking to me; I’ve heard His voice and I’m used to receiving direction, then acting on it. But, instead, He takes the time to help me learn a vital principle in my life through being silent. As the deadline approaches, I realize that I need to act, with or without direction from the Heavens. I don’t know which direction to go. But that doesn’t mean that I can just stop or forget the commitments that I’ve made. So I move forward, praying that the Lord will help me to do my best. And as I do, He begins to speak to me… and I realize that I have been guided all along.

When I began writing this letter, I felt like I was completely on my own. The only thing I had was a list of topics that were not the right ones. I thought I would have to move forward without the help of the Lord. But, in reality, the Lord was helping me – in the same way that He has helped me before. I have a powerful experience and He teaches me principles of the gospel that I can write. The experience just happened to be being lost. My experience this morning will probably be an exact parallel to finding a direction in my life. I’ve felt totally lost and completely alone. The only thing I have is a list of directions that haven’t worked. But the hope inherent in this parallel is that once I finally choose a direction on my own and move forward, I’ll be able to see how the Lord guided me towards that choice all along.

Each of us hits times in life when we wonder what to do and which way to turn. We know that the Lord can guide us, so we turn to Him. But He is silent. Sometimes His silence means we’re not ready for the answers we seek. But sometimes that same silence is accompanied with a sense of urgency, leaving us trapped in the confusing dichotomy of “Wait for my signal. Act now.” It seems impossible to do both. But there is no dichotomy. The Lord is encouraging us, at least for the time at hand, to make our own decisions and to move forward with faith. I think that those times are the hardest (which means I will probably be doomed/blessed to experience them often throughout my life), but they are still surmountable. And He will bless us if we do our best and put our faith in Him. And we will succeed in whatever our endeavor may be.

So that is my invitation to you. Look at your life, and the things with which you’re struggling. Ask the Lord for guidance. If He gives you clear direction, follow it. It not, press forward with faith. As you do, He will guide you even though you cannot yet see His hand. Everything will work out for the best. I know that God loves us and wants to help us learn to live happy, meaningful, successful lives. Press forward with faith, and then go share your faith with the world. Go out and be missionaries!

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