Sunday, June 6, 2010

What more should I be doing?

When I read a compelling book. When I listen to an inspiring story of how a life was changed. When I sing in a recording studio. When I teach someone who truly wants to learn. When I write this letter. When I perform in a choir. When I speak or sing or act in front of people. When I write poetry. When I sit outside and watch the sky. When I walk in the rain. When I listen to the wind. When I pray. When I study the scriptures and let them enter my heart. When I worship in the temple. When I learn things I can use and teach others. When I hold a sleeping child. When I sing along with the radio. When I play the piano. When I garden or organize food storage. When I make healthy food to share. When I just talk with the people around me…

I feel at home.

Again I’m trying to find it. “It” being the pathway that will enable me to feel uplifted, inspired, and motivated each moment in my life. Specifically, I want to know what I can do to influence the world to be a better place, how I can be a part of the beauty that surrounds me. The search, as usual, follows a familiar pattern. It starts with seeing or hearing or experiencing something beautiful… and then is followed by the thought, “So, what more should I doing?” As soon as I finish reading an inspiring book, recording a song, or teaching people around me, I wonder what more I should be doing to change the world. This week was the last week of a class I taught. I recorded a song for a friend. And I don’t feel particularly useful at work. So there was plenty of motivation to think about how to be more useful.

I can postpone the question “How am I accomplishing my goals?” if I think of the things I just finished doing (and claim that I am on a temporary vacation), but postponing it when I know I need to address it is never worthwhile. One day was too long. Friday morning I woke up and my unanswered question had spawned a much-too-familiar feeling – absolute dejection. It’s a suffocating feeling that fills me with dread… as if everything worthwhile in the world is being wasted, and I can’t stop it, and it’s my fault. The thoughts in my head tried to convince me that I would never be worthwhile, my dreams would never come true, and I would never have a family or find a profession I could truly enjoy. All I wanted to do was roll up into a ball and cry. Not really the best way to start out your day.

Over the years, I’ve learned that everything in my life is designed to help me move forward. For whatever reason, whether it comes from being too idealistic, making way too many mistakes in life, chemical imbalances in my brain, or whatever, some days I wake up with a feeling that saps my strength and devours my will. It, too, helps me move forward. Either that or be crushed.

Life has helped me develop a strong sense of independence. On the good side, I’ve never had to rely on others for my sense of worth. If I’m happy, the world united can’t pull me down. On the flip side, if I am struggling and everyone in the world lines up to tell me I’m worthwhile… it might not help. Why? In both cases, no one completely understands me or knows who I am. While we can get close, it’s impossible for another person to fully understand your deepest thoughts, your past, your hopes and fears and dreams. And so the only person who can tell me I’m worthwhile is me… and, since He knows me completely, my God.

When I relied on others for self-esteem, my esteem required two things – (1) a belief that others understood me (the level of understanding required depended on the level of my independence) and could make accurate judgments of who I was and (2) their judgment (whether fan mail or heartfelt thanks) that I was doing something good. Regaining self-esteem from God requires those same steps. First, I need to have a knowledge of God – that He is, that He knows me, that He loves me, and that He is actively involved in my life. Second, I need to know that what I am doing in my life, right now, is in accordance with His will. Over the years, as my relationship with Him has matured, my knowledge of God has become more sure. Today, I know that God is. I know that He knows me completely, that He loves me, and that He has always been and will always be actively involved in my life. And so the question that I asked Friday morning was, “Am I doing what I should be doing? Am I on the right path?”

Understanding those steps and finding those questions was not easy. There have been times in my life when, for weeks at a time, I wondered if I would ever feel worthwhile. It’s easy to be confident, assertive, and everything else around other people… but inside I felt like I was dying. I would play the piano, listen to music, give service, exercise, eat healthily, talk with friends, spend time with family, study, date, read the scriptures, worship in the temple, and work on a hundred different projects at once – just so that I had no time to think about myself. And then I would go home and cry. Finally I realized that the only way to re-find myself was turning to God, and I spent the weeks engaged in prayer, studying the scriptures, fasting, and anything else to feel worthwhile.

Thankfully, the process that once took weeks to complete has shortened. I know that God knows me, loves me, and is involved in my life. And as soon as I asked if my actions were in line with His will on Friday morning, He answered. I’m a good kid. My heart is in the right place, and I’m not doing anything absolutely terrible right now. I’m doing a lot of good things and making a difference in the world. I’m worthwhile. Within a few minutes I was ready to move forward. But there was one last part of the response. I can do better – much better. And that leads me to the first question I asked in this letter – “What more should I be doing?”

Am I any closer to knowing the answer? I still have no clue what I’ll be doing if I ever grow up. Maybe a public speaker. Maybe a tour guide. Maybe a studio musician. I don’t even know what kind of job I’m looking for to replace the one I have at the Missionary Training Center. I’ll spend a few hours tonight thinking about that. But I do know one thing – if I put the Lord first in my life, everything else will fall into place or disappear. And that’s good enough.

Hopefully everyone doesn’t understand what it means to wake up one day completely devoid of self-esteem. But we all struggle in life. We don’t know if our dreams will come true. We should work for our own success and be optimistic. But when the odds seem stacked against us and we lose our vision, I know the Lord is still at our side. And having faith in Him – faith that He will fulfill His promises – can help us overcome anything in our way. I invite you to build your own faith. Ask the same questions I have. He answered me; He will answer you. And once you know that God is, that He loves you, that He is involved in your life, and that your life is in accordance with His will, then nothing else matters. Go share the knowledge with the world – go out and be missionaries!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Custom Search