Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Press Forward

This last week I was teaching Sunday School. The lesson was Press Forward With a Steadfastness in Christ, covering 2 Nephi 31-33. It's been interesting, seeing how the Lord speaks to me. I've tried taking a leaf out of Sheri Dew's book and asking the Lord how He communicates with me so that I can be more receptive to His guidance for me, personally.

Well, in preparing this lesson, I asked the Lord for guidance so that anyone who might need it would receive revelation from my lesson. As I delved deeper into my research, though, I realized that this lesson was for me. I needed to hear this and I should keep my heart open to the lessons I'd be learning while I taught. As Nephi says, "the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding" (2 Ne. 31:3).

Someone in my class asked why in the world Sheri Dew would need help learning how to receive revelation. I mean, she's Sheri Dew. Someone else in the class answered saying that our habits and circumstances cause our methods of receiving information to change all the time. Sometimes we'll receive God's words while talking to a friend. Sometimes while in moments of deep reflection. Sometimes while letting our minds wander before going to sleep. This particular man answering the question said that he receives revelation through theater. It made me realize that I need to be in constant check with the Lord to understand how He's speaking to me. It's not a one size fits all kind of deal.

This idea of pressing forward is what I so need to embed in my character. It is easy to ride the peaks and valleys of my experiences and let my circumstances dictate how I act, but that is not the Lord's way. As I mentioned in my previous post, it is easy to numb myself to pain, but it is the Lord's way to sharpen my senses to the Spirit. Satan is the propagator of numbness. He invites us to turn off feeling so that we don't recognize the distance growing between us and God. As Boyd K. Packer said, "The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear."

So how can I overcome my challenges and trials if I'm not supposed to be numbing my pain? This is where the Spirit spoke to me. This is where the Lord spoke according to my understanding.

We had just discussed how we can consecrate our performance to God. Neal A. Maxwell says, “In pondering and pursuing consecration, understandably we tremble inwardly at what may be required. Yet the Lord has said consolingly, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Do we really believe Him? He has also promised to make weak things strong. Are we really willing to submit to that process? Yet if we desire fulness, we cannot hold back part! Having our wills increasingly swallowed up by the will of the Father actually means an enhanced individuality, stretched and more capable of receiving “all that [God] hath.’ Besides, how could we be entrusted with His ‘all’ until our wills are much more like His? Nor could His 'all' be fully appreciated by the partially committed."

We really are expected to devote every action of ours to the Lord. What am I doing every day? How can that action serve the Lord and build up His kingdom?

My friend told a story in this lesson in which she ran her first marathon. She was in pretty bad shape, and not at all prepared to run the whole race. When she hit her wall, she talked to God, asking Him to help her out, even though she hadn't trained well and she'd gotten herself into this mess. She said, "I then realized that God had the power to help me. And that if I stopped running, I wouldn't get anywhere. The only thing to do was to keep going." That's so true with life! Sometimes I want to stop. Just take a breather and stop trying to reach a place that's simply too far away and too exhausting to reach. But stopping doesn't get me anywhere, literally. And if we keep going, we'll have the help of the Lord.

Sheri Dew ends her wonderful talk, "You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born For Glory" by telling us, “God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ, with Their perfect foreknowledge, already recommended every one of you to fill your mortal probation during the most decisive period in the history of the world. You are here now because you were elected to be here now…. I am nothing if not optimistic about you, for everything about your lives is an indicator of our Father's remarkable respect for you. He recommended you for now, when the stakes are so high. Now is the day when His kingdom is being established once and for all, never again to be taken from the earth. This is the last leg of the relay. This is when He needs His strongest runners.”

I then ended the lesson with my testimony. It was in this testimony that all of the concepts I'd been discussing for the last hour hit me. It hit me hard. I couldn't speak for a few seconds-- I'd been caught off guard by the clarity of this revelation. The Lord not only loves us, He respects us. We are here with a duty to perform and we have been given very specific gifts to perform them. The Lord knows who we will be put in contact with, and what experiences we will endure. He equipped us with our gifts and talents to aid each other and to aid Him.

I'd had a recent experience with a friend that really opened my eyes. He listed some wonderful traits he saw in me and he said, "You're so good at being that person, Whitney." And I realized that when I'm fixated on my problems or my shortcomings, or how differently everything's turned out from what I've wanted, I'm not that person.

But--and this was the moment I'd felt a clear connection to God. This was what He wanted me to hear--when I am focused on why I'm here on this earth, when I'm using my gifts to uplift those around me and build up God's kingdom, my challenges crumble. It's not because my circumstances have changed, but because I see how big this whole plan is, and I see my part in it. I cannot help but feel mighty and strong when I see how my Heavenly Father relies on me. I cannot let Him down. I can't afford to not become the person He has planned on me to be.

I challenge you to ask God to show you how He sees you. When you realize how you look in His eyes, it will be the driving force behind your efforts to press forward.

Now, there will still be times ahead when I am discouraged and lost, but I must remember to press forward and become the woman God knows I can be. I need to not only remember this, but feel it. Feel it so intensely that I am driven to act every day in the ways that would bring me closer to God.

I knew I had to write this down quickly, before I forgot. I don't know if it will help anyone else, but this post is my personal testimony that, in the grand scheme of things, this is the plan of happiness.

I love you all,


Friday, March 16, 2012

Becoming Meek

I've been consistently praying for God to bring peace to my heart. I've asked him to strengthen my soul and my resolve to better my circumstances because I know that the enabling power of the Atonement is real, but I haven't been finding answers too easily. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He hears my prayers and has a better plan in store for me, but I keep falling back on my fears of the future and of the unknown.

Sheri Dew mentions in her talk, "You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory" that when she couldn't receive an answer to her prayers, her friend told her, "Have you asked the Lord to teach you how He communicates with you?" That struck me. I've since stopped asking the Lord to change my heart and instead have asked that the Lord teach me how to receive revelation from Him.

Then today I listened to Neal A. Maxwell's talk, "Meek and Lowly." I know, I've been on a big Maxwell kick recently, but he's got good things to say, and they've continually touched my soul. In Maxwell's words, he defines the meek in the following ways:
The world regards the meek as nice but quaint people, as those to be stepped over or stepped on. Nevertheless, the development of this virtue is a stunning thing just to contemplate, especially in a world in which so many others are headed in opposite directions. These next requirements clearly show the unarguable relevance as well as the stern substance of this sweet virtue.
Serious disciples are not only urged to do good but also to avoid growing weary of doing good (see Galatians 6:9 and Helaman 10:5).
They are not only urged to speak the truth but also to speak the truth in love (see Ephe-sians 4:15).
They are not only urged to endure all things but also to endure them well (see D&C 121:8).
They are not only urged to be devoted to God's cause but also to be prepared to sacrifice all things, giving, if necessary, the last full measure of devotion (see Lectures on Faith 6:7).
They are not only to do many things of worth but are also to focus on the weightier matters, the things of most worth (see Matthew 23:23).
They are not only urged to forgive but also to forgive seventy times seven (see Matthew 18:21­22).
They are not only to be engaged in good causes, but also they are to be "anxiously engaged" (see D&C 58:27).
They are not only to do right but also to do right for the right reasons.
They are told to get on the strait and narrow path, but then are told that this is only the beginning, not the end (see 2 Nephi 31:19­20).
They are not only to endure enemies but also to pray for them and to love them (see Matthew 5:44).
They are urged not only to worship God but, astoundingly, they are instructed to strive to become like him! (See Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48, 27:27.)
Who else but the truly meek would even consider such a stretching journey?

I was very humbled. I've realized that my lack of trust, of faith in my Heavenly Father has made me blind to the bigger picture. As Isaiah says,
6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
 8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:6-8).
Glory is found in the Lord. My strength and my faith can be found in Him. In all of my pleading for peace, I think I wanted more than anything for the Lord to numb my heart so that I could heal pain-free, but that's not the point of this trial. I am supposed to come to know my Savior more because I need Him and because He is the sole place I can turn to for peace. "There appears to be 'no other way' to learn certain things except through the relevant, clinical experiences" (Maxwell).

Maxwell goes on to say, "If sufficient meekness is in us, it will not only help us to jettison unneeded burdens, but will also keep us from becoming mired in the ooze of self-pity. Furthermore, true meekness has a metabolism that actually requires very little praise or recognition--of which there is usually such a shortage anyway."
Isn't that a great phrase? The ooze of self-pity. It really is an ooze. I think I've simply been mucking around in my own hurt, afraid to let go of my pleadings because I want God to answer them in my way and timing. "Disciples are to make for themselves 'a new heart' by undergoing a 'mighty change' of heart (Ezekiel 18:31; Alma 5:12­14). Yet we cannot make such 'a new heart' while nursing old grievances" (Maxwell). It is time that I let my heart become new through the Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

How do we become meek? Maxwell says that "meekness is ... so much more than a passive attribute that merely deflects discourtesy. Instead, it involves spiritual and intellectual activism.... Meek Nephi, in fact, decried the passivity of those who 'will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness' (2 Nephi 32:7). Alas, most are unsearching--quite content with a superficial understanding or a general awareness of spiritual things (see Alma 10:5­6). This condition may reflect either laziness or, in Amulek's case, the busyness usually incident to the cares of the world."

I am extremely guilty of this. It is so easy to float along in the stream of temporal cares, paying little heed to my spiritual status because it requires much more care/time/action than I am often willing to give. I have heard this talk by Elder Maxwell many times, yet today, the Lord answered my prayers in opening my ears and heart to it in a completely new way. I mentioned that I've asked for a numbing of my heart in my prayers, this is how Satan works. He gradually numbs our feeling to anything eternal until we find ourselves too far from the Master to hear His call. Today, I feel more awake and alive after allowing the words of God to touch my heart. My circumstances have not changed; I'm sure I will still feel some pangs of sadness when I go to bed tonight, but I understand now that I must commune with my Savior and continue to feel myself growing eternally.

I've realized lately that while the one aspect of my life that I care so deeply about is not going the way I'd hoped, every other part of my life is exactly as I would have it. I am blessed in many ways, almost as if I am tithing my first ambition right now to come closer to God. This may also be why Maxwell suggested that we have multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives so that we can draw upon many wells of joy when one fails us. This is included in meekness, where "we are not then as easily offended by the disappointments of the day, of which there seems to be a sufficient and steady supply" (Neal A. Maxwell).

Friends, I hope to continue re-learning this lesson throughout my life. It is a principle I keep forgetting, but is so valuable. I need to be an active participant in the building up of God's kingdom, and it is only through the process of becoming like Him that I can find joy--not a pain reliever or momentary numbing to my sorrows, but joy. I am so grateful to have a Father and Brother who remind me that if I have "eyes to see and ears to hear," They will "[give] away the secrets of the universe!" (Maxwell).

Happy Friday,