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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,
Whit

5 comments:

Doug Funny said...

Beautifully and well spoken. Thank you for sharing Elder Maxwell, who really seems to have a way with words to the earnest seeker of truth. I particularly liked this portion of your post: "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, ever other part of my life is exactly as I would have it." In my living room, I have hanging something I made that reminds me that all the parts that contribute to satisfaction of the soul that are mine to control are well. That realization will serve you very well moving forward.

An excellent post. Thank you, and keep up the good work bringing joy to others in your own unique way. Godspeed.

mwoodall said...

Wow! I am seriously going through this same thing right now! This week especially. Thanks for reminding me what I've been learning and reinforcing it. :) Sometimes I just think "why does life have to be so hard?!" But you're right, it's how we grow. I also like the part where you said you were afraid to let go of your pleadings because you wanted God to answer them in you way and timing. I'm totally guilty of that! Instead of waiting or looking for the answer I keep praying because it's not happening when or how I want it. Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been feeling this way. :)

bec said...

Dearest Whitney,
You are such a powerhouse of a woman. Powomanhouse, if you will. I miss you and your firm buttocks.

amanda said...

This was eye-opening, heart-expanding. Thank-you. Hyphens everywhere. But really, thank you for taking the time to write and share these insights; I will be rolling them around in the ol' thought barrel for a while.

Noah said...

I share your appreciation for Elder Maxwell's example of a life striving follow the Master's path of meekness and humility, as well as his doctrinal poetry.

I too have been going through a journey of adjustment and (hopefully) refinement these last few years. Elder Maxwell's words have helped me to "see things as they really are" and both find those things that were missing in my life as well as find the missing appreciation for the things I had already been blessed with.

If you haven't already, I would suggest Maxwell's "Spiritual Ecology" (http://www.lds.org/new-era/1975/02/spiritual-ecology?lang=eng). Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a collection of principles woven together in the fabric of immutable law; this is the romance and the high adventure of orthodoxy: these principles, bound together, not only give us salvation, but they also give us balance, depth, and happiness in our lives.
The doctrines of Jesus Christ are so powerful that any one of these doctrines, having been broken away from the rest, goes wild and mad, as G. K. Chesterton observed. The principle of love without the principles of justice and discipline goes wild. Any doctrine, unless it is woven into the fabric of orthodoxy, goes wild. The doctrines of the kingdom need each other just as the people of the kingdom need each other."
...
"May I suggest to you further that what the gospel gives us that is so precious, in terms of perspective, is also the balance that avoids fads, the fads that sweep across our society. The gospel gives us a sense of balance and a sense of proportion about the things that matter most. We can avoid the problems C. S. Lewis describes, when an anxious society runs around with fire extinguishers in times of flood; we are put on guard against the very things that we least need to be put on guard against when we listen to secular prophets."


Looking back now, I can recognize the existence of incomplete doctrines, bits and pieces that have "gone wild". I find myself now on a quest to find those missing bits that balance out the other doctrines - those hard doctrines that were left by the wayside because my family / culture / personal arrogance didn't see any need to keep them around, but now I see how they add so much balance to our lives and give us a personal strength and stability that I've never known before.

That, and books on self-deception (see "Bonds That Make Us Free" by C. Terry Warner). I had no idea how much I was (and still am) pulling the wool over my own eyes. Very insightful.

Glad to see there is another sojourner starting to see the real path we must follow, and how much work we and the Lord have in front of us.