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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,

Whit

4 comments:

mwoodall said...

This is such a wonderful post!!! I'm so glad I read it. I'm about to start a difficult journey of leaving behind something that has been a problem for me for a while. At least I'm going to try. This is great encouragement, thank you!

Kristy Pincock said...

The student has become the teacher. I can't help but think of how Alma felt when he met back up with the sons of Mosiah. (Alma 17:2-3)..."And what added more to [her] joy, they were still [her sisters] in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were [women] of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God."
I just don't have better words to express my feelings. Thank you so much for sharing your testimony. I needed a reminder.

Devan Sisson said...

Such a beautiful post, Whitney. I really enjoy the spirit it brings.

Noah said...

Here is another one of Elder Maxwell's talks I found a while ago that significantly helps me in my efforts to "press forward":

"Obedience on our part can bring us face to face with new challenges which we need but do not want, challenges from which we may even be running away. Obedience helps us to pioneer beyond the past. Logic may look and tell us that the mountains ahead of us are stern Sierras, but obedience will cause us to press forward anyway over what finally prove to be simply rolling hills.

"Therefore, practice emancipating obedience! Do not let your moods maul your faith. Do not allow the absence of social life and dates to color your attitude toward your rendezvous with the resurrection. Do not let a bad day cause you to think that life is bad. Do not let low self-esteem discount your high blessings. In short, do not homogenize your hopes by mixing and treating them as if all hopes and aspirations are equal. They are not. The hope for a resurrection is guaranteed unconditionally by the atonement of the Savior. The hope for a good grade on an exam is quite obviously a hope of a different order; it is of much less significance and it is by no means guaranteed.

"Our transitory disappointments are real, but the missing letter from home is not really comparable to the delivered message from heaven, the good news of the gospel. Today's unmet hunger for a few more friends must not be allowed to obscure the marvelous reality of the forever friendship of Jesus for each of us. Do not let uncertainty about how others seem to feel about you this week get in the way of how God has always felt about you.

"Our intertwining insecurities, the hunger for peer reassurance, and the tendency to be carried on the tides of today's troubles and disappointments will diminish as we mature. As our understanding of the gospel deepens, it becomes ever more clear that proximate problems need not, and must not, undercut ultimate realities. Thus, as we confront problems which we might shiveringly sidestep, if we could, let us realize, as one poet did, that "sometimes the only way to go is through." We go on that journey with justified hopes to help our hunger and with realities to reassure us. And, in the midst of our transitory troubles, we have the knowledge that he is near at hand, and within us there is even the sense that in the dim past we agreed to all this and that now we must perform on that pledge."