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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Living Abundantly Rather Than Just Existing

Hello, friends!

It has been an interesting couple of weeks for me. Not much has happened in terms of life phases, but I've found myself changing into several different people due to my circumstances, and I've realized that I should take charge of myself.

I don't normally consider myself a brash, curt, or sassy person. I dislike confrontation and awkwardness more than anyone I know, but these past couple weeks, I've been so irritable at work. I've felt like it's been okay to be brash with someone because I'm wanting to deliver a good product. Ironically, I've felt like this product could uplift other people, yet in the making of this product, I haven't uplifted the people right in front of me.

Of course, I knew from the moment I opened my mouth that I'd be humbled pretty soon. And then I listened to some Neal A. Maxwell on the way home this week. His talk, "The Pathway of Discipleship," gave me some important things to think about. Maxwell said, “It’s interesting that those who have eyes single to the glory of God are those who see the most of reality.” And the reality of this life is that “in each of life’s situations, large or small, therefore, if you and I will bring fixed principles and strive to be more like Jesus, including emulating his generosity, then we will be living abundantly and not just existing.” The overall message I took from this is that I have the power to live my life, rather than to simply exist. And life is lived most abundantly when we are following Christ.

I am still learning from this experience. In my mind, I was perfectly justified for my actions. This is a different version of the same lesson I learn all the time: We must be creators rather than creatures of circumstance. I can't let my situations dictate my actions because I am practicing to live a higher law. If I am to be more like Christ, I can't simply go with the flow. “These attributes emerge from a consciously chosen way of life; one in which we deny ourselves of all ungodliness and we take up the cross daily—not occasionally, not weekly, not monthly” (Maxwell). This life is an active pursuit rather than a passive experience.

What caught my attention first as I listened to this talk was when Maxwell said
True, as the scripture says, ‘Wickedness never was happiness’ (Alma 41:10), but neither is lukewarmness full happiness. Failing to be valiant in Christian discipleship will leave us without significant happiness. Therefore, our active avoidance of wickedness must be followed by our active engagement in righteousness.
And I realized that I was not happy, even though I had every reason to be. Every part of my life that I have control over is going well and I am very blessed. Yet recently, I've been lukewarm in my life experiences and merely trudging through them.

This drudgery is the difference between sins of commission versus sins of omission. Maxwell says:
Yes, the avoidance of wickedness remains ever important, but the sins of omission also represent a haunting failure. How often, may I ask you, do we speak about the need for repentance concerning our sins of omission? Or how often do we make personal confessions of them to God?... It is very often the sins of omission that keep us from spiritual wholeness because we still lack certain things.

Gah! Of course! How often do I focus on what I should be doing rather than merely avoiding what I shouldn't be doing? In order to improve my character and become more like Christ, I can't simply not be mean or not be idle or not be prideful. I also have to be kind, loving, hardworking, and humble.

After being hit over the head with the humbling fact that I needed to change, Maxwell then moved onto how we can motivate ourselves. This is always how God works when refining us. He doesn't discourage us with all that we lack, but, rather, encourages us with all we can become. “Will we… remember our true identity as we move through daily life? How much sin occurs because people momentarily forget who they really are?” We are children of a Heavenly Father, and thus have the potential to become like God.

Maxwell mentions the importance of everyday choices:
“It takes faith to persist in doing good, particularly quiet good, for which there is no recognition. Otherwise, why bother? Therefore, faith in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation is needed not just for life’s turbulent, traumatic moments but also for daily life’s seemingly small but nevertheless defining moments.”
I forget so often that I can be better in the seemingly small situations of my life. I have the choice to uplift those around me rather than to simply exist. “Conversations and decisions in which we engage, even if they seem small, expose the heart and the mind and their furnishings. Brigham Young once said, ‘You cannot hide the heart, when the mouth is open’ (JD 6:74)” (Maxwell). Every experience can become a refining moment that brings me and those around me even closer to Christ. I just have to keep my eyes and my heart open to these experiences and recognize them for the refining qualities they possess.

At any rate, I have much to improve upon, but this is a new experience demonstrating the same lessons for me. Every day is an opportunity to instill divine habits in my character, regardless of the situation. “We are immortal individuals whose constant challenge is to apply immortal principles to life’s constantly changing situations. With this perspective we can improve our daily performances because we have fixed our gaze on eternity and its great realities” (Maxwell).

We are immortal individuals! This means we should not be content with mortal characters. I have the potential to become perfect, to have loving-kindness, and to strengthen those around me.

I think my first mode of action in being a better disciple of Christ is to give this coworker a break and to help him feel loved and encouraged. Well, technically it's Saturday, so I guess the first thing I'll do is spend this time with my family at my niece's dance recital. But I can still prepare myself for Monday. (:

Love you all,
Whit

1 comment:

Noah said...

It shounds like you are ripe for a little "eye opening" and disruptive experience.

Try reading these two books, (in tandem, if possible):

- "Bonds that make us free : healing our relationships, coming to ourselves" by C. Terry Warner. _Big_ eye opener to be able to see ourselves as we really are, and be able to see the ways we deceive ourselves. Earthshattering.

- "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall. (This one has a few "choice" superlatives, so keep your "jump to the next word" senses keen). This changed the way I look at many of the popular myths about running, nutrition, health science, shoes, etc.

I think if you are able to switch back and forth between the two, it will help to reinforce the "Moses Moments" (Moses 1:39) of the other one, and start to see the ways our cultures, traditions, and messages from other sources may not be giving us the whole picture.

(And for extra credit - check out Richard Eyre's "The Three Deceivers". I haven't read it yet, but I think it goes right along with the other two.)