Sunday, February 5, 2017

Water From a Rock

Tonight I had a conversation with a girl I work with. Her struggles at home brought her to the residential treatment center where I live and work. She has been here a while and just seems so resistant to changing. She feels so much pressure to be perfect but can't see how to be good enough and what's worse, she can't see a reason to care about what all the adults in her life think about what she is doing and the course she is setting for herself.

I told her a story about me to help her understand why taking constructive criticism or feedback matters. This is what I told her:

A while ago, I got some feedback that really cut to my core. I felt hopeless and inadequate. The mistakes I was making were hurting my family and might cost me my job. As I lay on my bedroom floor crying so hard my body shook and I felt exhausted from the effort, I was confronted with a choice. Either give up and believe that I could never be better than my current self or do something about it. I decided to do something about it.

I came up with a list of things I needed to do to be better. This was my list:
  • No more swearing (it makes me feel angry)
  • No unkind words about anyone whether they are present or not
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat healthier foods
After reciting my list, I told this girl that no one could have made that list for me. That I had to be the one to look inside myself and see what needed to be done. Then I told her to do that for herself. Give it some time and some thought and decide what her list is. And decide if she is satisfied with who she is and where she is going or if there is something more that she wants for herself. She went to bed after a few tears and I hope that somehow that conversation made a difference.

What is sad to me though, is that this wasn't the whole story. She didn't get the unabridged version of events. The one that gives credit where credit is due and shows where truly transformative power comes from.  The one that reveals the unspeakable power and peace of the Atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ that inspired that list. This is the real story:

A while ago, I got some feedback that really cut to my core. I felt hopeless and inadequate. The mistakes I was making were hurting my family and might cost me my job. As I lay on my bedroom floor crying so hard my body shook and I felt exhausted from the effort, I was confronted with a choice. Either give up and believe that I could never be better than my current self or do something about it. I called my dad and asked him for help. I asked him to guide me and give me the direction only someone intimately familiar with my struggles with anger could give. I told him that if I could I would take a knife and cut out the rotten part of myself. The part that continually broke and fell into a path of torment and fear--I would take a knife and carve from my body this infection. He cried with me and loved me. Showed me the love patterned after the love of a Heavenly Father perfectly aware of our struggles. Of our desires and dreams. And then he told me to read Moroni chapter seven. I hung up with my dad after he spoke these words, "You asked God to help you and this is how He is doing it. You may not like it and it most certainly hurts, but He is helping you."

I read Moroni chapter seven and lingered on verse forty-five. The one that God wrote just for me. "And charity suffereth long and is kind. Enviety not, Seeketh not her own, is not puffed up and is not easily provoked, speaketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believest all things, hopeth all things endureth all things."

That verse raised my prostrate body to my knees. Lifted my forlorn voice to Heaven and raised my downcast eyes to God. I pleaded with Him. Begged Him to heal me. I pleaded for His mercy and His Grace. I cast my burden at His feet and asked that He show me a better way. His answer was swift and clear. His answer was a list of things I needed to do to access His Grace.

This was His list:
  • No more swearing (speaking evil, being puffed up, rejoicing in iniquity)
  • No unkind words about anyone whether they are present or not (Speaking evil, seeking my own, rejoicing in the truth)
  • Exercise every day (Suffering long, enduring all things)
  • Eat healthier foods (Enduring all things)
  • No anger with my family. Ever. (Bearing all things, not being provoked)
  • Daily fervent prayer (Hoping all things, rejoicing in the truth)
  • Daily scripture study (Rejoicing in the truth)
  • Do bedtime with my children every day.
  • Look my children in the eyes and love them
Later that week, as I was having my daily scripture study I read in Alma chapter eight about a wicked people who "would not hearken unto the words of Alma" (God's prophet). "Nevertheless, Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that He would pour out His Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him...we do not believe in such foolish traditions...and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him and caused that he should be cast out of their city...And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul...it came to pass that while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: Blessed art thou Alma...And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again ...Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.

As I read those words, the Spirit spoke clearly to my soul that I was like those people. God had sent His messengers to me many times to tell me how to change but I refused. I withstood His words, reviled Him and  caused that He should leave my heart. And even more than that, I had received His promised blessings and heard His guidance many times, yet I would not humble myself enough to receive the fullness of His help. And just as I was like those people, God will not suffer me to refuse Him any more. I must repent or He cannot stop the necessary consequences of my anger. Those feelings and impressions struck me deeply and I felt determined to keep my resolve, to remember my utter dependence on my Savior. To remember that without Him I will undoubtedly fail. And by the same token, with Him, He will raise me to incredible heights.

That day was almost two months ago. Since then, I have slipped and gotten angry. But in those two months I have leaned on Him and He has brought me closer to Him. He has lifted me up and changed my heart. I love my God! I love my Savior! I know they love me, they know me and want me to make it. And I will--I know that He has done more than carve from my chest an ugly infection. With power He has healed that infection, and He can take my imperfect being, the one prone to stray from Him and bind me to Him. He brought water forth from a rock and He can bring forth works worthy of praise from me, for He is mighty to save.




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