Friday, September 10, 2010

But if not...

A lot of things have been on my mind lately.  As you know my sister has cancer, but additionally my family has had some setbacks and I’ve been dealing with my own personal issues.  It just seems that so much of me is taken up by just getting up every morning that I don’t have the strength to deal with little things.  Talk about mole hills being mountains, that is how I’ve felt the last few months.  It seems like just when I’m on the verge of giving in to the darkness a little ray of sunshine comes peeping through and pulls me off the brink of destruction and then just as quickly I’m right back on the edge again.  As the oldest child, I’ve developed a mother hen mentality, or maybe its something oldest children are born with.  When the crap hits the fan I want to gather my siblings under my wings and keep them safe.  Yet, the more I try to gather it seems the heavier the storm rages.  Star’s battle with cancer has been especially difficult.  It is no secret she is the glue that keeps the family together and while I have left the nest and wandered far from home, I’ve never had to worry because Star was there to make sure everything was ok.  I’ve kinda abdicated the oldest child role to her over the years.  She too has been my rock and so this has been especially hard.  Every setback and defeat has been a heart breaking and crushing blow for me and so I can only imagine how Star must feel.  I went home for a week and got to spend some time with Star and for a short moment the reality of her situation slapped me in the face.  She was so positive and tried to be strong, but I could see the toll the fight was having on her.  When I left she had at least eight more weeks of treatment with no real end in sight.  It was hard to leave.  Then shortly after coming home, on one of those days where I was moments from letting the darkness engulf me we got the news that her counts were finally in the normal range and she only had three more weeks of chemo.  It was an enormous blessing, finally there was an end in sight.  My spirits were lifted and I felt energized.  Then with one week of treatment left we get the news that she might have to undergo more treatment.  Her body and spirit were so worn out.  This last go around the hardest thing was to not even be able to offer words of comfort.  But thankfully the words of a stranger said exactly what she needed to hear.  Throughout all this two themes, well really three have been forefront on my mind.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to share them with you.  This is going to be a long post, but then again most of my posts are.

Theme 1 – But if not…(see Daniel 3)

At the end of 2006, a month before I was to be married, my fiancé abruptly broke off the engagement.  After a tumultuous four year relationship, he all of the sudden didn’t know if he loved me anymore.  He didn’t want to get married, but he wanted to keep me on the merry-go-round with him – you know that whole you’re not sure that you love me, but not sure enough to let me go thing.  I walked away.  Prior to this moment, I had been hesitant about the relationship for a while and finally decided either I had to firmly commit myself or walk away.  I decided to commit and as a token of my commitment to him, I bought I wedding dress I couldn’t return.  It still hangs in my closet today, so if you know of anyone who needs a modest wedding dress, I’m willing to sell it for a reasonable price.  But at the time it seemed that just as I was stepping on what I thought was firm ground, the rug was pulled from underneath me and I was falling.  I was a wreck.  A couple of years prior to that there was a talk in general conference entitled “But if not”,5232,23-1-439-25,00.html Shortly after my break up, I was asked to give a talk in church and that was my theme, the gist of the talk being that life doesn’t always work out, that prayers aren’t always answered, but God is still God.  

I haven’t been angry, but questioning why isn’t this going like it is supposed to or why do prayers not get answered.  Over and over again the thought replayed in my mind “But if not”, I guess the lesson is be careful of what you talk about in church, it may come back to haunt you.  I got to where I didn’t want to pray because I didn’t want to have to learn the lesson of “but if not”.  I didn’t want my prayers to not be answered in the way I wanted them to be answered, because I knew that whatever the answer I would be resigned to say that God was still God.  Not sure this is making a whole lot of sense.   So that brings us back to my sisters’ latest blog post.  Just to relate the story so I can get to the point, King Nebuchadnezzar made a decree that all the people were to worship a golden image, the punishment for failure to comply was to be thrust into the fiery furnace.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego being true to their God, refused and were brought before Nebuchadnezzar who gave them one last opportunity to comply.  Seeing the staunch resolution of these three men and their commitment to their God Nebuchadnezzar asked, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"  I imagine without blinking an eye the three responded with confidence that God would save them.  Then the crux of the story, the three continued But if not, . . . we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." These men knew that even if God did not deliver them from the furnace, he was still God.  I’m not sure what these men thought as they were brought to the furnace as they watched the servants die from the heat of the fire, but I know what I would be thinking, “Really, so you’re going to test that whole ‘but if not thing’?”.  God did not deliver them from the furnace, but he did deliver them from the fire.  The prayers of these men were answered.  I had forgotten that part.  I had been so fearful that my prayers would not be answered or that the outcome would be negative as to test my faith in this principle that I failed to realized that God did answer their prayers.  As I pondered on that, I was lead to theme 2 -  the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease.

Theme 2 - the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24)

So Alma the Younger after being converted and preaching and converting others all flee into the wilderness to escape wicked King Noah.  Noah is burnt at the stake and his priests go running off into the wilderness.  The priests kidnap the lamanites’ daughters and Alma and company get blamed.  The priests use their powers of persuasion (better read as the daughters of the lamanites) to get into the good graces of the lamanites and Amulon the leader of the wicked priests is set as slave master over Alma and Company.  Amulon then proceeds to make the people of Alma’s lives miserable, so much in fact that they cry out for delivery.  Amulon in true wicked guy fashion makes it a capital crime to pray (I mean if this God doesn’t exist, then what’s the big deal if these people pray, its not like he’s going to hear them if he doesn’t exist…wicked bad guys aren’t always the brightest).  So the people of Alma stopped praying with their voices, but continued to pray in their hearts.  The scriptures say, “and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.”  The good news – “And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.”  Yay!!!  Prayers answered we are going to be delivered!!!  So in my mind I’m thinking, “Watch out Amulon, God’s going to get you!”  But then the next verse, “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.  Oh, so you mean that whole delivery thing isn’t going to happen immediately, sigh.  And now the kicker, “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.  So while the Lord did not immediately release them from bondage, he did make their burdens light.  That is kinda what has happened with Star.  He hasn’t chosen to deliver her just yet, but he is strengthening her to bear the burden placed upon her.  She is cheerfully and patiently submitting to the will of the Lord, I on the other hand am not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.

Theme 3 – Be Still… (see Doctrine and Covenants 101:16)

So anyone who knows me to any degree knows that I am stubbornly independent and that I truly believe you can do anything you put your mind to.  Well, I’m learning a new lesson - lesson where I have to throw my hands up in the air and say “I am not in charge”.  I seriously struggle with that whole turning my will over to God.  I’m just afraid to let go and lose control.  Why?  I don’t know, especially since God will do more with my life, seeing how I have done nothing but screw up.  I have finally got to that point where I have given up, at this point it is an unwitting surrender.  I’m beginning to feel that my efforts are pointless because no matter what I do, there is a bigger plan in play.  But that is not what God wants us to do.  It’s like I’m driving a car and I’ve let go of the wheel, you know that whole “Jesus take the wheel” thing.  But God still wants us to drive the car, he doesn’t want to take over.  That is the WHOLE point of this earth life to exercise our agency and God wants us to choose him.  Deiter F. Ucktdorf said, “When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the man who gets out to push than the man who merely raises his voice in prayer – no matter how eloquent the oration.”  And so what about this whole “be still” business then, how does that fit in the mix?  God does not want us to drive around aimlessly, nor does he want us to shirk our responsibility and take our hands off the wheel, but he wants us to be still and know he is God.  If any one has had the “privilege” of seeing a Melissa break-down, it is a disaster.  I’m all over the place.  So for me that be still means, stop the craziness, take deep breaths, and listen.  I have found at those times when I do that and place my hands firmly on the wheel I know what to do, I may not know where I’m going, but that takes us to the whole “know I am God” part.  In college I discovered a new favorite scripture.  Background Lehi and his family leave Jerusalem.  The Lord then commands that Nephi and company return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, after two unsuccessful attempts, we get 1 Nephi 4:6 “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”  And in true, “I will go and do” Nephi fashion we get the following verse, “Nevertheless I went forth”.  So Nephi did not take his hands off the wheels, he finally was still and listened as the Lord told him what to do.  I’m pretty sure if he knew where the Lord was taking him he might not have gone so willingly, he struggled with that whole having to kill Laban thing.  Yet, the journey took him beyond that small obstacle and brought great blessings.  I think that is sometimes why God doesn’t give it to us all at once 1. so we learn to be still and know he is God and 2.  one stop in the journey is only part of it.  Case in point, before having served a mission, if I would have known how hard it would be I would not have gone, but at the same time those hard times were more than compensated with true JOYS.  Joys I would not have been able to comprehend had I not experienced them for myself and joys made that much greater because of the hard times.  That being said it is probably better that God not show me where he’s taking me, because I may not want to go and then risk missing out on some truly great experiences. 

In the midst of all this chaos that is my life, I have come to the realization that my life is really good.  I have been abundantly and richly blessed with so many opportunities.  I can look back and see how different experiences have brought me to this point and while right now in the midst of the fiery furnace I want to know how God delivers me, I am certain that I will be able to look back in a few years and see how this experience took me to where I need to be.  I’m sure I’ve got some bumps in the road yet and I really don’t want to know what they are because whatever they may be I know that eventually what awaits me will make all of this jostling about so worth it.


Josie said...

Your post totally made me cry.

I've been preparing to give a talk tomorrow about following Christ and you touched on so concepts I've been thinking about the last few days.

Thank you for writing this so honestly. I love you.

House of Joy said...

Love you big time sweetie. You are wonderful and you have an amazing future ahead of you. You are truly one of God's greatest spirits.
Love ya forever,