Dimes become quarters

Life is changing rapidly. I think it’s changing for the better.

But I can probably no longer claim it’s turing on a dime. It’s turning quickly, but I am more like a super-tanker than a volleyball player pivoting on a court.

Super tanker changing course.

Change takes time. Although some decisions need to be made quickly, lasting change cannot come overnight.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell provides a simple explanation why: “Twigs are bent, not snapped, into place.”1

Thus God takes time in effecting change in his children’s lives.

I’ve railed against God many times during this process. Mine, however, is only the sound of straining engines in a large ship (those who have cruised understand this sound; you likely woke to it on 1/3 or more of all your mornings onboard). It is the sound of protest, but the sound of acceptance of the Captain’s will.

A few things became clear during last week’s General Conference:

  • The path I was on prior to teaching high school was good, but not good enough
  • The choices I was making would not as immediately lead me back to God’s presence: I would have had a longer period of difficulty and struggle than I have currently been through
  • God loves me, even though He might have instigated the things that I considered painful in the last 18 months

This fits well with the instruction from Elder Maxwell:

Without patient and meek endurance we will learn less, see less, feel less, and hear less. We who are egocentric and impatient shut down so much of our receiving capacity.2

I may have been accused of egocentricity on more than one occasion and probably rightfully so.

I can certainly self-identify much time over the last 18 months where I was so pained that all I could focus on was myself. These were the darkest times. I still don’t know whether egocentricity was a cause or a result of these experiences.

Regardless of the chicken or egg coming first, egocentricity kept me from receiving answers to the question that was ever-present on my mind: why?

I could not begin to understand or learn from my lessons until I became more patient. And only after I began to accept the possibility of no release from the difficulty did the chances to learn and understand really begin.

Deliverance will come. Many, many nights may be spent drowning in tears of despair, but deliverance will come. It will not be how you expect it, and it will not be in the time you expect. But at some point as you scratch, claw, fight, and attempt to pull yourself out, the hand of the Master will reach down and provide exactly the strength you need to keep climbing.

That is Divine Deliverance. It comes to all, and only those who have given up their egos in the process recognize His hand.

____

1. Maxwell, Neal A. “Endure it well.” General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. April 1990. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1990/04/endure-it-well?lang=eng. Visited 11 October 2015.

2. Ibid.

How can I want revelation when revelation led me here?

I’ve always tried to follow revelation as best as I could. When I recognized I should do something, I did it with the expectation good would come of it.

While talking with my bishop yesterday, he said I should seek revelation about dating. That set me off and contributed nastily to the spiral I was already in.

How I can I want to seek revelation when following revelation is what landed me in the situation I’m in now? How can it possibly be a good thing to specifically seek revelation about dating when the last time I did that I was in a relationship for 16 months that I was expecting never to end? How can I seek for revelation when I was told in words as clear as “if you both work hard at it, you’ll have a very good marriage” and then not have that ever happen–God knowing full well that the girl is/was not in a place where she trusts herself enough to be in a relationship of that level of commitment?

How can I trust God not to put me through the ringer again when He knew the outcome of that revelation that started this entire experience more than two years ago? How can I want to seek divine guidance when I followed it to become a teacher and then had to leave for my sanity’s sake?

How can I want to do that to myself again? How can I want to seek for something that theoretically makes my life better when for the last year doing what I felt inspired to do has left me a humiliated shell of who I was?

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Given a choice, I would never go back and change the decisions I made. Starting to date the girl based on revelation was the best decision I made to that point in my life. God knew how strongly I’d fall for her. He knew that giving me clear revelation about our potential future would cause me to do certain things. I wouldn’t trade those 16 months for anything.

Revelation gave me the best things I have in life. Revelation also caused me to end the relationship when she didn’t have the strength to. Revelation encouraged me to leave my job and protect what little of me there was left. Revelation helps me rebuild myself each day.

Trusting Father is difficult. I don’t expect He’s enjoyed watching me suffer. I don’t expect He will stop my suffering, either. I have some expectation that, no matter what, He is in charge, and because He is good, the things He gives me can only be for good.

The things I’ve been asked to do, and the consequences of my actions have been more difficult than I ever expected I would deal with. I daily ask for strength to deal with the difficulties of that day. Asking for more is thinking too far ahead.

But I don’t want to again go through what I’ve been through. I don’t want to have my heart and my being torn out and shredded into pieces. Thinking of that and considering it as a possibility causes me to spiral out of control. But if I must go through it, I will. Jesus drank His bitter cup. Mine is not the bitter cup of the world’s sin, pain, illness, and struggle. Mine is specific to me. I may ask for its removal, as He did, but when faced with it, I will not shrink.

Benefits of depression: Increased insight to atonement

This dovetails very closely with the previous post. Sacrament is an important part of applying the atonement daily in my life. 

Before I spiraled, I had a pretty good understanding of the atonement. I had benefitted from it as I repented of sins. I had cognitive understanding it could be used for other things, but I had not experienced it strongly relating to weakness. 

Because of what I was in the middle of, I could not do certain things, I could not motivate myself to do certain things. I was weak. And that weakness was not something I had experienced so poignantly before. 

By going through that period, I had to pray for strength provided through the atonement every day. 

Every day I struggled to gain, ask for, and receive the strength to push forward. Every day I had to humble myself and ask Father to give me strength from the atonement. Every day I was forced to recognize my weakness and work to accept it and overcome it with help. 

The atonement is for sin. It is for pain. It is for weakness, generally and specifically. It is for broken hearts. It is for depression. It is for physical and mental shortcomings. It is for illness. It is for healing in every possible meaning of the word. 

I understand it a little better now because I have been through more trials. Healing is real. It comes from atonement. 

Benefits of depression: Greater appreciation for sacrament

In the weekly LDS service, the emblems of Christ’s body are blessed as He blessed them and passed to the congregation. As I’ve experienced this period where depression outwieghed everything else, the sacrament has gained greater importance in my week. 

I don’t think I took it for granted before, but it means more now. The sacrament was tens minutes each week when hope and God’s love took the forefront of my focus. 

It didn’t often stay for long, but those few minutes were of critical importance in my journey through the darkness. Without the complete absence of hope, I would not have seen the few minutes of peace each week.

Each week I renewed the promises I had made with God and was reassured the blessings connected to those covenants would eventually come to me. 

Connections between scripture and my life

Mark 6:48 tells the first part of a story most of us are familiar with. Matthew 14:26-31 continues and finishes that story. 

Mark 6:48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Three important points stick out here. Jesus saw his disciples toiling in rowing. He came to them. He came in the fourth watch. 

The fourth watch is the last watch before dawn. It comes after everything else that might happen at night. 

I worship a God that sees me toiling as Jesus saw His disciples. I worship a God who comes in the fourth watch. Through three watches I may feel abandoned, but He sends peace and relief in the fourth watch. 

I worship a God who sends relief at the end of a long, dark night of struggle–a God who loves me. He will come when His time time has passed. He will invite me, as Peter, to join Him on the waves before He enters my boat. 

It is ok if I doubt, as did Peter, after I step onto the water outside of my boat with nothing under me: Christ will save and support me, but I should not be afraid to step out of the boat. 

The winds and the waters may be boisterous, my boat may be tossed, water may be entering it, water may be sinking it. But I cannot be so engaged in bailing out the water that I do not see Jesus coming to me, walking on water, in the fourth watch, waiting for me to see Him, so He can tell me to “be of good cheer” and bring safety, peace, and salvation in my times of great trials. 

Praying honestly

I read a BYU devotional recently that mentioned something I’ve come to learn is very important. Praying openly and honestly is critical to bring change in my life.

I seek healing. I seek peace. I seek understanding of the situations I experience every day.

For me, prayer is a critical part of that. I have to be actively engaged in my healing, and I have to be completely honest with Father in my prayers.

Prayers often reflect my mental state. They are happy when I’m happy, they are dejected when I am dejected, but I always try to maintain a strong portion of gratitude. This is likely helpful, but not the subject of this post.

When I’m most depressed, when the world has piled itself on top of me (or when I’ve dug a hole, jumped in, and decided to fill it from the inside), my prayers often lack honesty. Only when my problems become so insurmountable that I cannot escape them alone (when I recognize how little control I have) do I elaborate the exact difficulties I have to God.

The is also true when things are going well. When I’m doing well, when life is full of blessings, I maintain gratitude, but my prayers are usually less specific than when I’m very troubled.

These things should not be.

Prayer is a method of engaging in honest, specific self-reflection. It has divine implications if you allow it to, but I believe the words of Jonathan Sandberg are accurate for me:

In your prayers, be sure to speak openly, sincerely, and directly to Him who is your loving Father. Sometimes I fear our prayers are too vague and too passive to bring about the spiritual support we need.

God requires us to know ourselves. He knows us perfectly. We must grow to that same knowledge. Even if we don’t like the things we discover and learn, acknowledging them specifically in prayer can be the first step to healing and overcoming them.

Specificity in prayer is important. It’s far more important to say, “Father, help me have the strength to fight through my apathy today” than to say “Uh, please help me to get some feelings.”

“I’m really unmotivated right now. All I do muster the desire to do and execute was say this prayer. Please grant me a little more strength to move forward with __[collecting tax documents, opening the mail, packing my clothes, writing more code]__.”

Praying honestly brings out honesty that is critical to my progress. By acknowledging my shortcomings to myself and to God in prayer, I fulfill the scriptural injunction in Ether:

If men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness

and I learn more about me. I learn to identify the source of my challenges. From there I can make progress and grow. From there I learn God

[gives] unto men weakness that they may be humble [don’t I know it?]; and [he says] and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

My weakness isn’t yet strength. My weakness might change from prayer to prayer.

But praying honestly, admitting areas of weakness, asking for help, asking specifically, and asking for strength to move forward is necessary to my personal growth.

Dear sister in the parking lot

I saw a sister walking at the front of the building as I drove into the church parking lot today. When I walked to the back door, she passed me again and I saw her face. I glimpsed it for only second, but there was anguish laced across it and she was on the verge of tears.

I did the normal smile-just-before-you-pass-and-then-put-your-head-down. However, before I started that process, though I saw her face and realized my smile would have little effect. I felt as though I should ask, “Can I do anything for you?”

But I didn’t. I let the moment pass.

It would have been weird to ask a complete stranger what I could do for her. She could have taken it wrong. I might have been embarrassed. She might have ignored me and passed by still sobbing.

All that might have happened. And all of it has happened in my mind many times since passing her by. But more importantly I’ve realized something more embarrassing occurred: I chose not to follow a prompting.

It was small. It was quick. It required immediate response. I didn’t jump at the chance, and I should have.

Although I regret not following the prompting, I take major comfort in one thing: I recognized it. For a lot of months, I was so embattled within my own head that I couldn’t recognize pain in others’ faces. I wasn’t receiving promptings to help others because I wasn’t in a good place myself.

So I rejoice that I saw another’s pain and received a prompting to do something about it, and I recognize the next step: acting on it and doing something about the prompting.

My dear sister whom I saw in the parking lot,

I’m sorry I saw your pain and felt prompted to ask whether I could do anything for you and did nothing. There are a lot of things that went through my head in that split second, and none of them are adequate excuses for not acting.

I’ve thought about you during every moment of the meeting, I’ve prayed for you that my missed chance will not negatively affect you, and you’ve been the muse for a blog post. So maybe two people beside me will pray for you also (my blog doesn’t have a consistent readership), but that’s two more than you had, so maybe that’s not nothing.

I don’t know why you are pained. I hope Father wrapped his arms around you since I passed you by, and I hope you’ve been courageous enough to reach out to friends.

It isn’t as meaningful now, and it doesn’t help you now, but I pledge to be stronger in the future and to follow promptings in the moment they come.

You likely hold no grudge or ill will against me, but I hope you forgive me for passing you by and not reflecting you Father’s love with anything more than a smile.

I wish you the best, Anonymous Sister.

Lee J Hinkle

Our challenges affect us forever

I didn’t ask to have the year I did. In fact, I fervently prayed for a completely different set of experiences. I worked really hard for things that I felt inspired to pursue, things I knew would be blessings in my life. I strove to land a full-time teaching job. I worked to be appointed as a head coach. And I fought tooth and nail to keep my relationship together and make progress toward making eternal covenants with her and God.

Now, none of those things exist in my life. I have no contact with the girl, I don’t teach for pay, and I no longer am the head coach. All those things I worked for, all those things that mattered most have been taken away. To top it all off, I experienced depths of depression I never thought possible, I mourned more deeply than I expected I could, and I quit the things I thought would bring me the most long-term joy.

But my heart is opened. I feel more deeply now than I ever have before. I’ve learned to draw on the pain I experienced and the worries I have about my future to empathize with friends who experience trials and challenges in their lives.

I wrote last week about seeing the people behind their trials. The things I experienced make me better. The long-term perspective shows that I am more like Father than I was last year.

But I am not the things I experienced. I am not a failed teacher. I am not a depressive. I am not a bad coach. I am not a failure as a boyfriend.

Viewing myself as these things limits my growth and improvement. Taking these experiences and recognizing lessons I can learn from them, has shown me to see my friends behind their trials.

The largest take-away is I must actively be pursuing the things that matter most. I value helping others. I value serving. I value following Father with trust and faith.

What I experienced this last year teaches me to be spiritually strong. It teaches me to follow God and be more like Him. I will be forever affected by my experiences, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The person behind the most obvious characteristic

I’ve been pondering how I can better love those around me. I have friends with all sorts of mental, physical, emotional, and religious challenges. From depression to anxiety to eating disorders, fibromyalgia, homosexuality, autism, substance addiction, to pornography addiction.

These things–especially depending on how often my friends mention or focus on it–often become the basis for how I perceive them.

“Jeff is a really good guy, even though he’s addicted to pornography.”

“Amy is super-productive for someone with depression.”

“Emily is really cool for a lesbian.”

“Alfred is the best divorced guy I know.”

And perceiving them this way is wrong.

Heavenly Father loves each of us because of who we are, not what challenges us. When we consider the eternal perspective, we must realize that what people many struggle with the most are not eternal aspects of their character.

The fact I spent the last six months incredibly depressed are not an eternal aspect of who I am. However, it taught me critical lessons about myself and empathizing with others and impacts my return to Father’s waiting arms.

My friends may experience pain and trials. They may be depressed, divorced, missing limbs, chemically imbalanced, same-sex attracted, or all of those.

They are children of a Loving God. They may or may not accept that fact. But I can. I can love them for who they are. I can love them for their eternal characteristics–characteristics that may be strengthened by their challenges.

So the way I perceive them, the way I love them must be informed that these trials are temporary. After mortality ends, none of these things will be challenges they face. Anxiety, depression, amputation, same-sex attraction, divorce, eating disorders, addiction, and so many other things won’t affect us any more.

Those then won’t be the things that define my perceptions of my friends. Nor should they be now. If I can change my above perceptions to:

“Jeff is a really good guy.”

“Amy is quite productive.”

“Emily is really cool.”

“Alfred is one of the best guys I know.”

Then I show the love Father does and I focus on their whole worth as God intended.

The people I meet are not defined only by their most obvious characteristic(s). Those characteristics and experiences might end up making them better people, but they are temporary. They will not last beyond mortality. And if I do not recognize that, I do myself and them a disservice.

Momentum changes and initiating such

A few weeks ago, I had the following thought stick strongly in my mind:

The way forward begins with me taking one step.

It struck me so strongly that in the middle of sacrament meeting, I loaded up the Cloudpebble IDE online and wrote a app for my watch that displays the quote.

The way forward begins with me taking one step. Inertia is a real thing. It’s obviously a principle of physics. It is also true regarding non-physical things. Making decisions, accepting circumstances, learning from emotions, and so much more begins with making a single decision and beginning to act.

I found this true when I became convinced of my need for help last October. I didn’t want to call and make an appointment with the therapist–I didn’t need help that badly–but I made the call and set the appointment. And that started my momentum down the path to being more healthy.

This was true when I started going on dates again. Asking was never something I was good at. But I was worse at it–and didn’t want to fix it–until late 2014. But taking a step forward and starting to ask, even if I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, put me on the path toward dating again.

There are many applications for this: you can think of far more than I can name. but the principle is true. If you take a step, the second step will be easier.

My current struggle is with home teaching. I believe the program is inspired. I’ve benefitted so much from home teachers. They’ve rarely come, but I’ve always know who mine were and always tried to ask them for blessings before anyone else.

However, I haven’t done well as a home teacher. I’ve known who I home teach for several months, but I haven’t reached out to them yet. I have reasons, but they don’t much matter.

All the matters is the way forward begins with me taking one step. And today is the day I can take that step.