Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Rocky

"You ain't gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. I'd hold you up to say to your mother, "This kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew." And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilige. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain't gonna have a life. Don't forget to visit your mother."

When I first heard Rocky's speech, I felt like he was telling me to "snap out of it," to "shake it off." That sort of hurt. Those are phrases I don't like to hear. If you're telling me to snap out of it, then you clearly don't understand how all this works. You don't understand that if I could simply snap out of it, I would have done that long ago. But I can't, so I haven't.

Rocky is right: the world is most definitely not sunshine and rainbows. It is full of dark, difficult things that we must experience. And it does "beat you to your knees."

I don't really understand how to "keep moving forward." I suppose that's like getting out of bed each day and facing the world no matter how hard it seems. And winning? Since life is a battle, I suppose you can win. Maybe winning happens when you get to the end of the day and say to yourself, "I've done all I can do, and that's enough."

"If you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth." Maybe, "If you know what you WANT, then go out and get what you WANT." That's where fighting comes in--fighting your battle.

The phrase from Rocky's speech that I understand best comes near the end when he says, "Until you start believing in yourself, you're not going to have a life." To me, this means that if you spend your whole life wound up in your battle, you'll miss those small, beautiful things that occur every day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Tutoring

As life's challenges continued to pile up and overwhelm me, I began to lose hope. I was prepared to surrender--to give up on my battle. But that is impossible; life is a battle from beginning to end.

There was one question that was always in the front of my mind, and I felt that if I could find that answer, everything else would fall into place. But it's a question I've had for many years now, and it was hard for me to believe I would receive that answer any time soon. I was so desperate for some small glimmer of light, but I didn't know where to find it.

What I needed was a tailored blessing--a blessing that specifically answered that big question on my mind. I immersed myself in a search for an answer. Does the Lord give tailored blessings to His children?

I found many examples in the scriptures. When the Lamanites were overshadowed by the cloud of darkness, they cried unto the Lord. The cloud of darkness was dispersed and they were surrounded by light (Helaman 5:40-43). When Alma saw his son seeking to destroy the church, he prayed that his son would stop preaching against the church and would be obedient. An angel appeared to Alma the Younger and he ceased to do evil (Mosiah 27:14). When Enos became repentant, he cried unto the Lord for a whole day that he might be forgiven. The Lord told Enos that because of his faith in Christ, his sins were forgiven (Enos 1:4-8). After Job had experienced all his earthly trials, he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord restored all that he had and more (Job 42:10, 12).

As I continued to find more examples of the Lord's tailored blessings for His children, I came to realize that those who received tailored blessings received them because they prayed for them and had enough faith that they would be blessed. I became discouraged all over again. I didn't think I had that kind of faith--that the Lord would bless me.

I began a study on faith wherein I learned that to have even a particle of faith is enough (Alma 32:27). I just have to keep nourishing that faith and let it continue to grow. At this point, I questioned if I could ever have so strong a faith as to know without any doubt. I learned that even after nourishing that faith, my knowledge wouldn't be perfect, but I would "know [that] the seed was good" (Alma 32:36).

More studies and reflections on faith brought me to the conclusion that having faith meant being patient and willing to wait on the Lord's time. It meant being selfless and humble. I'm a patient person, and I don't mind waiting, but I wasn't sure how much longer I could wait for my tailored blessing. I was desperate for an answer to my questions. I couldn't understand why the Lord was asking me to wait when I was experiencing so much confusion.

In searching for understanding, I've come to the conclusion that I am in the midst of what Elder Neal A Maxwell called a "divine tutorial"--that is, an opportunity given by the Lord to learn and grow spiritually. My faith is being tested, but I am developing spiritual endurance. C.S. Lewis illustrated a divine tutorial when he wrote:

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace."

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord tells his servants, "And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along" (Doctrine and Covenants 78:18). He knows I cannot make it alone; He's promised to help me. So, I suppose I'm ready to fight my battle--from beginning to end.