When we are hungry ourselves

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1979 Conference.
I made a goal many years ago to really try to apply every lesson in the scriptures to myself rather than to all the other people I thought could benefit from it. :) I still can't help thinking, "Oh, but if so-and-so only knew this, she wouldn't always be saying such-and-such!" sometimes—but I do think it has been good for me to see over the years that there are many bracing rallying cries (most of them?) which are really only effective when they come from within one's self. They aren't the sorts of things you can (with any degree of politeness/success) tell others to do, but they can still provide great personal comfort and/or improvement!

Because I have to be awakened to a need for improvement before I can speak to myself sternly and bracingly, however, I often have to rely on the words of a modern prophet, saying something that seems slightly overbold or severe. That was the feeling I got with this talk by Elder Marvin J. Ashton. I first thought, "Hmm, I wonder if this sounded too blunt or offended anyone." Then I thought, "I can think of lots of people who could use this advice." Then I thought, "I could really use this advice." Here it is:
It is unproductive for those who should be anxiously engaged in seeking the abundant life to nurse personal hurts. We are all God’s children. If we love Him, we will feed His sheep wherever they may be found, without regard as to our own personal plight or situation. Often we can best feed others when we are hungry ourselves or not completely comfortable in the fold that we presently occupy. Very often those who are hungry, helpless, and cold can best be rescued by those who have been through the same exposures. Marking time or stalling should not be indulged in by the weak, weary, uncertain, and unrecognized. Instead, there is a healing power as we use our energy in action, in service, and in lifting others. 
The more I read it, the more I like it (and the more sheepish I feel about all the "personal hurts" I've felt sorry for myself over, through the years). It's so straightforward, and not quite the sort of advice you expect when you're hurting: "Oh, dear, are you feeling bad? Like you don't fit in? Like you need someone to feed you spiritually? Well—Ha! GOOD! All that stuff will help you as you get over it and get on with helping someone else!"

(I also kind of like this for its departure from the conventional "You have to take care of yourself and fill your own bucket before you can take care of others!" wisdom. Of course that is true, in its own way, and in some aspects of testimony, I'm sure you do have to "put on your oxygen mask first"—but—maybe there is a different or more complex meaning to that than I have sometimes thought. And maybe "filling your own bucket" can sometimes happen simultaneously, AS you are serving others??)

Elder Ashton goes on in this same vein, neatly dismissing any impulse we might have to think that all this hunger and discomfort (our own and that of others) is unfair or shows God's neglect. He says:
Whether the works of God are manifest in healings or in the exhibition of courage and acceptance by those challenged must be left to the ultimate wisdom of Him who comprehendeth all things. 
He makes it sound so simple. You got healed? That was God's work. You just had to accept NOT being healed? That was His work too, showing you how strong you could be.

And then he ends with this (by which I wrote "Bracing! Very bracing!" in my notes, ha ha):
Yielding to the pains of tragedy and grief deters self-development and takes away the opportunity for triumph over trying obstacles. …Letting fears inhibit progress is but another evidence of one’s unwillingness to try because of the fear of failure. …It is a happy day when we come to know that with God’s help nothing is impossible for us.
So, I'm going to add this talk to my personal list of things to rouse myself with (along with imagined conversations with pioneer ancestors, and President Hinckley's "Forget yourself and go to work!") when I'm being whiny and feeling self-pitying. "It is unproductive for those who should be anxiously engaged in seeking the abundant life to nurse personal hurts…Often we can best feed others when we are hungry ourselves."

These powers transform his personal world

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the April 1979 Conference.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how it's better to care and invest yourself in belief, even when that investment seems risky. One of the talks this week seemed to follow up on that idea. It was Elder James M. Paramore speaking about the principle of commitment:
Once commitment is understood as a binding principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a committed person is able to call on heavenly powers and healings. Like the waters behind the mighty dam, these powers transform his personal world.
I thought the dam analogy was interesting. The water behind a dam isn't useful for power until it is allowed to flow through the dam in a controlled and directed way. The smaller and more focused the outlet, the higher the pressure of the water through that outlet. And water that builds up with no outlet eventually just causes destruction. So, does commitment to the cause of God act as a channel for the powers of heaven? And how might that, as a practical matter, work?

I can think of one example: I feel like whenever I pray for specific direction about how to help specific people, the spirit is able to answer me more clearly than when I pray for more generalized charity. Maybe my commitment to, or investment in, a particular action allows me to more easily access heavenly power?

More speculation: maybe this is part of the power of fasting with a purpose? Committing to one purpose for the duration of the fast—one focus for my prayerful thoughts, one concern toward which my heart reaches—seems like a way of focusing and "pressurizing" spiritual power. It also seems applicable to the Law of Consecration. If I commit my whole soul—time, talents, and everything else—to the cause of Christ, it makes sense that my effort channeled through that one outlet would be much more powerful than the same amount of effort spread out between various "worthy causes."

I was even thinking about commitment in relation to this General Conference Odyssey project. When I started participating, I knew I wouldn't have something amazing to say every week, but I felt like I could be committed to learning just one thing from each session, and sharing that thing. Every week I start to be afraid I won't be able to manage it. But maybe because I'm channeling my commitment so narrowly, I find that the spirit nearly always has enough power to bring something to my mind. (Maybe I need a similar goal for my scripture study!)

Ultimately, it seems like we need to not only be committed, broadly, to the gospel of Christ—but we also need to be committed within that work to specific tasks we face. Each time we accept a calling or seek to bless others, our commitment in that area unlocks power that is proportional to our singlemindedness. Elder Paramore gives an example:
Many long to become part of the assembly of the blessed. Many times they cry out in the night for help, not knowing where to turn, how to begin. Their eternal spirits seek help. As social beings we need each other. The commitment to reach out to them is a binding invitation from the Savior. When this is done in love, we may help redeem them. It is infinitely more than just confessing Jesus Christ—it is doing what needs to be done.
This makes me think that need to jump into following the spirit with both feet (regardless of whether or not I'm "sure" about the prompting, or whether or not my action is subsequently appreciated by others, as I talked about last week) is another application of this principle. If I'm half-hearted or unsure in the way I act on possible spiritual promptings, then even if they're true promptings, my power to do good will be lessened. I have to be a "committed person"—opening that one door fully, and letting the water flow through unrestrained—if I want God's powers to actually "transform my personal world."

Frequently, a second effort

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1979 Conference.
This quote is sort of a second witness, I guess, to the one I wrote about last week. It's from President Thomas S. Monson's talk (he was Elder Monson then, of course):
[We must cultivate] a willingness to labor. [The work of the gospel] is difficult. It will tax your energies. It will strain your capacity. It will demand your best effort—frequently, a second effort.
In our Relief Society council meeting this week, someone asked about how we could avoid getting discouraged when our efforts to serve others seemed to be unwanted or ineffective. And I don't really know the answer to that (except "try not to get discouraged!"—which isn't very helpful). But I think one thing that helps ME with the inevitable discouragement is to have frequent reminders of these twin truths—that the work of mortality won't be easy for me, but that it will be good for me. "Hard is good," as a more recent conference talk put it.

So we put in our best effort; we give what we think is enough. And then…we give another effort. And each time, we grow a little more.

Ice, and a flight

We squeezed in a trip to Midway during a very busy week in January, to see the Ice Castle there. We have been to one of these a few times before and loved it, but it was fun and different to be there at night this time. They weren't even open during the day because it had been so warm!
It was a really pretty drive up the canyon. I wish we had been able to see the ice castle a little earlier, when the light was like this.
I'm always so happy to wear my furry hat I got in Russia. And I like carrying a little papoose in my coat, too.
Cute peekers!

Around this same time, Sebastian got to go on a plane flight. We had gotten it for him (a Groupon deal) for his birthday, and finally got around to redeeming it. We made the appointment for early January.
It seemed like the worst possible timing, because just before New Year's, my uncle's plane (a small one like these in the picture) had just been lost in a terrible and unexpected crash. They had been searching for him for a couple weeks before finding the wreckage of the plane in the Great Salt Lake. I just couldn't stand to think about Seb going up in a small plane after that. I knew that was irrational and he would almost certainly be fine, but I just felt so nervous—and then I would wonder if I was nervous because I SHOULD be nervous for some reason—ugh.

Anyway, we had paid, and it seemed unfair not to let him go just because of my uncle's accident. But I couldn't bear to go watch, so Sam took him and Malachi to the appointment. (I had to stay home while the plumber came to fix our garbage disposal, which I wasn't super excited about either—but at least it got done!)
They got to help push the plane out into place
They had a great time, and made it back safely, thankfully! I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Sam texted me that they were on their way home!

After we think we have done enough

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 1979 Conference.
I remember one winter evening many years ago. I had a colicky baby, a gaping fear of the future, too little sleep, and a shaky marriage. I felt so alone. I was driving in the car, crying, with said colicky baby screaming in the backseat, and I thought, "Okay, that's it. I'm done with this life. I'm ready to go. Do you hear that, Heavenly Father? I can't do this for one more day."

I pulled into an empty lot to let my tears take over, and…waited. With a feeling of, I don't know, expectation, feeling like it was God's move now. But as I kept sitting there and my sobs wore themselves out and I stared out at the darkening sky, the expectant feeling was replaced with something like sheepishness. I didn't quite know what to do next. I'd made my dramatic statement, I'd cried till I couldn't cry anymore and now…well, nothing was different. And much as I wanted to be done with it all…here I still was. Eventually I sighed a shuddering sigh, and turned the car back on, and drive home, and put the baby and myself to bed. And that is maybe the first time I realized that what I saw as "all I could handle" didn't really bear any relation to what I could actually handle.

I guess I was a little bit mad, that night, not to have had something dramatic happen. At least a sign that God even acknowledged how fed up I was! But there was nothing. Or maybe (more likely) I just couldn't feel it right then. Still, over the next weeks and months and years I have often thought back to that night (and others like it). But now I don't feel mad about it. I feel amazed. I think, "My goodness, how did Heavenly Father know that I COULD do more; I COULD endure more? I didn't know that about MYSELF—but He knew, and waited patiently, and watched me do it."

The main feeling I have now is gratitude, that God didn't give up on me when I was ready to give up on myself. Even that one night later became something I looked back on for courage. "I endured that, I can endure this!"

Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., said:
Surely, in the work of the Lord, it is what we do after we think we have done enough that really counts with him, for that’s when the blessings flow.
It's a hard thing to hear when you're exhausted and worried and sad. And I'm pretty sure that if we got to choose when we left this life, we'd all consider leaving it long before we got to the best parts. (My heart breaks for people that DO choose to leave early. But I know God has a plan for their happiness, as well.) I'm just so glad that Heavenly Father sees further than we do. He sees our future happiness and joy, and He sees strength in us we can't see in ourselves. And while I'm sure He cries with us as we cry, He probably also can't help being excited for us to discover who we really are, as we go far past the time when WE think we have "done enough." Because that really is when the blessings flow.

Other posts in this series:

Little friends

I got these little gingham dresses on end-of-season clearance and I've had them in my cedar chest for a year or so. I got them out on Valentine's Day, and the girls said, "Mmm, smells like presents!" I do often store presents in that cedar chest.

It was a warm enough day to tiptoe outside for a quick picture—not warm enough to stay out there, though!
Teddy had a new bunny coat for his birthday.
Ziggy was wearing this sweater-y red suit, and Goldie ran and got out her sweater-y bunny dress (which is really getting too small, but…we can't let go). Then they were twins!
She succeeded in keeping Ziggy's hands out of his mouth…only sometimes.
Darling little twins.
Ziggy's been a little sick and bleary, but he's so patient with it. And he can't really sit up like this—he's propped, and will fall over shortly.
Teddy wanted to hold Baby Zig too!

The cure for spiritual and emotional disease

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1979 Conference.
Any time something terrible happens in the world, like it did last week with the school shooting in Florida, it seems like All The Opinions come out. Even someone like me who avoids "the news" can't help but be overwhelmed with articles, opinions, recriminations, etc. And obviously everyone is looking for some sort of answer to such evil. I've read articles on social aspects, psychological aspects, and legal aspects of such events—and (with the exception of a few ridiculous arguments accusing the "other side" of pure malice and idiocy) it seems like they all just reinforce the conclusion that there are no simple answers.

Or are there?

I couldn't help but think about this as I read President Kimball talking about fortifying our homes against evil:
We are constantly seeking ways to strengthen families and bless children, and that commitment will be continued and reinforced this year and in all the years to come.

The Church welcomes the concerns of others to achieve these beneficial ends through appropriate means. We again are reemphasizing, however, that the greatest blessing we can give our own children and that can be extended to all the children of the world will come through the simple processes of teaching and training them in the way of the Lord.

Home life, proper teaching in the home, parental guidance and leadership—these are the panacea for the ailments of the world and its children. They are the cure for spiritual and emotional diseases and the remedy for its problems. Parents should not leave the training of children to others.
I was struck by the fact that President Kimball doesn't say "love in the home is all we need." (Although I think he's just assuming love in the home as a given, and it's implied in "parental guidance and leadership.") And he also doesn't say that the parents need to be expert teachers or perfect examples. What he does say is that the greatest blessing we can give our children is to teach them simply, with a focus on Jesus Christ, and that we should take personal responsibility for this teaching.

Of course, I know we can't blame the choices of children solely on their parents. I know there are complicating factors…and yet…a prophet of God is saying this: "Home life, proper teaching in the home, parental guidance and leadership—these are the panacea for the ailments of the world and its children. They are the cure for spiritual and emotional diseases and the remedy for its problems."

Bowling Balls, Baby Houses, Noodle Trunks

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top