In my last post, I wrote about how I was struggling with certain life-things; basically the fairness, or unfairness, of some of its conditions. It’s interesting how once you accept how a thing is, even though it’s a difficult truth, it’s not painful anymore to consider it. The fact remains, but somehow, because you’ve accepted it just is that way, you can deal with it. It’s pushing back against it that creates pain – and the process of doing that, then coming to a realisation of its just-is-ness, then feeling sort of humble about it, and moving on, is a continual cycle. Over and over, that happens, about different things and the same things; sometimes, maybe often, those truths just have to keep being learnt. Ah, the joys of being human!
A few weeks ago, someone gave a talk at church in which he shared the miracle of the loaves and fish, and reflected that the miracle ocurred after Christ gave thanks for what they already had. He challenged us to give thanks in every thing, like the scripture says, if we are seeking miracles. Which I was. So I decided I’d try it, even though I wasn’t sure it was necessarily the thing that’d make a miracle occur; it’s still a true principle and the right thing to do. I tried doing it – feeling thankful generally, and specifically giving thanks for the good things I had, as the Saviour did with the small amount of food – which the disciples saw as insufficient, but He saw as good and having potential. I tried looking at the bigger and very real things that I needed (and still need) changed in the light of the parts about them that were good; so where I live being safe and in a pleasant area and street, with greenery around and a landlady who lets me create gardens and improve hers, a decent bed and floorboards (I like floorboards), and accessible to lots of public transport. I was aware, obviously, of these things before, but I tried specifically giving thanks for them, and feeling it. I felt like if I concentrated on the good parts of my discontent, it might help me feel more positive and thankful, rather than discouraged and railing against the unfairness. It was still there, but feeling differently about it wouldn’t mean that I accepted the situation and it didn’t need to change; I would have the strength of heart to keep trying and perhaps renewed hope and energy to work on changing things. It seems to have worked – I don’t feel as downhearted about it as I did then (although that’s a cycle, too) although I’ve forgotten about the giving thanks for the things I’m not happy about (the good parts of them), so I’ll have to keep on with that.
My current difficulty is connected, but a little bit different. It’s a new year (but this isn’t about the new year), and there’s lots of talk about resolutions and changing. I don’t really bother with New Year’s resolutions, but I did read a good article today in that vein, which was less about a new year and more about continual change. It was quite perfect, actually, for me, because I’ve been struggling with something ‘new’ (there’s always something); my weakness in trying to ‘be better’. Which I’ve been doing all my life, and haven’t achieved yet. (Like there’s a point at which I could achieve it – bing! You’re better). I feel like I pray the same prayer all the time – to be a better person; to have strength to do the right thing; to not be fearful, but courageous and determined; to listen to my conscience when moments come that I don’t, instead of giving in to temptation…. It makes me wonder if I’m actually improving as a person, and if there’s any hope for me! I know what the point of mortal life is, theologically, but recently, I wondered what it’s meant to teach me – because it seems like the same thing, over and over, and I don’t seem to get it. I wonder whether my will is strong enough, and if it isn’t, then really there isn’t hope for me, is there? I’m the only one who can make me change.
Then I realised (it’s all remembering, actually, but my human brain just keeps conveniently ‘forgetting’ all the wise things) that I can’t do that. I can’t try sufficiently to be better – I can’t make myself good enough. I know this! The scriptures say it all through – Christ is the only name under heaven whereby we can be saved. Not my name, or a successful other person, but Jesus Christ. The Saviour who is mighty to save. I will only ever get there through Him; it is His grace that makes me good enough, not my efforts.
Basically, although it’s sort of pitiful to realise it, my efforts mostly just show that I want to be better; the way they change me is to make me open to the powers of Jesus Christ, who works in me through the Spirit, through His light and my conscience, and the intelligence in me that all together make me able to change. He works through “small means” – the simple acts of every day. As I strive with them, supported by His grace, I will be able to gradually and eventually improve my nature and the strength of my will. I guess, really, it doesn’t matter if it takes forever for that process to occur; and Brigham Young said, quoted in an Ensign article I read at Christmas, that some people think we’re going to reach perfection in this life – but it will never happen. We cannot become perfect here; we’ll reach the end of our lives still striving, still incomplete. So I mustn’t be discouraged because I see that being the case with me. Ether 12:6 says,
[D]ispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
(It makes me wonder, how long is that trial of my faith meant to be? My whole life, maybe?) It sometimes feels like all the good things – the talks, and heavenly reassurances through the Spirit, and joyous realisations, the wise understandings, the sense of great things – come to nothing in me, because I’m still struggling just to be good. Oh, how arrogant! Of course I am! This is life; its purpose is for me to struggle against weakness and sin and overcome it….through Christ. Maybe what that actually means is not that I become all good here and now, but that I eventually overcome it because I’ll be resurrected by His power into the being I’ve been struggling to be. I do have to improve here, absolutely; I can’t just stay always the same; but I think perhaps my view of my improvement is flawed. What does God see? What if part of the trial of my faith is trusting that I am improving, even if I can’t see it? That I have to keep doing this – the trying and the struggle – until the end of my life, even though I don’t see all of the results. That I can’t give up on myself, because my soul is of such great worth. I’m hopeless and human, weak and wilful, but I have to go on, all to the end, un-discouraged by these things. Perhaps that’s part of what meekness is. It also illustrates why we have to always remember Christ; in every little act that we struggle to do well, remembering Him reminds us that He is there to save, that we can’t do it on our own, and to let Him in. With Him, we will change, little by little. It’s all of those everyday moments that lead us to despair or hope, to change or staying the same.