Monday, March 27, 2017

Increasing Our Expectations

This week we had a conference with President. He talked about how we make our own limits by working toward limited goals. As our faith and willingness to work increase,  we can put the 'dreamer' into the work, and therein lies the key to success. This impacted me profoundly, remembering my hopes and dreams from two years ago and how much reality ended up diminishing them. This week, I really saw how much expectation can change results, as I applied myself in a way I never have before. Let me illustrate with an analogy.

Meet Dan, the stick figure. Really, his emotional range is as wide as his mouth- big smile, big frown. He likes to play tic tac toe, and quickly got tired of hangman. He would like everyone to know that putting a triangle blouse on his legs does not make him a girl.

Dan has a summer house (triangle on a square) on the chalkboard...yet somehow it doesn't take him far enough away. Deep in the two-dimensional recesses of his heart, he has a day, he hopes to be three-dimensional. Cubes inspire him; his imagination soars when small pictures appear to be distant objects. Yet there had to be something more. Seeing a photo across the room, he got an idea.

He starts, tremulously, with a single extra line from his head down to his legs, bending out. No, that looks stupid. He's lopsided. He adjusts his body, then gives himself a nose, hair, ears, fingers. He adds lines to reflect depth, and draws mountains, rivers and trees. He views his work, and does it all over again. Then he does it again, and again, until people flock to see Dan's beautiful, back- and fore-ground, inspiring new home. He's replicated his three-dimensional dream, but it's only a replication. While everyone's busy trying to frame the work of art, he escapes and finds a pad of sticky notes. No, a flip book. He spins his emotions into animated motion, reaching into the fourth dimension and snatching at the very dreams of the humans he so admired, weaving them into his reality. We creatures of the third dimension begin to aspire to one day be on a two dimensional screen like him.

His is the world of words on paper, art in the finest museums, movies on which we rest our highest hopes. Did he enter the third dimension? He never did, and he never will. But as he reached...sideways (he can't reach forward, silly, he has no depth perception), just as his certainty heightened that he would never achieve his dream, so ceased his interest. For he saw that there was no end of things in his own world he could make, and create. 

As we aim for crazy goals, and as we heighten our actions to be just as crazy, we begin to enjoy life far more and accomplish more than what we originally expected...even if we never quite reach the impossible. We grow content with our own capacities. And our capacity is our responsibility. Quintuple your goals's good for you.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Family Gospel

We had a baptism this week! Here's a picture below. It's been inspiring to see him struggle through a number of extraordinarily hard challenges. 

We've also begun to progress with a wonderful family who work in a restaurant. To have a family all progress at the same time is extraordinarily rare and makes us all very happy. It is a family gospel. Perhaps some wonder why family is so central to the plan of God if they live in environments where their family are not their closest friends and aids. I believe it is to demonstrate the pattern to us. To know that in the following life, when all of us live as one family with our Father in Heaven, we will recognize the importance of siblings and filial respect. All of the close friendships we make here are destined to transform into brotherhoods and sisterhoods in the next life. All the love and charity developed for our fellowman will not be lost nor disappear in the new reality of the Kingdoms of Glory, but rather be manifest all the more powerfully. Mankind is destined to carry on together, as a family, into eternity. 

May we find one another there in the great family reunion.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Flecks of Gold

This week began the new transfer period, and this week we saw people with a good number of problems. One young man that we're visiting attempted suicide, and we spoke to him the day after. Those are the times when you hold on to the rope of the doctrine we teach and actually have to have the faith that our message can help. I felt the brutal reality that I'm not good at knowing what to say to people in hard situations. I think I have a talent for making people generally feel happier, but not in addressing problems such as this...any comfort always seems to me to be contrived. We gave him a blessing and visited him a couple other times in the week.

On a happier note, I've got another sad story that has a happy ending. We're visiting a young man who has lived with his drunk uncles nearly all his life. They've hit him at times, and the last time one did so, in January, he snapped and fought back, then escaped from the house for a week. He found a contact card he received a year ago and went to church that Sunday, which happened to be Stake Conference. He felt remarkably at peace while he was there, even though all his problems came rushing back when he left. He started attending another ward. The Elders there realized he wasn't from their area and passed him to us about a month ago. We became his friends, and he started accompanying us on visits, fasting, keeping the commandments, cutting friendships, telling us his story, and thinking on how to save money for a mission.

I suppose we're here to help people. I know if you're reading missionary blogs you're used to hearing stories like this. The truth is, these things don't happen very often. We missionaries get these gems in our experiences and it's what we share with you. What we don't share is the other 99 out of 100 days. We get magnificent opportunities, but that doesn't mean it's easy.  I heard other missionaries say this to me before my mission, and I would chuckle a little. Not easy? I came on the mission wanting challenges and pain and tears...those are the heroics you hear about that you don't get that much back home. That's exactly what we came out here to do...suffer courageously to save others in celestial glory. I think I've learned that the difficulties come from doing the most ordinary activities over and over again in the faith that it'll do something at some point. Sometimes it doesn't work, and the people who need the gospel most don't accept it. Sometimes the most spiritual lessons don't end up going anywhere that you can see. And sometimes things do happen. So, in the end, we keep it up and fight the good fight, and wait for those flecks of gold that inevitably come, and then testify that the work comes undoubtedly and fully from God. In the end the flecks add up to something priceless.