Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trust the Process

We live in an "On Demand" world. How often do we watch our favorite TV shows at their regularly scheduled time? We (as a society) want what we want, and we want it now. We want nice cars, big houses, fancy trips, designer clothes. We want to look great, lose weight, and get in shape. But we also want to eat french fries, desserts, and anything else that looks tasty. We want our questions answered, our testimonies strengthened, and our burdens removed. And we want it all right now, or maybe by tomorrow afternoon if it's too much to ask for now. Thanks God, you're the best! 

Sometimes I get caught up in this, and I crave that instant gratification. Sometimes I indulge, sometimes I keep a longer-term focus. But I'm finding again and again that when I'm motivated and act on these impulsive desires, I end up feeling empty, unsatisfied, and also quite inadequate. I keep thinking about a story Elder Ballard tells in his talk, Finding Joy through Loving Service. If you'd rather watch the story, here you go.

I love this story for a lot of reasons. At face value, it teaches an important lesson. The best way to get rich isn't by winning the lottery, it is through the "patient accumulation" of the little gold flecks, over time that brought the prospector great wealth. But the number of different situations this applies to is endless. Not eating for a week isn't going to make us thin. Working out for 10 straight hours isn't going to make us fit. Praying once for an answer isn't going to satisfy our questions, or relieve our burdens. Instead consistent habits of eating healthy, working out, and being fed spiritually each and every day will enable us to reach our goals. It is a process. And we have to trust the process.

Pornography thrives in this arena of instant gratification. We have access to so much of it, and it's there whenever we decide we want it. Avoiding pornography for a day/week/month/whatever doesn't mean we have conquered it. We have to work hard, and patiently accumulate those small flecks of self-mastery over time. And when we find them, we have to treasure them. Some days I feel like there is hole in my leather pouch and I've totally lost some (or all) of those flecks I worked so hard to gather. But when I am able to see it as an opportunity to patch up my pouch and make it stronger than it was before, I'm able to get back in the game much quicker, and I'm so much happier.

So for me, my "process" for accumulating these precious flecks of self-mastery includes really studying the scriptures every day. It is staying on my knees in prayer until I feel a connection with God. It is being disciplined in other areas of my life such as consistently working out to take care of my body. It is getting enough sleep. Any of these things on their own, or done just once, doesn't amount to much. And that can be VERY discouraging. It is often hard for me to see the end result. It is easy to let things slide "just this one time". I'm not always good at it, but I know that over time, the consistent effort does pay off. The process does work, I just need to trust it more. For anyone else out there, what does your process involve? What has worked for you? I'd love to hear and learn from you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

To Act and Not Be Acted Upon

One of the most important things I feel like I've learned about recently is the difference between acting for myself, rather than being acted upon. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi talks about this in 2 Nephi 2:26.

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem 
the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from 
the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil;
to act for themselves and not to be acted upon,
save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, 
according to the commandments which God hath given.

So... Christ came to help us get over the effects of the fall. And because He did that for us, we are free and we know the difference between good and evil. And also, we have the ability to act, and it sounds like God doesn't really want us to be acted upon. So what does it mean to be acted upon?

I think that we sometimes give away our agency, and in some cases we accept and even embrace the fact that we are acted upon. If you put a warm, soft, chocolate chip cookie in front of me, I will eat it. It's gonna happen, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. No worries though, it's cool, I've totally accepted this about myself. But. Where is the agency in that? There is none! I think the power of an addiction is just this- it takes away your agency and leaves you as an object to be acted upon. How many times have you found yourself viewing pornography, and you really didn't make a choice to be there. It just sort of happened. For me, this has happened a lot. So what can be done? How can we reclaim our agency? How can we go from being objects that are acted upon to agents who act?

Well when everything you're doing doesn't seem to work, maybe it's time to try something different. I recently tried something different, and so far it has actually helped. Hear me out on this one... If God values our agency enough to lose a third part of His children, and He sent Christ to die for us so that we could act and not be acted upon, do you think God would rather us be agents or objects? Agents, right? So God wants us to use the precious gift of agency and to act. Ok, got it. But what if we aren't good agents? What if we choose the wrong? Do you still think God would rather us be bad agents than acted upon objects?

I think He does! I think He really wants us to choose to act, even if we choose wrong. So I tried it out. Sometimes when I feel like there is no way for me to avoid pornography like I know I should, I chose to do it. That's right, I chose to view pornography. What??? I chose to view pornography?? I'm crazy, right? Probably so, because who in their right mind would choose to view pornography, especially when that is exactly what they are trying to avoid? Well I did. And the outcome surprised me.

I found that by choosing, I started to become an agent again. I started acting. And doing so helped me start to reclaim some of that agency that I lost. And agents who act have more power than objects who are acted upon because agents who act can choose to become better. Objects can't really progress. They just get acted upon, and thrown around wherever. Choosing to act opens the door for the Atonement of Christ. It allows the Atonement to strengthen us, and to enable us to become better, It allows for the Atonement to begin to heal our souls. So that's my challenge for all of us. It's probably going to look different for all of us, but let's try to find something we can do to, to reclaim our agency, and to stop being tossed around.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I'm back! And the Atonement is real!

It's been a while, but I'm back! I have learned many things, but it would be way too long to cover them all on one post. So look forward to future posts. 

Today, my thoughts are centered on the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Last week, I listened to the talk from the Priesthood Session of General Conference by Elder Ballard. He talked about having the greatest generation of young adults. In the talk, he asks a lot of questions that are good to ponder and check ourselves with. One of the questions is, "Do you think deeply about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice for you when you are asked to prepare, bless, pass, or partake of the sacrament?" So in Sacrament meeting, I made an effort to really try to think deeply about the Savior, and His atoning sacrifice as the sacrament was being administered. I didn't come up with anything profound, but I did think about ways that the Atonement helped me during the past week, as well as some other things. It was good, but nothing too special. 

But what has happened since that meeting has been profound. I have felt forgiveness in a whole new way, and on a much deeper level. I don't think I ever really believed that I could feel similar to Alma the Younger when he felt exquisite bitterness and pain, and then was forgiven and felt joy and happiness that was as exquisite as his pain. But this week, I felt it! I felt so much joy, it felt like I was just overflowing. It was an amazing feeling. My cup runneth over, for sure. It isn't that I haven't been forgiven all these years, but for some reason I felt it differently. It was a feeling of incredibly intense joy. It is the Atonement. It is real! It actually works! It isn't just something for the prophets. It is for us too. Pondering the Atonement during the sacrament helped me be more sensitive to its role in my daily life.

Anyway, my point is that it is worth it.  It is worth it to go through the repentance process, what ever that looks like. It is worth it to put your trust in God. It is worth it to keep trying. Again, and again, and again. It is totally worth it.