Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gaining Insight Through Enduring to the End (WA)

My own "conversion" has been a process over time, including a long stretch of inactivity.

A couple years ago we bought a small business, left where we'd lived for about ten years, and moved into the boondocks. This was maybe two years after I returned to the church - after about thirteen years away. I wanted to know if buying the business was the right thing to do, so I took it to the temple. I got one of those clear as a bell answers: "This will be a blessing in the lives of your employees, business partners, and family." I recall thinking "nothing for me" at the time. But, in general, I thought this answer meant that we were going to be very successful, and that the Lord was now going to bless us materially for the changes I'd made in my spiritual life.

Move forward about eighteen months later: We have bled money, lost just about everything we have, put family money in jeopardy, and I have worked myself into total spiritual and emotional exhaustion. I'm constantly wondering, "Is this what the Lord had in mind, or have I screwed up somewhere." To say things have been trying and stressful would be an understatement. For several months I got less than three hours of sleep a night, not knowing how I was going to pay the thousands of dollars in bills we had coming in constantly above and beyond our revenue stream. And things just kept breaking. Throughout, I would get the comfort that comes from the companionship of the Holy Ghost, but nothing in terms of direction that I earnestly and constantly sought. We sold the business, and this year dealt with the aftermath.

All along I'm thinking, surely things will not get worse than they are now. Surely something will come along to save the day. Then about June (when we were in danger of losing the place we lived) I got an answer that said, "Things are going to get worse; you should find your strength in service in the church." And boy have things did get worse … but now it was expected. I began to see myself in a new way. I began asking myself, "When all the trapping are stripped away, who and what am I?" When I've got no peg to hang my ego on. Who am I when I have to basically beg for help? I never turned away from my rather stressful and time-consuming church calling, however much I had lost confidence in my own ability to act the leader, but I did begin to see that I had some substance without titles or ownership - and that has been an amazing blessing.

As for the answer to the earlier prayer, that has become so apparent. I'm in frequent communication with several of my old employees. They ask for advice, sound me out about things, tell me their news. One young girl tells me that they call the days when I owned the restaurant the "Golden Age of (Me)." I can't think about that conversation without weeping, if I'm alone. She told me how good it was, and what she learned about working and life. That makes me so happy - certainly not the blessing I had expected, but one that maybe runs deeper than the financial success I'd hoped for.

Now I'm living in the basement of a friend, saving money so we can get back into the mix. And that may turn out to be a blessing for him and for us, too.

One of the things that has nearly broken through this is my marriage. My wife is not a member. Very much not a member. In the past, she would even roll her eyes when we drove past a meeting house. We met when I was at my farthest point away from the church. She is an extremely bright, very unique woman. We've been friends, and have a lot of similar ways of viewing things. But as I've given up slowly on my old ways of living, some gaps have obviously emerged between us. This last year has certainly taken its toll on her. I can't tell you how many times I've pleaded with the Lord about what to say to help my wife, what to say to help my marriage. Never any answer. Pure silence. "Why," I ask, "can I so easily get answers to my prayers when I'm preparing to teach a lesson, but when it comes to this most important thing, silence?"

Recently, we had a fight about Proposition 8, and (I think) about how our attitudes and ideas about sex had changed over the last few years. She didn't speak to me for almost three weeks. Literally, didn't speak to me. Except when absolutely needed, and to let me know she had no idea what "an awful person you've become." I was vacillating between rage and acquiescence, trying to be kind followed by returning hurt for hurt. Then, while I was driving to work, praying and thinking, an idea, a sure idea, came into my head, about my wife - about who she is and some of things that make life difficult for her. I can't tell it, because this is a public forum. But it caused me to rethink our whole relationship, from day one, and to see her as so much more wonderful than who I'd seen before. I don't know if I'd have been open to this answer a year ago, but now I can see my way clearly. After that insight, we had a really great conversation, looking back over old ground with new eyes - and I feel like I'm her friend again, which is the absolute only thing that I care about.

Anyway, the whole thing can be hard. What we want and what God wants for us are rarely the same. Usually they aren't even in the same vicinity. He wants us to give up the world, and we want everything in the candy jar. We do not know where following His advice will lead us.

Submitted by Bro. P.

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