"When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously."
-Dallin H. OaksFeeling overwhelmed, I sat down to write down everything that I expected of myself as a wife, mother, Latter-day Saint, and homemaker. I even wrote the things that I enjoyed doing, such as writing. Then I went back to the top of my list and began jotting down how long each task would take. When I added it all up, not enough hours existed in my week to accomplish what I required of me. It was with relief I realized there just was not enough time to do it all. And I shouldn’t expect it of myself. In life, we make decisions about what is important to us by the time we allot to it.
Sometimes we do our best to accomplish what we perceive is important, and then something in life happens that causes us to question what really is important.
A couple months ago, some medical issues caused me to do just that. In my questioning, I realized I had become emotionally weary in placing what I perceived as most important at the top – my heart just didn’t have the desire for those things that I knew I “should” desire. I felt like I was becoming a master at “fake it till you make it” only I hadn’t reached the “make it” part in awhile.
It can become easy to pile up a bunch of “goods” we are doing, and say, Oh, I’m a “good” person, so God will forgive my minor “bad” traits. The problem with that thought is that we have arbitrarily decided that our “large amount” of good will cancel out our “small” bad. And it can get tiring trying to keep up with all the good things. But what happens when (maybe because of increased responsibilities or health issues, etc.), we can no longer do all the good we had previously? Are we suddenly less qualified for heaven? Gratefully, this idea of piling up “goods” to qualify us for heaven is a false idea. We don’t earn salvation. No amount of good we do will ever cancel out our sin. We are “not enough.” And that is why we need a Savior. No matter what little we can offer, He is the one that can make up the difference, no matter how large our shortage is, to qualify us for eternal life.
With my health experiences the last couple months, I think God was trying to get my attention. And it was because He loves me. He wanted to help me learn how to live a happier life – one that didn’t revolve around a bunch of “shoulds” with no joy – that is Satan’s plan: requiring/enforcing good behavior.
One of the profound gifts of this life is that we really are free to choose. God wants us to choose. He doesn’t want to force us to live a bunch of shoulds. He wants us to choose Him because we desire it at the core of who we are, not just because it is the right thing to do. I realize now a bit more why He gave us a Savior. So we could make decisions and see their consequences. That we could take our true and pure desires (not what we think He wants us to desire) and make decisions around them. And when we fall flat on our face, we can change and repent because we desire it. The Savior has the power to “take away the consequences of stupidity and sin.” Wow, do we really believe that? Or do we fear to own our desires because we don’t think they are “good enough”? I’ll tell you I have felt great guilt about just sitting and reading a book when I know I “should” be doing house work. This way of thinking halts progress. Since God got my attention with my medical issues, I own the desire to sit and read a book. And what I have found is that I no longer have to “hide” that “less worthy” desire to God or to myself. And when I make that decision, I’ve found it easier for me to choose “house work” more often because I know that I will make the decision to take a break and read a book because it makes me happy. So now, instead of guilt and dread, I can look forward to enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment because I make those choices out of desire, and I am being honest with myself about where I am at.
And so if our Savior really promises to take away all the consequences of our bad choices, what does matter for us? Our faith in Him and our covenants with Him. Everything else can be extracurricular. Because if we keep our covenants, He has promised to save us from the terrible results of our choices. And we get credit for trying. God knows the intents of our heart. We may desire Him as first priority, but we are not yet in line with all the things that He has told us will bring us to Him. And that’s okay. Our life’s experiences give us enough time to prepare to meet Him. What do we desire? What kind of person do we want to become? The decisions we own teach us a lot about ourselves and help us see clearly where we are at, so we can move forward. If we hide behind a mask of fake-it-till-you-make-it devotion, we may never see enough to be able to change. We might have to plaster on a smile for the world, but being real with God and ourselves will bring us closer to Him.