Friday, January 25, 2013

"There are some things that are more important than life!"

I went to institute on Tuesday night and my teacher said something that has had me pondering all week. He said briefly that "there are some things that are more important than life." He didn't dwell on the topic but mentioned it and then moved on. Something about that hit home and it got me thinking. Are there things that are more important than life? If so, what are they?

I then went to my psychology class the next day. We were discussing how human beings react when they are in a state of desperation. We try to justify our actions when we know they are wrong. We justify them so that we feel better about the choices we made. He posed the question of "would you steal food if you were hungry?" or "Would you steal food for your starving baby even when you knew it was wrong?" I felt like my brain was doing a tug of war over this concept. Would it be ok to steal food for a starving baby? I have strong morals and I know very clearly what is wrong and what is right. I also think it is easy to say the right answer when you are not in the situation. In times of desperation, we don't think as clearly. We justify our actions and decisions. So what would be our motivating force to steal the food? We value our life. We fear the idea of death.

So then I started to ponder the Gospel and the things that I know. I know there is life after death. I know this is not the end. I put myself back in that situation and I started to feel the fear dissipate. Would the idea of starving to death seem quite as terrifying if you had the knowledge of the Gospel. If you knew what happened after you died, would you be as prone to steal the food?

I listened as the class gave their responses. Everyone seemed to be on board with stealing the food. A part of me agreed. Of course I would steal the food for someone I loved. Then I thought a little more and realized... So if I steal the food, it gets us through perhaps another day or two. Then what? Well... I am right back where I started... in need of more food to survive. It would only solve the problem temporarily. One lady made the comment that she would not steal it because it lacks integrity.

So what is integrity? According to the online dictionary, this is their definition of the word:




in·teg·ri·ty  

/inˈtegritē/


Noun
  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided: "territorial integrity".



I completely agree with that definition. However, I like to sum it up even more than that. My definition is



in·teg·ri·ty  

/inˈtegritē/

Noun
1. The act of living what you claim to believe. 


I started to think about the information I had been taught. "There are some things that are more important than life" and "Would you steal the food?"

While we are here on earth, life seems to be everything to us. The majority of us fear death. We fear the unknown. There are many stories were men become cowards at the face of death. They deny what they know to be true in order to survive. They give up their morals and justify it so that it feels right. In the moment, there is nothing more important than life. They will do anything to live. 

So where can I look to find examples of people that understood the concept that there are things more important than life? My mind went immediately to our Savior. He gave up His life for a far greater cause. I am sure the pain he bore and the mental weight of our burdens would have been more than enough to make the ordinary man throw in his towel. He could have given up. He could have justified it. If we were in His shoes we would have understood it. However, the Savior of mankind, our brother, understood in that moment that there are some things more important than life! He understood that if he continued then we would have the opportunity to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. He understood the necessity of what He was about to do. He did not let desperation rule His actions. He was motivated by love! LOVE FOR US! That was more important to Him than life. He is our ultimate example. 

I found this video clip by Elder Holland. I LOVE IT!! It shows us a glimpse of what our Savior went through and how He must have felt. 

He conquered death because HE LOVED US more than life itself!!








As I kept pondering this concept, my mind went to Joseph Smith. I thought about the life he lived. He also understood that there are some things more important than life. He had an eternal perspective. He knew his purpose. He knew the importance and value of the Book of Mormon. He understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew that we needed the Gospel in order to know how to return to live with God again. He was willing to die to bring about the Gospel. So what motivated him to do that? I guarantee it was his love for us and for the Savior. He saw the bigger picture. He knew that this life was not the end, but merely the beginning. He also, did not let desperation rule his actions. He did not try to justify why he couldn't do it. He had courage and he stood for what was right. He did not flinch. He knew what needed to be done, and he DID IT! He let his faith in Christ over rule his need for survival. He put his life in God's hands. He was full of integrity. He did not deny his beliefs in the face of adversity. He stood firm. He knew his place. He knew what was truth, and he would not deny it!






 My gratitude for my Savior and for Joseph Smith have increased even more throughout this week as I have pondered this concept. My integrity means more to me than my life. My faith and testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ mean more to me than my life. Nothing about what Christ did was easy. Nothing! Yet, sometimes we have heard the story so many times, that the significance seems to slightly diminish. The more we study about our Savior and what He did for us, the more we see JUST HOW BLESSED WE ARE! We could not make it back to live with God again were it not for Him. Whenever we wonder if people know us, and if we are loved and valued, we need to look to the Savior. His life was a testimony of His love for us! HE LIVES! HE CONTINUES TO LOVE US! HE ALWAYS WILL! He understands us. He knows our concerns and our fears. He knows what it is like to be in a situation of desperation, and he conquered it! 

The biggest enemy of integrity is justification. I learned on my mission that if I have to justify something it is wrong. Truth speaks for itself. If we feel the need to justify our actions, we need to reevaluate them. Is this something I should really be doing?  

Life was never meant to be easy. We all have challenges and trials that will pull at our very core. We all will have doubts and concerns. We will wonder if we have value. We will be put in places of desperation and it will be our choice to choose courage or justification. I assure you, courage will be the harder choice. Like I said it was never meant to be easy. Yet, the lessons we learn through our difficult times, will be the lessons that stick with us throughout eternity. Looking back we will have gratitude for the life changing experiences we were given. We will see that they molded us into the person our Savior needs us to be. I learned in my psychology class that pain is necessary for us to learn. It is necessary for us to survive. We must learn not to resent every challenge that is put before us. It is through these difficult moments that we get a glimpse of why we are really here. We are here to learn and become more like our Savior! 



"There are some things that are more important than life!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Journey to Self Discovery




I have been home for almost three months now. Some days it feels like time is flying by and other days it feels like tomorrow will never come. I suppose it has a lot to do with how busy I am and what I choose to focus on. 

I have been in a rut (for lack of a better word). I have been trying to figure out who I am all over again. Before my mission I was Madelaine- bubbly, funny, happy, light hearted, easy going, not extremely motivated, fun, easily entertained, flaky, non committed, tease. Then I went on my mission and I became Madelaine- motivated, inspiring, listener, problem-solver, wise, fun, out spoken, bold, vulnerable. I came home a different person. Now mind you, I don't think either Madelaine was bad. They are just different. I have grown and changed. 

When I went on my mission I wanted to become the woman God needed me to be. He showed me glimpses of who that person is. He gave me obstacles that helped me to grow and develop the needed attributes and characteristics. Ultimately I changed. Through experience and the wisdom gained, my very nature was altered. 

I came home the new me. Everyone knew me as the Madelaine from before. They have had a hard time grasping the altered version of myself. I have had people tell me they are just waiting for me to change back. I tried to wrap my mind around this concept. All I heard was "we don't like this new you... we were more comfortable around the old you." I became more reserved for fear of disappointing more people. I avoided phone calls and I definitely avoided boys. I have had enough rejection in my life to know that its not something I enjoy. Rejection hurts.

 I think it is human nature to avoid rejection: rejection from those we love, rejection when we apply to schools, rejection because of our beliefs, rejection because of our lifestyle, rejection because of our mistakes. There are so many forms of rejection and they all bury a pain deep within our hearts that most of us try to hide. We bury it so deep that sometimes we even forget its there. However, that little pain starts to form and shape our beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about life. We aren't even aware of it most of the time. Yet, its there. It goes with us. Most of us don't take the time to process our experiences that caused so much hurt. When we do embrace those experiences, when we unbury them and lay them out on the table, we become vulnerable. It is only then that we become open to understanding. We understand that there is nothing wrong with us. We learn that we are loved for who we are. We are our own worst critic. We hold things in and they tear us down. We don't show ourselves the compassion we so often give freely to others. 

I've been spending the last couple months on a journey of self discovery. I have been trying to unbury these pains that I have forgotten about. I have strong ideas and misconstrued beliefs because I have allowed my experiences to change my views on life and others and certainly about myself. 

I was talking to my parents one day. I was sitting on our couch and felt overwhelmed with emotion. I didn't know where it was coming from. As I started talking I was able to unbury some of this hidden hurt. I became vulnerable as I shared with them some of my deepest fears and beliefs. I talked to them for over an hour and I was able to process where I was at and where I need to start in working through my issues. It came down to trust. I was shocked to see how passionate I was about the issue. I realized I have little to no trust in people. This belief was formed from many experiences I have had dealing with people. Every time I have allowed myself to trust another person I have been let down. In a very real way it is a sense of rejection for me. I offered them my trust and my faith in them and they gave it away. It hurts when the people you love let you down. In the back of my mind I developed a belief that you cannot trust anyone completely but God. The people you love will always let you down. If you trust them you will just end up hurt. 

I went online and ordered myself a book called "The Courage to Trust." It is all about relearning how to trust others and most importantly, how to trust yourself. I have been doing a lot of journaling to work through my many thoughts that I have accumulated. I have been completely surprised at how much this has helped. I know I still have a ways to go, but I am moving in the right direction. I don't think I can ever have a normal and healthy relationship until I can learn to trust others. The book talks about how trust is a choice. We are not born with a natural instinct to trust people. We have to learn it. 

I started to think about trust and my mind went to the Savior. I thought about how when we were in heaven before we came down to Earth, Jesus said he would come down. We knew that we needed Him to return to live with God again. I started to think about the people that came down to earth before Christ. I thought about their trust and faith in Him to do what He said He would do. If for some reason he broke their trust, they would have no way to return to live with God again. They knew Christ. They believed Him. They trusted Him to do what He said He would do. They became vulnerable. Yet, through their vulnerability, they will experience the joy and peace of returning to live with God again. It was their desire and I believe it is all of our desires as well. That is made possible to us because we trusted in our Savior to keep His word. 

I am SO grateful for my Savior. I am grateful He kept His word. I am grateful for times like this when I get to reprogram my thoughts and beliefs. I am grateful for His Atonement and sacrifice for me. I know that through Him I can change. It is possible. I know that He longs for each one of us to return to Him. He is our cheerleader. He is our support. He is everything to me. He helps me know when to slow down and enjoy the moments and He helps me know when to take things more seriously. He helps us to become the people we need to become. He understands when we are lonely. He has been there. No one has been more lonely than our Savior was that night in Gethsemane. He suffered through it all because of His deep rooted love for us. 

HE DID NOT GIVE UP ON US. HE NEVER WILL!! 

There are times in our lives when we have to wait for the sun to shine through the clouds. Sometimes we don't see it, but we can feel the warmth penetrating us. We know its there because we can feel it. I believe there are experiences we will have in our lives when we are left to walk by faith. It is through our trials of faith that we are shaped into the very character of our God. We learn to develop attributes like His. We have the opportunity to grow and to be molded into better versions of ourselves. If we do it right, we come out changed. Changed for life. Changed forever. We learn to value and treasure the very experiences we once detested. We learn to be grateful for the difficult because it led to a deeper relationship with our Creator. We strengthen our relationship with Him through trust. As we do this our memory of who we really are becomes more clear. Our beliefs begin to match with eternal truths. We see the world differently based off our own experiences. If our experiences give us the opportunity to grow closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, then we need to learn to embrace them. It is through the difficult things that we become refined. 

LOOK UP AND FEEL HIS WARMTH. THE SUN WILL SHINE AGAIN SOON!