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Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Triumph is born out of struggle"

In the last few days I've thought a lot about submission to God's will, and I wanted to clarify that getting to the point of submitting to God's will has not been quick or simple. I suppose it comes as a result of a lifetime of experiences, often experiences that were learned the hard way. And, really, we're still learning how it's done and what it means. We have by no means arrived at our desired destination.

About a year ago we had an experience that ended up being a very painful learning experience in not seeking out or accepting God's will for us. Without going into a lot of detail, we had been chosen to adopt a baby girl and we exhausted ourselves in trying to convince God that we deserved this little girl. In the weeks and months leading up to her due date, my prayers consisted mainly of begging and pleading for this baby to make it to our home. I was too afraid to ask if it was right; too afraid to pray to know God's will for us and for that little baby. Well, the adoption ended up not working out. As a result, I fell. And, I fell hard. 

It was a scary place to be. Fortunately we were able to recover, but we learned a lot from that hard experience. Perhaps the most important thing we learned was that it was much more painful to go through a hard experience without seeking to know the will of the Lord, than it was to put the situation into the Lord's hands. I suppose that was one of our first experiences in learning the difference between "faith in Christ" and "faith in a desired outcome." 

Of course, having faith in Christ requires a trust and assurance that He loves us, He knows us, and He will ultimately bless us in ways we never would be able to imagine. There is a sense of freedom that comes from acknowledging that we are unable to see the entire picture of our lives. When we, then, put everything in the Lord's hands, we're able to find relief from the burden of our short-sightedness.

There is a deleted scene from the movie Bruce Almighty that has always struck me in a powerful way. It's unfortunate that they chose to not include it in the actual movie. I have to admit that I don't agree or approve of every aspect of the movie, but I do appreciate its attempt to bring some moral truths to Hollywood. Anyway, the basic plot of the movie is that the main character (Jim Carey) is given the role of "God" for a week. At one point Jim Carey is answering peoples' prayers and basically gets overwhelmed by the task, and just answers with a "yes" to everyone. Later, "God" (played by Morgan Freeman) shows Jim Carey some of the consequences of those "yes" answers.

They take a look at Filbert Davis in gym class, being bullied by other boys because he can't climb the rope. He prays, "Oh God, please help me." His prayer is answered and he miraculously climbs to the top very quickly.

As a result of Filbert's prayer being answered the way he thought he wanted it answered, and with his sudden increase in confidence, the next scene shows Filbert being the bully, beating up another boy on the playground. And, at this point Morgan Freeman explains: 

Since when does anybody have a clue about what they want. Filbert was a brilliant young man; he was going to be a Greek poet. The soul of his work would have been built around his childhood pain. Now he's headed for a career as a professional wrestler, he will eventually test positive for steroids and end up managing a muffin shop.

Then, Morgan Freeman shows how the trials and challenges given to people were intended to bring about other blessings that couldn't come in any other way. After giving Jim Carey a glimpse of the good that would have come to certain people because of their struggles, Morgan Freeman says this:

Triumph is born out of struggle. Faith is the alchemist. If you want to paint pictures like this you have to use some dark colors.

(Definition of alchemy: process of transforming a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.)

I love that message that faith transforms us into something of great value... and our faith is best tested in the face of extreme challenges. In the last few months I have come to an awareness that God sees the full picture of my life and knows that "using dark colors" will bring about blessings and knowledge that we couldn't have received in any other way. Like with Filbert's childhood pain having a purpose in his life's mission, I know there are things I'm meant to learn through hard experiences.

It has not been an easy couple of months... there is deep pain that has carved itself deep into my heart. But with that pain there has also come an increased awareness of God's love for me personally. I am profoundly grateful for a loving Father who knows me and loves me, and who has been blessing me with daily evidence of His love for me - through gifts in nature, through the loving arms of a friend, through quiet moments on my knees. I do not know for sure what lies ahead in my life... but I trust in God that He will preserve and provide.

(As a side note, I found it interesting to read a post I made about a year ago, that you can read here. It's amazing how much I didn't know then about how this last year would go... but, I'm grateful for the ways I was being prepared and strengthened to handle these current experiences.)


Ashley said...

My husband and I had a similar experience. A year ago July, we were presented with an opportunity to adopt a baby. It was so strange, as much as we wanted to say "YES!" we knew that this child was not meant for our family. It never belonged to us, in this life or the past one. We never even thought to ask the gender.

A year ago, we were contacted by a young woman in Utah. We felt so strongly and fell in love with her and the 10 week old baby she was carrying. She suddenly stopped writing to us. I went to the temple and tried to find some peace. When I realized that her name, along with the baby, was on the temple roll, I realized that I had symbolically, as well as physically, done all I could and placed it before the Lord. The amazing thing that followed was the feeling of "The baby's gone. But be at peace. There is a plan for her, there is a plan for 'K' and there is a plan for you. None of you were ever out of sight." I saw myself on the edge of a cliff, about to jump. Standing at a door that was about to open. Waiting, my name about to be called. It was all going to be okay. Two days later, we got an e-mail. The baby had died. I couldn't believe I would ever be at peace with losing a baby again. But it was all going to mean something, because nothing was without reason.

A month and a half later, we got a phone call. Because of the letters and love I'd shared with "K" we were considered when potential parents were shown to a young woman expecting a little girl. Our daughter was born on January 31st of this year. We had her baby blessing today.

Everything happens for a reason. All the pain, wanting to curl up into a ball and die too, it isn't unnoticed. Every tear will be compensated for, not a sigh will go without notice. Because of trials, pain and heartache, we grow and become more than we ever could, should the answer have been "yes" when we wanted it to be. I'm so thankful for all the "no's." My favorite scripture is Alma 36:20 &21. My joy is as sweet as my pain was bitter.

ckkg said...

it is amazing to see the incredible amount of spiritual clarity that you have, in the midst of such difficult things. you are definitely teaching us readers a lot. one of my favorite talks is from elder maxwell called "willing to submit". it is such a profound concept and yet one of the hardest things to do. i am glad you made me think about this today, because there is a lot going on for me that will require me to be more submissive. thank you for all that you write from your heart and for sharing it with us. i wish you so much good in the future to come and much healing.

Gourley Fam said...

Balm to my soul. You just know what to say, and I love to read your posts. We have much in common, the loss of two babies, the struggle of adoption, and really much more. You are truly a spiritual giant, and put things into a beautiful perspective!