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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heart throbs

I had the hardest time choosing a major when I was in college. It actually got to the point that at the beginning of my Junior year I wasn't allowed to register for classes until I declared a major. After a very long process that consisted of all kinds of failed attempts to find my "passion," I finally settled for "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" and ended up with Spanish as my major. 

I had done well in Spanish in high school, and the language had come fairly easy for me, so I figured at least that I could get good grades with Spanish as my major. I progressed quickly through the classes, and soon found myself in classes with students who had been missionaries in Spanish-speaking countries. And, as I thought ahead to the mission that I would serve, I would dream of all the Spanish-speaking countries I could possibly go to.

As you know, my mission call was to Italy. It came as a HUGE surprise to me. I had never once considered Italy as a possibility. In fact, after I first read my mission call, my friends and family who were with me said that I seemed very dazed as I repeated over and over again "I'm going to Italy." 

When I arrived at the Missionary Training Center I was very excited to jump into the language, since I had heard Italian was very similar to Spanish. My foundation of language learning proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Since I didn't want to forget all the Spanish I had learned, whenever I would learn something new in Italian, I would automatically translate it in my mind in Spanish... it shouldn't have been a surprise when in conversations I would use phrases like, "muy bene." That mixing of the two languages was greatly discouraged.

It must have been pretty bad, because after about three weeks at the MTC one of my teachers finally pulled me aside and said, "You have to stop speaking Spanish." I guess she was afraid that no one would understand me when I got to Italy. Go figure.

That was a major turning point for me. It was the first time in those three weeks that I recognized that I was having a really hard time. I had been so focused on staying positive that I finally realized that I was afraid if I admitted I was having a hard time, I would somehow disappoint my family, and more importantly God. But, the truth was that not only was I struggling with the language, I was struggling with homesickness, and with finding my place in this new way of life.

I still remember the moment kneeling in prayer, when I honestly opened up and admitted I was really having a hard time. It all came out... my fears about living in a foreign country with very limited contact with my family, my frustrations with learning a new language, my insecurities about being fit to be a missionary. And, the most incredible thing happened. As I trusted those very vulnerable feelings to God in prayer, I was filled with peace and reassurance that not only did He already know everything I was feeling, but He had been waiting and wanting to help me get through it.

Over the last three months, I've found myself feeling many of the same feelings as I did in those early weeks in the MTC. I've been trying so hard to go through this trial with a clear perspective and a positive attitude, afraid that I might disappoint God in some way if I admit that I'm having a hard time coping and healing, and even accepting this loss.

I've been filled with fears and insecurities and frustrations, and they have added up against me this week. My heart has felt so heavy all week... and I'm trying to re-learn the same lesson I learned almost ten years ago... that admitting it's hard and that I can't bear the burden of this trial on my own doesn't make God disappointed in me, but rather it opens up the way for Him to comfort me and strengthen me.

I have always appreciated James E. Talmage's insight on prayer: 

"It is well to know that prayer is not compounded of words, words that may fail to express what one desires to say, words that so often cloak inconsistencies, words that may have no deeper source than the physical organs of speech, words that may be spoken to impress mortal ears. The dumb may pray, and that too with the eloquence that prevails in heaven. Prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, of contrition and pure desire. If there lives a man who has never really prayed, that man is a being apart from the order of the divine in human nature, a stranger in the family of God's children. Prayer is for the uplifting of the suppliant. God without our prayers would be God; but we without prayer cannot be admitted to the kingdom of God. So did Christ instruct: 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.'" (Jesus the Christ, pg. 238)

At a time like this when I can't make sense of the feelings in my heart, trying to express them in prayer can be a very overwhelming task... and that's why it brings me such great comfort to know that God already knows what I'm feeling. He already knows that I feel weighed down and discouraged, heart-broken and afraid. When I kneel in prayer, and emotions choke my words, I know He hears my silent pleadings and understands my hidden sorrow. And, I'm so grateful that He is so generous in reassuring me that He is not disappointed in me, but that He loves me with the perfect love of a Father. Not only do I find relief in my honest prayerful moments, I sense there is also a feeling of relief on His end when I fully open my heart to Him.

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." - Romans 8:26


Andrea said...

Thank you for the uplifting post. You are quit amazing! I'm sorry that it's been a hard week. What would we do without prayer? I will continue to pray for you.

Michelle said...

Wow. You were definitely inspired to share that when you did! I have been really pondering the purpose in prayer. Not understanding why we pray, if the will of Father in Heaven is already set. This post really helped me. Thank you so much! I love my Father in Heaven and I love to pray to Him. It is comforting to know that even if I pray for something that He will not grant, it is bringing me closer to Him, and the Spirit makes intercession for me in my weakness in knowing what to pray for.