If you remember my New Year’s post, then you will recall that I spoke about a speech given by Brad Wilcox that was to be my inspiration for the year. This speech had such a profound impact on me that I made an effort to find out what other things Brad Wilcox had written.
The Continuous Conversion is my new handbook for life. In a similar vein as His Grace is Sufficient, Brad focuses on turning inward and focusing on progress, not perfection. With his amazing gift for explanation Brad is able to give us several analogies, stories, and personal insight that help us understand the eternal principle of conversion and grace.
For me this is a book filled with hope. James 2:17 says “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we sometimes have a tendency to place an emphasis on the “works” part of that scripture. It’s absolutely true that we can’t pray our way in to Heaven if we continue to live a life of sin… and yet we can’t earn our way to Heaven either. Working ourselves to death while failing to trust in and leaning on the Lord is nothing more than trusting in your own flesh and akin to procrastinating the day of our repentance.
Life is hard. Like… really hard. It’s hard even for us who seemingly have no struggles. I’ll be brutally honest and admit that the last several years of my life, while not without struggle, has been devoid of tragedy and devastating loss. I have seen my family members struggle with infertility, the death of a child, having a husband deployed for years on end, out of wedlock children, drug abuse and addiction, bankruptcy, and more. Some of these problems are consequences of their own choices, others clearly are not. Through it all I feel heartbreakingly thankful that my struggles have been comparatively minor. When my life’s trials come, they are not the kind that can be worn on my sleeve. The loneliness and heartbreak that comes from my family’s trials are devastating in their own way. Sometimes I think that I just can’t do it anymore and I can’t do anything right.
Living the life of a faithful Latter-Day Saint adds it’s own level of difficulty. It’s especially hard today when the world culture is SO contrary to keeping the commandments of God. Then you add visiting teaching, keeping the Sabbath, scripture study, tithing, temple work, loving our enemies, missionary work, magnifying our callings, serving those in need, etc. I can’t tell you how often I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. For some reason I keep thinking that “perfection” is just outside of my grasp. The reality is that “perfection” is never even close to being within reach–for anyone.
The plan that the Lord has for us is so much more fulfilling and better suited to us than anything we could think up on our own, but it’s hard to see His vision when the world (aka the Joneses) are tearing us in so many different directions. Finding out what the Lord wants me to do with my life is not exactly something that comes easily to me. I often act like a toddler who says “NO!” to everything her parent says. I want to do what I want to do, so there. The Continuous Conversion was invaluable to helping me put things back in to perspective. Yes, life is hard and it will be for everyone, but sometimes it’s made even more difficult because we insist on being the master of our own destiny.
A God who asks nothing of us is making nothing of us, and that is not the case. In this symphony that is my life, God is not content to be a member of the audience or stage crew. He is not even content to be the conductor. He wants to be the composer.
We will never be perfect, but knowing that shouldn’t discourage us! Ours is not a life of perfection, but of preparation. Our life story is STILL being written. We need only to turn the pen over to the Master and He will make sure it is full of meaning and that it ends the way that it should. It’s not easy to do and it’s a never ending process. Sometimes I think I understand what he wants, and like my children when I’m teaching a math lesson, will say “OKAY! I understand! Now leave me alone so I can DO it!!” That’s not how it works. Even when we do fully submit ourselves to His will life will continue to be heartbreaking and frustrating. I will still stumble and fall on a daily… and sometimes hourly basis. No matter how often I do fall, His hand will be extended out to bring me back to my feet and guide me the rest of the way.
My copy of The Continuous Conversion has all sorts of post-it notes in it–quote after quote that touched me. As I sat down to write about it for you I wanted to share everything that I learned, but I couldn’t put any of it in to words. I guess those lessons are just for me. I would challenge you to read The Continuous Conversion and find out what the Lord wants you to do. You will likely get different impressions than I did.