I know I’ve been writing a lot about things pertaining to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I write about things I am passionate about and for the moment I am passionate about the Atonement, the Gospel, and the scriptures.
That, in and of itself, is an interesting development. I remember mentioning once that I wished I was as passionate about the things of God as I was about some of the things of the world. I could go on and on for hours about political issues, historical events, photography, and classical literature. And don’t even think of asking me about homeschooling. I’d be so evangelical about it you would quickly regret you’d ever brought it up.
After a while though, I began to be uncomfortable with the fact that I preferred studying all of those other subjects over the word of God. Scripture reading was something I would do so I could “reward myself” by studying stuff I was really interested in. I knew that feeling was wrong, but I didn’t know exactly how to change it. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to. I mean, intellectually I wanted to focus on what I knew was the most important thing, but in my heart I wanted to spend my time on those things that fed my ego and worldly curiosity. I knew that all of those other subjects that I loved had their place and that it’s the kind of thing that we are commanded to study and understand, but not at the expense of studying and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and certainly not at the expense of my relationship with my Savior.
In January of this year I created an outline of the things I had wanted to accomplish in the various areas of my life. I had a list of books I wanted to study in science, math, history, and literature. I had a list of goals in music, health, and my hobbies. Under the category of “Spiritual Life” I made note of the hymn “More Holiness Give Me”. I wanted to embody the prayer in that hymn.
More holiness give me,
More strivings within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior,
More sense of his care,
More joy in his service,
More purpose in prayer.
More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More pride in his glory,
More hope in his word,
More tears for his sorrows,
More pain at his grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.
More purity give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom,
More used would I be,
More blessed and holy–
More, Savior, like thee.
I wanted more of the things that mattered. I hoped to study the scripture references and history of the hymn, get a little nerdy with the word choice, maybe come up with some metaphorical insights and call it a day. I know how silly that all sounds, but maybe I’m not the only one who thought that a change of heart is something you can pursue without it taking too much out of you.
Fortunately the Lord saw fit for me to make that change even if, in my naiveté, I thought it was going to be as simple as studying the lyrics to a song. The last year has been nothing like what I had planned in January. A few weeks ago I wrote about what it means to me to have a broken heart unto the Lord. In January I was chasing shadows and in the process suffered from mild depression, more than a little anxiety, and the emotional heartache of discovering that I had lost myself and lost sight of who I really was.
I still vividly remember the day I turned myself over to the Lord. It didn’t look like Enos or Nephi. In fact, if I had to choose a scripture character to liken myself unto it would be Alma the Younger. I’ve never been, as Alma refers to himself, of the vilest of sinners. In fact, I’ve always been pretty well behaved. The very extent of my rebelliousness can be characterized by a haircut of which my mother would not approve, and voting for a republican (much to the shame of my Democrat parents). Given this explanation you may think my comparison to Alma the Younger is a little dramatic. That may be, but anyone who has been through even the shortest span of depression can relate to Alma’s words when he describes wading through tribulation, the gall of bitterness, and the darkest abyss. No, I may not have been a vile sinner, but I was in need of a Savior just as much as he was.
And just as Alma was able to say:
Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.
My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.
So when Alma then says, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him” you can hardly blame me for writing about it all. I can say, as Alma did, “there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yeah and… on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”
Last time I walked you through my study of Enos through the Words of Mormon. I felt that the history of the Nephite people during that time was a symbolic representation of each of us with the Nephites, being driven out of the land of their inheritance being the ultimate withdrawing from the Spirit of the Lord. That moment when we hit rock bottom and finally turn to Him in anguish and scream “Please! I just can’t do this anymore!”
Going back to the historical account, after taking up his sword and banishing the Lamanites one last time, King Benjamin started to clean house. Mormon tells us “king Benjamin–he had somewhat of contentions among his own people.”
For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people-
Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.
Have you ever felt that? When you finally allow the Lord to pick you up off of the floor and He says, “we have some work to do.” And then you slowly, piece by piece, allow Him to take those things that are dragging down into that crumpled heap. It’s hard! Sometimes I don’t want to give up that TV show, or show self-restraint in XYZ. But you see, I was done. “Fake it till you make it” wasn’t working for me because I had lost sight of what I was supposed to become. In fact, I would go so far as to say “fake it till you make it” was causing a lot of problems. I didn’t have a choice. If I didn’t let the Lord break my stubborn, hard heart, I was going to break under the weight of my own pride.
But one by one, I let my Savior carry my burdens for me. And each time I gave him a piece of that burden, “peace was established in the land”. And over the course of the last year I can testify to you that I have known his goodness and have tasted of his love (Mosiah 4:11). I feel as the Nephites did when they renewed the covenant that the Lord had made with Nephi, Lehi, Jacob, and the rest.
I have felt that mighty change in my heart and in reflecting over the course of the last year, while it was much more difficult than I had planned, the Lord did answer and grant me the gift of my heart. I still have a lifetime’s worth of growth ahead of me, but compared to the me from a year ago, I sing that hymn with a much more grateful heart for the change that I have felt. I do have more faith in my Savior and I do have more sense of his care. I find more joy in his service and I have far more purpose in prayer.
With each piece my Savior breaks of my heart, he uses it to build me back up to be a little more in His image.