Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Me, Composing Devotional Writing

1. An Inner Struggle

“If life gets too hard to stand, kneel.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

Perhaps this quote has a drastically different meaning to those who do not pray.

Or maybe it doesn’t, after all.

The first and only time a burden has literally brought me to my knees, it didn’t weigh a single gram. But it didn’t need to; sometimes life can carry enough metaphorical weight to crush the human spirit, without resting a particle of mass on that person’s body.

The short of the story was that I found myself outside of a door that read Counseling and Psychological Services Center, and that for the first time in my life I was on my knees, trembling, and trying to squeeze my tear ducts shut. You might think that it was the trial(s) bringing me there that had lowered me to this emotional wreck. It was, to an extent, but you ought to know: I had a deep, abiding fear of talking to psychologists. Or better put, I have a deep, abiding fear of being medicated into mental oblivion.

What if I walked through that door?

What if they heard my problems and told me that my miracle solution was a drug whose side effects were worse than constant feelings of doom and despair?

What if I were to begin a pattern of life that never allowed me to really live again?

And was I doubting my God? Was I just not looking to Him with enough faith to find peace and healing?

What was wrong with me?

Well, at least being brought to your knees – sometimes a euphemism for “being humbled” – is a natural position for asking for help. And if you do pray, it’s a natural position for receiving guidance.
I got the answers I needed, and those in the very moment I needed them. It was an answer I may not have wanted to receive, but it was one that got me off my knees and gave me the strength to walk through that door.

Since that time, it hasn’t been easy behind that door. But any time a door is presented to me by one who pulls me up from my knees and takes my burden from me, even gradually, it’s a door worth walking through.

2. Scripture, Personal and Powerful

You’ll often find that Mormons have their favourite “scripture hero.” I have some of those. The one who most stands out to me today went by the name of Samuel. Or, as he is known more often, Samuel the Lamanite. Not just “Samuel;” they had to point out his different skin tone, different family, different upbringing, different nation. Love it or hate it, Samuel was titled: “This is Samuel the Lamanite.”

And I relate to him ever more personally, now that I understand what it’s like to be called by the name of your ethnicity, nationality, and family, among a people not my own.

It’s a scale that stands in balance; to the faithful who heeded Samuel, the fact of him being Lamanite – not a Nephite like themselves – made him all the more exemplary; this meant he had learned to love his enemies and to teach them like friends. But to many of the people he taught, the fact of him being a Lamanite made him all too easy to hate; here was one of “them,” not one of “us,” thinking he had any right to think differently from “us” and tell “us” that we could be better.

Why is this significant to the Metis Canadian with the weird name, living in the USA?

…I don’t know.

Samuel met this crowd and found them enthusiastic – to throw him out of town (probably literally).
The scriptural account of what happened next is one of the shortest sets of words to have ever inspired me so much. In fact, it’s so short that it’s not even there.

Helaman 13:2 says that after Samuel preached repentance, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.”

Verse 3 says, “But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.”

Verse 4 immediately cuts to saying, “And it came to pass that they would not suffer that he should enter into the city.” So the words, “Go back, Samuel,” are followed immediately by Samuel doing so.
There’s no questioning recorded here. No deliberation. No refusal or pleading. And definitely no turning back and ignoring this command. Instead, my friend Samuel got up and returned to the people who had hated him, trusting that God knew what He was doing.

…That’s my life right now.

Samuel, had you and I lived our parallel missions in the same day, I would have cried on your shoulder in despair. But seeing how you have gone before me and shown the way already, you have given me something to aspire to, and something in which to rejoice.

Thank you, my Lamanite friend.

3. A Wilderness Quest

December 27th, 2012. I may be terrible at history, and I may have a weak spot for remembering exact dates, but then there is December 27th, 2012.

Two days after that Christmas, I felt like taking a walk. In itself, this desire may not have been significant. If it stood out to me in any way, it was only the fact that it was – 25 C (- 13 F) outside, lower with the wind chill, and the temperature dropping as the sun set.

That, and I was wearing only a thick sweatshirt – not a winter coat.

I didn’t know where I was going or why; I only knew that I was to go. Some peculiar little feeling in me would tell me only that much.

It was on that march, passing the lakes and trails and even my old elementary school, that something was revealed to me.

My own family thinks I’m crazy for my love of the winter. Nobody enjoys the stinging skin, the deadening numbness, the incessant shivering, the ponderous darkness. And absolutely nobody is happy to hear that the temperature has dropped to – 40. Nobody.

Except me.

It was on this trek through the snow, slowly losing body heat, that I saw an eternal truth at play not only in my love of winter, but in my love of all things difficult. I later wrote of the experience,

Photo by me, December 27th, 2012

“The Great of Heavens’ light decreased
But was not altogether ceased
Nor was my hope to ash made cold;
I now had faith to keep me bold

“For oft I dwell within the dark
While in this wintry land I hark
Oft times the Sun sinks out of sight
Which taught me, ‘Always carry light.’”

Or as a man named Lehi once taught, “it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… all things must be a compound in one.”

As surely as you need to know the bitter to be able to recognize the sweet, you only know what warmth and light are to the extent that you understand what cold and darkness are. It’s as true physically as it is otherwise.

And for that, I will continue traipsing around on frigid winter nights; I always like meeting God out there.

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