[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part I.]
By no means had I become a horrible person, but I wasn’t who I had been in years past, and I hadn’t become who I thought I would once I “became a grown up.” Life had happened. I’d gotten a real job with real stress and heavy demands. I’d accumulated bills and responsibilities and busyness. And the busier I got, the less I seemed like me. And it seemed like the farther I got from “me,” the farther I got from heaven too. So come January 1, things were going to change. But like I said only one resolution mattered. And so I wrote:
This year I will know the Savior better.
In the weeks that followed, I tried to put a dedicated emphasis on that goal. I listed all the things I should be doing in an effort to know Him better. I reimplimented habits like daily scripture reading, regular prayer, and reading the Sunday School lessons each week. And I felt better about life in small measure. But I still felt as though I was far. I still felt as though I was missing something. The intensity of the Spirit wasn’t permeating my life like it had just a few years before. And so – I continued to clean out the cobwebs. I identified things that had crept into my life that were making it difficult for me to always have the Spirit – things like sins, weaknesses, imperfections, and grudges. I began to offer them up to heaven with the humblest heart I think I’ve ever had. I was so saddened by the weeds I had let overtake my heart.
I think I knew I needed change for a long time, but when I’m honest about why I didn’t do it sooner, it was because I was scared – scared to give the Lord this tattered, broken life. I was afraid piecing it back together would hurt beyond what I could bear. And I think I was also ashamed. I mean He’s the perfect God of the universe. How could I ask Him to fix me, change me, remake me? How could I offer Him anything less than perfection? And so for a long while I tried to rid my life of the busyness, sins, and weaknesses on my own, while trying to add back in the joy, service, and dedication – again, on my own. But with the New Year, the pieces began to come together – I saw that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was impossible for me to fix it alone. And I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted to know the Savior more. It’s never mattered more. And I think that’s because I’ve never been more acutely aware of my need for Him. And I told the Lord so. I would do whatever it took. I didn’t care how badly it hurt or how long it would take. I wanted my life to be different. And I would do whatever He asked.
And as I did so, I felt things changing little by little. I found myself happier and more peaceful. Less burdened and more fulfilled. But something was still not right. Like I had hit another wall, where I had offered everything up – my desires, my sins, my weaknesses – but I still wasn’t feeling complete in the process. I kept praying, “What else do I need to do? What is the way to finally achieve what I’m seeking? I’m so close I can feel it. But I feel like there is one last thing. Is it just that I need to give you more time? Do I need to be patient? Or do I need to do something else? Just tell me and I’ll do it. You know I will.”
Now, you must know that I have always been my own worst critic. And, though I would never allow another person to believe this about themselves, I’ve always thought that I needed to do more, work harder, run faster in order to receive the blessing or find forgiveness. I think many of us feel this way simply because we’re so much more aware of our own imperfections. We tend to be hardest on ourselves.
In fact, I’ve often been known to say in prayer, “I haven’t suffered enough for this. If you need to punish me a bit more, I understand.” Or I’ll think to myself, “I need to do this and this and this and this, before I ask for help because certainly I can’t kneel before God if I haven’t read my scriptures, served my neighbor, gone to the temple, and completed my visiting teaching.” And in regards to this resolution, I think I’d been telling myself that the way to get past the wall is to read more, serve more, try harder. I kept asking, “What more do I need to do?”
But in my studies, I was reintroduced to Thomas. Poor Thomas is often remembered as the “doubter” but really, Thomas was faithful and dedicated. A good disciple.
Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?”, as he sat with his fellow apostles and their Lord after the supper on the memorable night of betrayal. I revisit the question I began with: Is there anything in your life right now that you’d like to change or have different? And to add an additional question: Would you like more joy in your life? If so, “how can [you] know the way” to do so?
Now, I want to skip to the end of my story–to where I am now, and I’ll come back to the guts of what happened next later.
Today, I am living a joyful life. My life today is so different than it was a couple years ago. No, things aren’t perfect. No, I don’t have all the blessings I wish I had. No, my life’s not totally balanced and peaceful. It’s not even blue skies and rainbows every day. But it’s closer. I still sometimes say things I shouldn’t, and think things I shouldn’t, and do things I shouldn’t. And sometimes I feel frustrated or even sad. But despite the difficulties and the mistakes, I am living a joyful life.
And I just want to take a few minutes to share with you where I find my joy. Because after all, “women are that they might have joy.” Do you believe that? Really? Women “are.” Meaning “women exist, were created, live and breathe and move, that they (we!) might have joy.” I do. I believe in God’s words. All of them. But it doesn’t say women will have joy. It says, might have joy. It’s up to us. We just have to know where to look.