Two weekends ago, I was invited to Yuma, AZ to speak and sing for a group of 300 Latter-day Saint women. They were celebrating the anniversary of the founding of our Church’s women’s organization, The Relief Society, and I was lucky enough to be their keynote guest. Millions of women world-wide are members of The Relief Society and to my best knowledge it’s the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. You can read more about The Relief Society here.
The theme for their celebration was “Women Are That They Might Have Joy,” dervived from a passage of scripture found in The Book of Mormon which teaches that we, as children of God, were created and exist that we might live in joy, both in this life and in the life to come. I have been asked to make my remarks available to the ladies in attendance, so for the next few days I will be posting a series on JOY. Some of what I share in this series has already been offered here in past posts as this blog is a journal of my experiences and lessons learned, and the only way I know how to teach, is to teach from experience. I hope you’ll forgive any redundancy.
As you know the theme for your celebration today is “Women are that they might have joy.”
Now there may be some of you, who are totally happy all of the time. You have a life that is filled with joy every second of every day. You never get mad, or frustrated, or angry. You never feel resentful, hurt, or sad. You never get down about life or question why things are the way they are. You don’t yell when you find that an entire box of Cheerios has been poured into the toilet bowl. You don’t get frazzled when the baby bites the dog or when your four-year-old strips in the frozen food section. You don’t feel bugged with yourself when the roast is a little dry or the potatoes are burned into shrivled little nuggets. You don’t even think about having to bite your tongue when Sister So-and-so says this or that about how you ought to be raising your children, because it doesn’t even bother you! You, are not fazed, by difficult things. If this is you … you’re lying.
As for the rest of you, I’d bet that I have a little more in common with you. We try really hard to stay upbeat and positive, right? We try to look on the bright side of things. We try to keep the faith all the time, and in every thing. But sometimes, the laughter doesn’t come quickly. Life deals a lemon and sometimes it takes a fair amount of control and strength to bite our tongues, keep an eternal perspective, or breathe through the anger or pain or hurt. It’s not that we’re ready to deny the faith, or give up, or give in — but sometimes, if even for a moment, we wonder when the sun is going to come out from behind the clouds.
And then there may be others of you, who are more like I was a year and a half ago. Who outwardly, seem to have it together, but are, on the inside hurting, wondering, pleading for something in their life to change, or heal, or disappear so that they can feel the joy again. Now, I’m not talking about the crushing weight of clinical depression. That’s en entirely other, very real sickness. I’m talking about a life that lacks joy.
Whichever category you fall into, I hope with all my heart, something I share or sing today will help you.
As I prepared for this presentation, I read the scriptures and the writings of the prophets and apostles, and outlined what it means to live a joyful life, what brings us joy, and even how to find joy. But the thing is, I think ultimately, you all already know those things. But for some reason, we forget. We allow ourselves to be blinded. At least I do. So what I want to share with you, is my experience. And so I’ve titled my remarks, “My Journey Back to Joy.”
A year, year-and-a-half ago, if you had asked me if I was joyful, if I was happy, I would have smiled, lied through my teeth, and said, “Absolutely! I have such a great life. I couldn’t be happier.” But the truth is, I wasn’t. I was frustrated with my life, where I was, what I was doing, and not at all happy with who I was.
Allow me to ask a couple questions. I hope you’ll give the answers serious thought.
Are you living a joyful life?
Is there anything in your life right now that you’d like to change or be different?
Perhaps you are seeking an answer? Or maybe forgiveness? Or are you holding onto forgiveness that needs to be extended? Maybe you are trying to win the battle with an addiction. Maybe you are trying to reach a difficult goal. Maybe you are seeking greater joy or peace or harmony within your home, family, or self. Maybe you are making big life decisions and are wondering which path to take. Maybe you want to pursue a different profession. Or maybe you are trying to overcome a fear. Perhaps you would like more good friends. Maybe you are wondering when the ache in your heart will finally dull and go away. Maybe you are wondering when the tears will stop. Maybe you are in a relationship that needs healing. Maybe illness and fatigue are currently a part of your daily life. Maybe you are seeking a certain blessing to come your way. The list of changes we each might like to see in our lives is endless.
When December 31, 2007 arrived, my life had come to a point where something had to change. And I sat down to write my New Year’s resolutions just like I always do every New Year’s Eve. I’d been thinking about them for a while, and there were lots of things about my life that I wanted to be different. But when I sat down to write them there was only one resolution that mattered.
I had examined my life much in the preceding months and I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I wondered where the bright-eyed, idealistic college graduate had gone, along with all the plans and goals and ways I was going to change the world. I couldn’t see the perfect-faith-filled returned missionary anymore. 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.