Allow me to ask a question. I hope you’ll give the answer serious thought.
Is there anything in your life right now that you’d like to change or have 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, 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.
In the weeks that followed, I tried to put a dedicated emphasis on that goal. I reimplimented habits like daily scripture reading, regular prayer, and reading the lessons for each Sunday. And I felt better about life in small measure. But I still felt as though I was far. 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 which 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. He’s the perfect God of the universe. How could I ask the Lord to fix me, change me, remake me? How could I offer Him anything less than something beautiful? And so for a long while I tried to rid my life of the busyness and weaknesses on my own, while trying to add back in the joy, service, and dedication–again, on my own. But with the approaching New Year, the pieces began to come together. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. 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 particular 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 lately, I’ve found myself reminded of the lesson the Lord has tried to teach, and re-teach me my whole life. And I think it’s probably the lesson He’ll continue to have to teach me, as I’m obviously not very good at learning it.
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? If so, “how can we know the way” to do so?
“Christ’s divine answer was: ‘I am the way…’ (John 14:5-6). And so He is! He is the source of our comfort, the inspiration of our life, the author of our salvation. If we want to know our relationship to God, we go to Jesus Christ. If we would know the truth of immortality of the soul, we have it exemplified in the Savior’s resurrection…He is the one Perfect Being who ever walked the earth; the sublimest example of nobility; Godlike in nature; perfect in his love; our Redeemer; our Savior; the immaculate Son of our Eternal Father; the Light, the Life, the Way” (David O. McKay, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 2003, 3-4, 5).
And so it is. At both the beginning and the end of my long list of “look what I’ve done Lord to change my life” there stands One. And ultimately, only He can change it. When I face the wall in front of me, it is He who says, “Thy walls are continually before me” (1 Nephi 21:16).
When we are lonely, it is He who says, “and lo, I am with you, even unto the end” (D&C 105:41).
When we are burdened, it is He who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:30).
When we wonder which direction to go or choice to make, it is He who says, “Trust in [me] with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge [me], and [I] will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
When we are seeking greater peace in our homes, families, and hearts, it is He who says, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23).
When we are saddened, faced with fear, hurt or illness, it is He who says, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” (John 14:18).
When our world swirls around us, it is he who “arises, and rebukes the winds and the sea; until there is calm” (Matt 8: 26).
When we don’t feel strong enough to handle what we’ve been given, or face what is ahead, it is He who is our “strength and [our] song” (1 Nephi 22:2).
When we are out of breath, it is God who “breathed … the breath of life” into Adam (Moses 3:70).
When we feel dead, it is He who said, “I am the life” (John 14:6).
When we want, it is He who says, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 6: 7).
When we feel condemned and ashamed, it is He who says, “neither do I condemn thee” (John 8:11).
When we feel we need to suffer more for our sins, it is He who says, “I have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer” (D&C 19:16).
When we hunger, it is He who says, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).
When we thirst, it is He who says, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14).
When the present seems dark, it is He who says, “I am the light” (3 Ne. 18:16).
When we don’t know the way, it is He who says, “I am the way.” (John 14:6).
“Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, ‘Come unto me,’ He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way” (Elder Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” Liahona, May 2006, 69-71).
There is a journey we are all making. Some of us have the ability really run it. Others of us are slower. Sometimes we walk. Sometimes we’re frozen still, not knowing how to get to the end, or maybe scared to get to the end. But I testify that there is One who stays beside us. He knows the way because He is the way.
His life He gave, once for the world.
But today, in quiet moments,
He gave the world to me.
That little poem came to me as I contemplated this Man, this God, my God, my brother, my breath, my light, my life, my way. At every moment of our lives, and I truly believe that it’s every moment, we simply have to let go. We can clean out our lives. We can organize our homes. We can speak kind words. We can pray and read our scriptures and be good people. But at the end of all that, when we stand in front of the wall, or just before the finish line, at those simplest and truest places, it’s He who gives us the world. And He gives it over and over and over. And He loves that! He is the author and the finisher of all things. He is the way. And all He says is, “Come.”
I hope today we can all Come to Jesus–quietly and honestly. That we can bring our fears and our baggage and our sins and our broken lives and give them to him and not take them back and just … believe. Believe that He can not only fix them, but that He wants them.
There is a song I love that says:
Broken clouds give rain
And broken ground grows grain
Broken bread feeds man for one more day
Broken storms yield light
The break of day heals night
Broken pride turns blindness into sight
Broken souls that need His mending
Broken hearts for offering
Could it be that God loves broken things?
Broken chains set free
Broken swords bring peace
Broken walls make friends of you and me
To break the ranks of sin
To break the news of Him
To put on Christ till His name feels broken in
Broken souls that need His mending
Broken hearts for offering
I believe that God loves broken things
And yet, our broken faith, our broken promises
Sent love to the cross
And still, that broken flesh, that broken heart of His
Offers us such grace and mercy
Covers us with undeserving
This broken soul that cries for mending
This broken heart for offering
I’m convinced that God loves broken things
Praise His name – my God loves broken things
(Broken, Kenneth Cope)
I am broken. And I am His. However imperfectly I do that, and believe me, imperfect it is. But I am broken, and I am His. And I know He loves broken me.