When I did chapel this morning at the hospital, I talked about stress. I gave examples of the last few years from my own life, and how hard it has been. And then I showed them this cartoon:
We laughed, because everyone has days that feel like that, but I also talked about authenticity and not faking a Pollyanna smile just because it’s a hard day.
Even when life has a lot of hard days.
And sometimes there is not much we can do about it.
Our degree of fault is high at the end of the spectrum marked as sin. We should accept responsibility for problems caused by sin by repenting and continually striving to do better. However, as we continue down the spectrum, our fault drops to zero at the end marked by adversity, where we may bear no responsibility at all. These trials may come to us regardless of any conscious action on our part. If we blame ourselves for things that are not our fault, we make a bad situation worse by seeing ourselves as bad people who deserve bad things.
Other times it’s because we agree to do hard work, either to help ourselves grow or to sacrifice for our families or to serve in some way. All of that can be very good. We are even promised that the atonement will strengthen us beyond our own capacity to do more than we could on our own in these ways.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
~ Mosiah 24:14
But lots of times we take on too much because we aren’t paying attention, or don’t set good boundaries, or don’t realize how it all adds up, or forget that we are worth caring for, too.
If we are going to “love others as ourselves” (Mark 12:31), there is an implication that loving ourselves is part of the deal, right?
Even when we endure adversity, or progress through our own weaknesses, or sacrifice to care for those with no one else to care for them, such opportunities come in seasons. It is not forever. Seasons change, and spring always comes.
And I am really excited for spring.
Those are the beautiful yellow roses Nathan got me for Valentine’s Day. I don’t know how he did, or who gave them to him for giving to me, but it was a lovely surprise and I was delighted. They are beautiful!
It is also exciting because do you know what happens exactly one week after Valentine’s Day?
And know what else?
I turn 40 next week. FORTY.
Do you know what 40 means?
It means a coming out of the wilderness.
It means my time of wandering is complete.
It means it is finally my turn to enter into the promised land.
Know when I turn 40?
Exactly 8 years after I first met the missionaries.
Know what 8 is?
I’m just saying.
I mean to say, perfection in a completion kind of way, meaning whole.
Never has anyone ever been so excited to turn forty as I am for next week, seriously.
My body is swollen from cancer meds, and sore from never-ending post-chemo pain, and weak from missed gym days because of broken feet and cracked ribs. My hair is starting to streak with grey in all the places where hard-earned wisdom bursts forth and cannot be contained. The boldness of the testimony I am sent to give is tempered only by the Spirit, and my heart is full of the love for children that fill my arms I once thought would be forever empty.
I earned this forty. This forty is mine.
I have always been far more ancient than I was, and my body has survived far more than it should have been able to survive. But this? This is a coming into my own, a going home to my own home, a growing up my own family until they are the ones who are old.
Then I will be really ancient.
But do you know what I said in chapel this morning, about that stress rock squashing the little two thumbs up bug?
I said I’m not a rock collector anymore.
I don’t fill my pockets full of other people’s stress. I don’t dig through granite when others don’t want to pick up a shovel to even try. I don’t load up my backpack with the stones other people throw.
I only use stones to line my garden path, to step across the puddles, to set boundaries that protect me and my family.
This is good and right and as it should be, and makes every grey hair worth it.
That’s why we had to go to the temple this week, just so I could be sure where my tent was facing. Forty!
And to say thank you.
The truth is, that what I know, is that my “rock” is my Redeemer, and rather than weighing me down until I am squashed, I am given a firm place to stand.
“Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God”
~2 Nephi 4:28–31, 35
I testify, even with Alma, that we are:
“supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; . . . and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36:27).
“I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 38:5).
It is true that:
All the dilemmas illustrated in the Book of Mormon contain dangerous elements uncontrollable by mortals, so that when deliverance comes, no one will be confused about the One from whom it comes. Life’s path is strewn with seemingly unsolvable dilemmas so that people will be driven to God for help. The Lord’s methods may be based on the principle that the greater the trouble, the more likely one will turn to Him for help. We are reminded that the only way that God can teach how faith works is through experience, some of it necessarily very dangerous. When the hand of God is revealed in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable situation, one’s confidence in the presence of God gains strength.
This is not just a theology of suffering.
It is more than just a fake Pollyanna two-thumbs up.
It is progression, even the promise of life eternal, of the happiness sort.
And this journey through hell has been mine, and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
It was exactly what I needed, and I know it is bringing me through the wilderness, just as He promised. I know He will keep His promise because He is my Father and my God, and because He always has. I know there is a promised land waiting, and that makes every moment of it worth it, no matter how dark it has seemed to be at times.
Or how many grey hairs it gave me.
I know the song the wilderness sings, and I know what hope it brings.
Hope for deliverance, to a promised land, where we are wholly holy.