Always

boy-and-landscape

Photograph by iStock/Thinkstock

 

It’s late, but I like to pretend I’m still young, so I’ll share some of my thoughts. :)  I am tired though and I know from experience the consequences of unwisely choosing to begin a work week without adequate rest. I’ll keep this brief.

“I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

Today was a good day. Our bishop gave an incredible talk in church about doubt, faith, weakness, and grace, among other things. I needed to be taught and hear these principles.

On numerous occasions throughout the past few months I’ve had reason to doubt why God would give me these trials. I’ve felt overwhelmed by fear that I would lose my wife to this pregnancy, or that we would lose our new baby, or that I would lose them both.

This kind of trepidation was new to me. Before recent events, I couldn’t fully understand the depth of doubt inherent in simply fearing for a loved one’s life. I know that fear now, and it is powerful! But by the grace of God I have gained a testimony of principles more powerful than fear. I want to share my testimony with you.

Many times in the last few months I have felt moments of distress and even anger. I’ve also felt sudden surges of joy and peace. I have learned that life guarantees the former. Disquietude, fear, uncertainty—these are inevitable, and I anticipate I’ll get more than my fill of them. I think we all will and do.

The moments of comfort and reassurance came too. They came amidst my roller coaster of imperfect faith as I struggled to place my trust in a painful plan. As the trial extended over several weeks, a pattern emerged and the Lord mercifully showed it to me. He showed me something I didn’t expect.

I’ve learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing doubt. Undoubtedly, doubt is a good thing to experience. Doubt gives me the chance to exercise my faith. Without doubt, I would have no cause to trust. In fact, without doubt I could never learn to trust.

With that concept in mind, I’ve learned that my faith cannot exist without doubt. Indeed, what is faith but an open admission of doubt coupled with a determination to trust?

Like many principles of the gospel, this one seems a paradox to me. But it is true nonetheless. And just as assuredly as life brings pain and suffering, faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement brings relief, peace, and even joy. It always brings these things!

I know this is true because I am living it! When I place my faith in my Savior, when I share my doubts and fears with my Father in Heaven, They always encourage me. Always!

When I seek guidance and wisdom to know how I can better care for my wife and children, They always give it to me.

When I ask for Their blessing that I will do my job well during these trials so that I can provide for my family, They always give it to me.

When I sincerely plead for forgiveness after losing my temper and patience, They always give it to me.

When my trials scare me and I feel discouraged by my imperfect and weak faith, and I think that choosing to move forward in faith would not make sense… when I pray for faith and help to move forward anyway, They always give it to me.

“Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  – Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:29

I am a witness of God’s love for His children because I know He loves me and my family. He teaches me this repeatedly, daily even. I can depend on His every word. The more I choose to trust Him instead of my doubts, the more He shows me just how trustworthy He truly is.

These trials are hard, but they no longer feel impossible because I know the Lord is with me.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“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 24:13 – 14, emphasis added).

 

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Tottering, falling, and trying to get up again

mormonad-down-on-yourself

I relapsed this past weekend after nearly six months of blessed recovery + sobriety. After acting out, it didn’t feel real. I wished it was a dream. I hate this.

I’d forgotten how difficult getting up can be after falling down like this. I didn’t miss the feeling.

Discouragement came quickly once I became willing to accept my relapse, as did a plethora of whispered lies from the evil one:

“You knew you wouldn’t make it. You knew you weren’t good enough.”

“You’re worthless. All that progress and you threw it away.”

“Your wife and daughter won’t love you anymore.”

“Why try again? You’re likely to fail. Why go through with it? It won’t make a difference for you anyway. You’re too broken. You can’t be fixed.”

Sometimes I wish the devil had a body so that I could punch him.

I thank God for Sidreis Agla’s bravery and testimony (read her blog here). I got her book, “By the Light of Grace,” on Kindle nearly twenty-four hours before I fell. Saturday night after acting out I started reading it. I couldn’t put it down! I eagerly finished reading it the next day. It was like reading my own auto-biography about my addictions and life. Certainly, our lives aren’t the same, nor are we; but her analogies and terminology fit so perfectly with what the Lord has taught me so far. Her testimony is powerful!

The most significant part of her testimony that stuck onto my heart and wouldn’t shake off is her audacity to keep trying. She never gave up, even when it seemed logical to do so.

Within the twenty-four hours leading up to my relapse, I learned that my two sponsees had relapsed also. I talked with them both and they were willing to start the program over. They wouldn’t give up.

After my relapse I contacted my sponsor. He informed me that he had relapsed recently, too. He said, “It is what it is. I have something more to learn, so I’ll keep working the steps” (paraphrased). He won’t give up.

It’s as if Father in Heaven knew I would relapse at this point, so he surrounded me with brothers and friends who He knew would show me the way. Their tenacity inspires me. It moves me to turn to my Deliverer again and trust in His mercy and love for me.

Still, finding courage to get up again is remarkably hard. It’s hard not to feel like a failure. It’s hard not to replay my stupidity over and over again in my mind. It’s hard not to keep it a secret and try to bury my ugliness. It’s hard not to feel like a fraud when I see the pain in my wife’s eyes again. It’s hard not to feel hopeless.

I just want to do the right thing. I don’t know if I won’t relapse again, but I’m willing to work the steps. I think I have more to learn.

My new sponsor shared the following thought with me tonight after we met on the phone. It was given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf in a general conference address a little over one year ago (read the full talk here).

“It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.

“We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.

“Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.

“I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so He could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged—never to give up or flee our allotted field of service—but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying.”

I get to choose my Ice Cream

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

 

I’ll be surprised if a theme or message comes out of this post. I have plenty of thoughts and I’m not sure what to do with them.

I think I’ve been trying to do recovery on my own again.

I recently took on a new role at work and the stress has begun mounting along with mixed emotions of fear, excitement, and “Holy moley I have to figure out this role and no one here knows how to fulfill it or even define it and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” Make it up as I go? I dunno. I ordered four books yesterday. I hope I find some guidance from them.

New thought: I can surrender my fears to my Father in Heaven and ask Him to guide my efforts at work. That sounds good.

I’ve also been feeling a lot of sorrow lately. Many of my friends in recovery have relapsed recently. I know their pain and it hurts to see them go through it. I look up to all of them, and some of them had years of sobriety. I still look up to them. I’d be lying if I said their relapses didn’t frighten me. I’m afraid I’ll make it to a year or more of sobriety by the grace of God and then relapse. I think I feel afraid that such a course is what God has planned for me.

I don’t want to think that that kind of thinking makes sense, but I have my doubts. I guess it could be that God has a relapse planned for me, but that would have to accompany the notion that I don’t have a choice in the matter, or that my life is only a script written by someone else.

I think God knows whether or not I’ll relapse, but I don’t think that His omniscience determines my choices. That would be like saying I can control my mom’s choice of ice cream simply because I know that she’ll choose butter pecan over strawberry.

I think God knows me so well that He knows what choices I’ll make in any situation. No, that doesn’t determine my actions. Actually, I feel some comfort in knowing that my Father in Heaven knows me that well. Given that my eternal progress and happiness is His top priority, I can trust that He will always prepare a way for me to remain sober.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet Nephi:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7, Book of Mormon).

That feels right. I feel hope when I consider these words. God will not require me to submit to my addictions when He asks me to submit to Him. His will is not my misery or damnation. His will is my joy and progress. His will for me is my recovery.

I’m grateful to the Lord for revealing my fears to me. I feel much better now. I’ve been feeling afraid without being willing to surrender my fears. I feel relief now. I feel hope again. Thank God for my Savior who provides a way for my salvation, even from myself!

My wife just turned on Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I gotta go. :)

Also, I have the coolest wife ever.

Still shaking my head over this, too

quote-uchtdorf-sunset-beach

 

I really, really love this talk by President Uchtdorf. Here’s an excerpt:

Not long ago I was skiing with my 12-year-old grandson. We were enjoying our time together when I hit an icy spot and ended up making a glorious crash landing on a steep slope.

I tried every trick to stand up, but I couldn’t—I had fallen, and I couldn’t get up.

I felt fine physically, but my ego was a bit bruised. So I made sure that my helmet and goggles were in place, since I much preferred that other skiers not recognize me. I could imagine myself sitting there helplessly as they skied by elegantly, shouting a cheery, “Hello, Brother Uchtdorf!”

I began to wonder what it would take to rescue me. That was when my grandson came to my side. I told him what had happened, but he didn’t seem very interested in my explanations of why I couldn’t get up. He looked me in the eyes, reached out, took my hand, and in a firm tone said, “Opa, you can do it now!”

Instantly, I stood.

I am still shaking my head over this. What had seemed impossible only a moment before immediately became a reality because a 12-year-old boy reached out to me and said, “You can do it now!” To me, it was an infusion of confidence, enthusiasm, and strength.

Brethren, there may be times in our lives when rising up and continuing on may seem beyond our own ability. That day on a snow-covered slope, I learned something. Even when we think we cannot rise up, there is still hope. And sometimes we just need someone to look us in the eyes, take our hand, and say, “You can do it now!”

So many words here remind me of myself,  my addictions, and my ongoing recovery “I tried every trick to stand up, but I couldn’t—I had fallen, and I couldn’t get up… I began to wonder what it would take to rescue me.”

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