Sunday, March 4, 2012

Holding ourselves back - part I

Today I begin a series of entries on a subject that has impressed me for some time. You'll have to forgive me for beginning with such a personal story, but I feel that if I'm going to try to convince you to live a certain way, I ought to share an example of how this way of being has enriched my own life.

The idea is that more often then not, when we struggle, we are, in fact, holding ourselves back. By claiming that we have a superior understanding of things, or by living to be seen as someone who does or knows certain things, we limit our opportunities to learn and love and flourish. Through our pride, we complicate our own happiness.

 This story is my own experience as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Up front I'll tell you that the story is religious, but as you read, I invite you to consider the idea of holding yourself back, even if you have qualms with the religious content. The idea I a portray here has application in possibly every facet of our lives, as I'll endeavor to show in succeeding entries. Because the stories includes a fair amount of Mormon jargon, I've included links that explain highlighted terms. Here's the story:
Last night and this morning in my prayers I asked for forgiveness for holding onto a feeling of knowing what was right for me to do. I recognized that in seeking to live according to my ideas of what was good, I had unintentionally closed off opportunities to be led by the Holy Ghost. I asked that I might again be led by the Lord, as I gave up my prideful personal claims to righteousness. 
The answer to my prayer came during fast and testimony meeting, though from the moment I made the requests in my earlier prayers, I knew what I needed to do. For reasons I didn't exactly understand, I needed to stand and share my testimony. I remember, saying those prayers and having a vision of sharing my testimony without pride, and in that vision, feeling totally free. Looking back, I believe that sharing my testimony was an antidote to my pride, for in my “wisdom,” I had imperceptibly crafted myself as someone who does not share testimony during fast and testimony meetings unless I had something very powerful or important to say. These feelings had developed as I had “endured” so many “uninspiring” testimony meetings, and did not wish to contribute to such a meeting. 
So what am I saying with all this? Although I'm still trying to figure that out, I think what I want to say is that my testimony started as a desire, followed by a feeling of what I needed to do, and then, by acting upon it, I received the blessing. I had always been skeptical of Elder Packer's words, “a testimony is found in the bearing of it,” but by desiring, feeling, and doing, I think I know what he meant, having experienced it for myself. 
My testimony wasn't exceptional, except for the fact that it came from a sincere desire to follow my Savior and be united with the people I had secretly put below me. Maybe it wasn't exceptional for anyone listening, but it was exceptional for me, because it came out of the depths of humility. This time, I wanted nothing else but to love and obey my Heavenly Father. 
Oh, and the experience! When I finished, I felt humbled again. What a blessing that was, to no more feel better than anyone else! Nothing could have been sweeter than the feeling that I had no reason to be elevated above the other saints! 
When I gave up claims of moral superiority, the burden and pains of isolation melted away. Finally, I was actually being moral, having given up my own doctrine in exchange for childlike hearkening to a loving Heavenly Father.

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