When I was young, I would hear people give talks in church about enduring trials that lasted weeks, months, and even years. I remember feeling blown away by that concept. Perhaps this is a reflection of my ignorant and sheltered existence. But, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of something persisting for months or years! I was convinced that every trial had a solution, for sure, or at least God wouldn’t allow anyone to endure a trial for such a long time!
But here I am as an adult, rounding out a full decade of a trial that, in hind sight, I didn’t realize would end up being such a long journey. I still remember the ache in my heart when I was days away from the end of my maternity leave, and Michael still hadn’t found a job. Even though he was in grad school, we just had our first baby and I was determined not to leave her. We went out for a walk and we discussed what our options could be, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I remember pushing that stroller and looking down at my brand new baby with tears rolling down my cheeks, and I just could not bear the thought of leaving her. I got an extension on my leave, and miraculously, Michael secured a job through a temp agency that turned into a permanent position. Still, it wasn’t a permanent solution. This was in 2008/2009 when the economy had tanked, and Michael’s field simply was not open for hiring.
We’ve had to improvise and sacrifice and make do for a long time since then. We’ve had little miracles along the way: mini blessings we almost took for signs that we were on the right track. But, after ten years, we’re still waiting for the big miracle that would finally reveal what all of this has been for.
Fear and Scarcity
While I’ve been thinking along this vein of fear or faith, I’ve realized that it’s really about scarcity or abundance. Let me see if I can explain because scarcity can be dissected on so many levels.
When you’re afraid, it is likely because you can only see one route to success and you’ve limited your imagination to that one way. We have been told all our lives to go to college and get a secure job, and then you’ll be set for life. That’s what our parents did, and probably their parents before them. But we arrived into adulthood with an economy that just doesn’t support that script anymore. Yet, we hold on to this idea that this is the only way to be successful.
When you have faith, then even failure can be viewed as an opportunity. It’s like what Thomas Edison said when he was inventing the lightbulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And sometimes trying new things, even when they are scary, may be the only way out of a difficult situation.
Catastrophe or Opportunity
When I interviewed my friend Paul about his experiences, I reflected on my memories of when he was in his car accident. We grew up together, and I went to visit him in the hospital. He was just ten-years-old when he was paralyzed from the waist down. He told me in our interview that he had wanted to play baseball before the accident, so naturally, he was devastated for many reasons. Paul believed that the only way to succeed was with two working legs. Well, soon he learned that there are many ways to succeed, even from a wheelchair. I’m sure it took faith for him to pursue new things after that experience.
Why wait for a compelling experience to wake us up and get us out of our comfort zone before we are willing to get up and do something that scares us? In “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill, I learned that I don’t want to wait until those moments when I have no other option but to leap into the unknown. I want to do something every day that scares me. I want to do things that get me out of my comfort zone because I’m unprepared to do them. That is the best way to find my true authentic self according to Richie Norton in his book, “The Power of Starting Something Stupid.” I don’t want to sit idly and allow life to act upon me.
Living beneath our privilege?
When we settle into our comfort zone and live in this mindset that there is only one way to succeed, we are selling ourselves short, and becoming drifters, drifting through life and never planning anything or challenging ourselves and our beliefs. We are denying our true potential.
Consider this story told by Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
“There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.
“He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship, working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship, every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.
“On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship the food, the entertainment, all the activities had been included in the price of his ticket. Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges.”
Our lives are like this cruise ship. It doesn’t matter where you come from when you think of all the examples of people who have risen out of obscurity to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become great!
This morning, I read this article about Jim Carrey that includes this quote: “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. My father didn’t believe [his dream] was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you could fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing that you love.”
So often, Michael and I have been faced with choices that seemed life-altering. Where should we live? What should we study? Should we grow our family? Often, I admit, our questions have been laced with fear and doubt that we could endure another new challenge, and there was a temptation to stay within our comfort zone. We could explain away the practicality of some of our choices. Some, we went out on a limb to try our faith.
But, the point is that when you have faith, the outcome is unknown, but the possibilities are limitless.
As families, we often need to step out of our comfort zone to try our faith to allow the outcome to unfold. If we want to pursue the vision for our family, sometimes it involves reshaping our habits. It could even involve more challenging tasks, like relocating, changing the source of our kids’ education, seeking counseling, standing up for our kids’ safety, or even just signing up to volunteer for things that scare us to support our family.
It is easy to excuse those things away and justify that these choices are impractical, or that they are too difficult. Then, we are limiting ourselves and living beneath our privilege.
Abundance and Miracles.
I recently read this article about miracles. So, often in the struggles I have faced over the last ten years, I have wondered where my miracles are. I can list off many, many blessings, for sure. But I have often wondered about the miracle of deliverance. Is there an option of scarcity or abundance for those who will never experience deliverance? I heard a woman speak once about her diagnoses with Parkinson’s Disease, and the struggles she will have to face for the rest of her mortal life. I know a man who has been a quadriplegic for over thirty years after a rugby accident broke his neck in college. Yet, he will tell you that he doesn’t have it so bad. I heard a talk about a woman diagnosed with cancer whose husband encouraged her to serve, and in serving she was healed in spite of her pain.
When I read about David A. Bednar asking a repeat cancer patient whether he had faith NOT to be healed, I started to wonder, is there any other form of deliverance?? Do I limit myself to one path to success? Would a mortal diagnoses destroy my resolve?
In my favorite article lately, I read about the path to happiness is like a butterfly. Henry David Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
I have begun to wonder that the purpose of our lives is not to just sit back, endure our trials, and wait for deliverance. We can pray again and again for God to come take away our struggle, whatever it is, but what do we learn from that? What if the answer is NO?
I believe that life is a test – a test to prove our ability to make good choices and become the bests version of ourselves. It is often said by people of my faith that we are to “endure to the end.” But, what exactly does that mean? I am convinced that life is not meant to just be endured. We are not meant to just sit back and wait in fear of the outcome. We are even encouraged to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (Doctrine & Covenants 58:27). We are not being tested on our ability to endure our trials, but by what we do IN SPITE OF our trials.
Waiting for our trials to be endured is like waiting for paint to dry by staring at the paint. Think of all the things that could be done in the meantime, and then you actually forget about the paint.
One of my particular trials is my weight. First of all, I need to explore my limiting beliefs about being overweight and why I am judging myself for my weight. Then, instead of stepping on the scale every day and feeling discouraged, I could just focus on ways to be active or ways to develop a healthy relationship with food, not for the scale’s sake, but for health’s sake, and for the sake of being a good example to my kids!
In developing our family culture, it isn’t so much about the day-to-day challenges that test us.Â It is about answering the call to follow our hero’s journey. At the end of this journey, we will realize the vision that started us out on this process in the first place, and see all the reasons why we had to endure our tests, trials, and traps along the way.Â In the process, we become more than we imagined because we got up, and stepped into the dark.
To illustrate my thoughts, check out this video:
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