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There was a time towards the end of my mission where I found myself bawling in the car next to my companion who graciously pretended to be asleep.
It had started out as any other P-day with some grocery shopping with the other missionaries. My companion and I finished first and went and sat in the car. I found myself thinking about the approaching conclusion to my mission, and I was simultaneously thinking about who I had become. While pondering this, I had an experience where it felt like my whole mission-life flashed before my eyes.
The mission is a very interesting concept. It is a period in your life where you focus solely on the most important work on the earth: the work of Heavenly Father. There is never another time in your life when everything so directly revolves around Jesus Christ, and it is a very intense refiner’s fire.
As I sat in the car, I kinda felt like I was dying. As I “watched” my mission-life, I felt like I was stepping into a Judgment Day of sorts.
My mission was over. I would go back to regular life where I would have to balance school, work, and personal relationships with my spiritual life. I would hopefully continue to progress spiritually, but I knew that progressing as rapidly and consciously as I had on my mission would become that much more difficult.
The Spirit held up a mirror for me, and I feel like I was given an opportunity to see myself for what I really was. At that particular moment in time, it was not entirely comfortable. There were so many weaknesses that I had hoped to iron out while on my mission, but here they were, still bugging me. I pictured the woman I had hoped to be at the end of my mission and acknowledged that I was not that woman.
That moment in the mission car also occurred at a time where my testimony of the Savior’s goodness was still limited (which is funny because I had just spent 1.5 years preaching about it). I had not yet learned that the Savior was pleased with my small, daily efforts and that He was willing to wait an eternity for me to live up to my potential.
At this specific point in time, I was living without that testimony and peace. I believed in the Savior, but I had not quite figured out His patience and grace.
The Spirit had allowed me to see myself and how I had spent my mission without that testimony of the Savior, and it was very hard to swallow. What if I hadn’t done enough? What if it was too late?
Looking back, this was a blessing. I was able to see the sum total of myself in a “judgment day” without the Savior as my advocate, and it was not fun. I felt the regret that came with not-so-exact-obedience and wasted time. I had been given this opportunity on my mission to propel myself forward spiritually, and I had wasted more of it than I cared to look at. Being able to fully feel my regret without the blessing of a Savior made me appreciate my Savior that much more.
It is because of this experience from my mission that I found a friend in King David.
Psalm 51:6, 9, 11
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Just as David iterated in verse 6, the Lord wants truth on the inside. He wants us to see ourselves clearly and own up to our weaknesses because they are present whether you consciously recognize them or not. They are damning your progress and keeping you tied down. It will be much easier to see them here on earth than it will be to have them before your face while you’re standing in front of the Lord at judgment day.
It is absolutely essential that we see ourselves as we truly are.
It is essential that we allow the Spirit to give us a mirror to hold up to ourselves. When you first start to see your weaknesses and mistakes, it is common to feel an intense need to push them down and pretend they are not there. It’s easy to compare yourself to someone else and pat yourself on the back for not doing “as bad as” so-and-so. But that’s pride, and it’s not helping you. It is merely hiding those weaknesses from you, continuing to weigh you down, disallowing you to overcome it so that you can stand before the Lord in natural, unforced peace. One way or another, you are going to see those weaknesses, and I promise that it will be so much easier to look at them here on earth in comparison to looking at them on the other side where nothing is hidden.
If we are able to attain the same feelings as David, our lives can drastically improve. Attaining David’s feelings requires two parts: recognizing the depth of your dependence on the Savior and recognizing the love and ability of your Savior.
First you have to recognize your dependence.
If you’re having a hard time recognizing the depth of your dependence on the Savior, then I want you to take some time pondering the parable of the talents. I think there are many of us who have been given ten talents. We took those ten talents and earned a couple more, and we walk around believing we are strong and righteous for having fifteen talents. Sometimes, heaven forbid, we walk around and look down on those who were given one talent but are walking around with six talents now. We may have “more” but are we actually the better servants?
We do not know how many “talents” were given to each servant of the Lord. We may think we know, but we do not. We do not know how many talents have been earned by each servant of the Lord. We may think we know, but we do not. And if we don’t actually know how many talents the other person has, then it would probably be unwise for us to try and compare ourselves. It would probably be downright inaccurate and ridiculous.
The only place you should be looking is towards your Heavenly Father. He is the only one who can give you a clear vision of how well you’re doing. He is the only one who can help you adequately understand your complete reliance on the Savior.
Second, you need to recognize the ability of your Savior to take care of everything as well as His willingness to do so.
David, who made a really big mistake, was still able to glory in the Lord. Despite having to live with his consequences and his sins “ever before” him, he had a testimony of the Savior and that can carry you through.
Psalms 51:17, 12
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart…
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
There is an immense inner peace when we can clearly look at ourselves and accept ourselves through a testimony of Jesus Christ.
There are still moments that I find myself cringing when I think about past mistakes too much, but if I look to the Savior instead, the sharpness of that experience is taken off because I believe Him when He says He took care of it. I really believe it.
I believe it like I believe the sun is coming up tomorrow. At night, I do the dishes and prep the diaper bag and go to bed on time (sometimes) because tomorrow I want to try to wake up early enough to work out before the kids get up. I know in my bones that the sun is coming up, and it changes how I go about today. I know my weaknesses, and I know that the Savior will take care of them in time and so it changes how I live today.
There are few feelings that match a moment when you can see yourself and your Savior clearly. I still have hard moments like David or anyone else, but things are different now. When I can keep my Savior in view, I feel free. I feel free from my mistakes and free from a need to gain the approval of people. It is a feeling worth chasing after.
I believe in the Savior’s ability to heal the people I’ve hurt. I believe that He can reach the people I missed because I was not living up to my potential. I believe that His love for me enables Him to easily be patient with me. I believe in it enough that I can acknowledge my weaknesses without despair. It has changed me and how I look at everything.