"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." -Isaiah 49:16
Image found here.
Image found here.
I received an email from a missionary friend today that broke my heart. Here is what he wrote:
Conference weekend was way way hard for me. Most of the instruction that I received from General Conference was how to be a good husband, a good father, some great dating tips, and a whole lot about how to be a good father. However, none of those things actually apply to me, and won't for quite some time....Now, I know I'm not married, but just because I'm not doesn't mean that I can't live for my future wife. I can still try to live as worthy as I can to prepare myself for whoever she is. I can still live for my wife. So that has been one hard part of conference for me. I wish that the counsel was at least something that I could apply right now, but I really can't. At least I don't see how I can. The second insanely hard part was the choirs from the second Saturday session...I have so many friends in that choir. It's ridiculous. There wasn't a single camera shot that I didn't recognize a person. That was so hard. All of those friends are in the conference center, singing in General Conference, which is only one of my biggest dreams....It was so, so hard....I had such a stark feeling. I had felt that my heart had been ripped out and a shapeless darkness had replaced it. I wanted so badly to be happy and joyful to see all of my friends there and to receive guidance from the Prophet and the General Authorities, but the darkness was so overpowering.
I hope I can, with the help of my Savior, recover quickly from the dark void. I guess I just haven't received that witness of what the Lord has planned for me and why I'm here. I know that I'm supposed to be here and I'm definitely not going anywhere. I refuse to offend my God by leaving or not doing my best. I just don't feel like I have been growing at all, no matter how hard I'm trying....I know I've only been out a transfer and that I'm not going to be a drastically different person in so short a time, but I can't recognize any progression on my part. I just need to have a lot more faith and reliance on my Savior for strength, comfort, and direction. Good thing I know why I need to do that and know that I can have more faith, otherwise, I'd be in quite a bit of trouble.
After reading all of that, I just wanted to weep. He is such a good young man and can just feel that he needs love. I wish I could be there to give him a hug and let him know that everything is going to be ok - but that is not God's will right now. However, I do have the ability to email him, which is exactly what I did. I felt the inspiration of the Lord guide me to know what to write. What I wrote to him is a story of how Christ has transformed me - a story I want to share with you.
I read a book a couple months back called "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid people in their home during World War II and most of the family was killed because of it. Corrie's book talks about her experiences and is absolutely amazing. It teaches a lot of eternal truths and illustrates examples of how to be like Christ. But the most powerful truth I learned was about the power of Christ. Corrie tells about reading the Bible in the prison camp. She and her sister would read aloud from the Bible every night, with the prisoners listening intently. At first it was joyous and uplifting for her to share her testimony, but after a while it grew monotonous and she felt empty. She would still read the Bible, but her heart was not in it. Then one day she realized where her emptiness and selfishness was coming from. "The real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me," Corrie wrote. "Of course it was not my wholeness, but Christ's that made the difference." She realized that she had been reading out of the Bible because she thought she could help these prisoners - but the help was not from her! All along, it was from Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. She was merely the instrument by which the prisoners received the message of Christ. And once she forgot about herself and put her whole heart into testifying of Christ, her heart was changed again. She was able to love and have joy again. She remembered that the prison camp was the place where God had called her to teach about Jesus, the only way by which hearts can be made "all whole."
And Corrie also helped me to learn about Christ and be transformed by Him. When I first read those words the natural woman in me piped up. "I'm OK," I thought. "I'm doing a good job. I'm not selfish." But then I realized that I was. Many of the good things I was doing were done out of obligation or habit or selfishness. I wanted to help people because it made me happy; it made me feel important. I decided to change my attitude. I realized that, like Corrie, I have been placed in this apartment, this ward, this University, this job, these classes, this social network because it is the place where God wants me to testify of His Son, Jesus Christ. God has placed certain people in my life because I have certain gifts and experiences that can help them. I do not know exactly what these gifts are or why it is my gifts that are meant to help them, but I know that this is what I have been assigned to do. And I also know that these gifts are not mine - they are God's. He has given them to me in order that I may do His work and testify of His Gospel. I decided that I would try to testify of Christ in all that I did, because "it was not my wholeness, but Christ's that made the difference." I have no power to heal or forgive people - but I have the power to testify of the One who does. That decision has changed my life. I have found that it really is possible to testify of Christ in all that I do. I've found that as I focus on testifying of Christ, everything else falls into place. I am more focused on my schoolwork, more loving, more productive, have more friends, find more opportunities to serve, I am closer to God, and I am just happier. I can now see the hand of God in all aspects of my life. I can see my many reasons to rejoice.
I am grateful for your faith and commitment to do what is right even though it is so painfully difficult. I know that God is pleased with that as well. He loves you perfectly and would not make you endure any pain that was not absolutely necessary for your growth. I don't know exactly what His plan for your life is, but I do know that you are where you are for a reason. Right now He wants you to testify of Christ. There are people around who need the healing that the Atonement can bring, and God has chosen you to bring it to them. I know that this experience will prepare you to be a better husband and father someday. God wants you to progress. He wants you to be happy. But sometimes we have to endure dark times because, as Corrie Ten Boom wrote, it is "in darkness [that] God's truth shines most clear." I know that the Atonement is real. I know that it has the power to forgive, to heal broken hearts, and to make us whole again. I know that God loves you and will help you through these trials, and that through them you will be able to help others later, to lead them to Christ.
I testify that Jesus Christ lives and that His Atoning sacrifice truly has the power to change attitudes, heal broken hearts, and change lives. He has done it for me, now let Him do it for you.