Last week I spent a few hours preparing for a lesson I was going to teach in Church. The lesson centered on being grateful for the things we have in our lives. Being grateful is not my strong suit. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the things that I have and I am thankful for my blessings, but do I adequately express my appreciation to God? This is where I run afoul. I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine regarding prayer. I encouraged him to get on his knees at night and only give thanks for his blessings. Nothing else. Don’t pray for any need, but only give thanks. That is a great perspective. I don’t think a loving Heavenly Father would balk at the ‘thankful’ prayer from his son or daughter.
While preparing for my lesson I read (and reread three times) Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s conference talk, “Are We Not All Beggars.” When I originally listened to the talk so many thoughts invaded my mind. It was one of those talks that spoke directly to me. I am sure you’ve had that same experience at some point in your life. Among the many gems in Elder Holland’s talk is this one:
“Brothers and sisters, such a sermon demands that I openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in my life, both temporal and spiritual. Like you, I have had to worry about finances on occasion, but I have never been poor, nor do I even know how the poor feel. Furthermore, I do not know all the reasons why the circumstances of birth, health, education, and economic opportunities vary so widely here in mortality, but when I see the want among so many, I do know that “there but for the grace of God go I.” I also know that although I may not be my brother’s keeper, I am my brother’s brother, and “because I have been given much, I too must give.”
There are two points from this talk that mean something to me. First, I have never been so poor that I have been destitute. Secondly, I am my brother’s brother.
It is really easy for me to slip into a feeling of loathing and self pity regarding my struggles with same sex attraction. At times I feel like I am the author of the map to self pity. Why is it that I am so quick to naturally focus on my personal struggles and slow to acknowledge the blessings that I have been given? I have failed to take a momentary pause and be thankful for food to eat, a bed to sleep in, air to breathe, friends that support me, the sun that brings light, the smiles of strangers, kindness from a co-worker, forgiveness of a friend and the pure love of Christ in my life. Somehow, it is easier to focus on the things that cause me pain and struggle. In reading the Book of Mormon account of Lehi’s exodus into the wilderness you can find a lesson of struggle and strife. Lehi’s family left Jerusalem and left behind all their riches and wealth to follow the revelation of God. That act alone is beyond comprehension to me. Have you ever considered leaving EVERYTHING behind in faith? I am not yet there.
“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. …He was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him. And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” -1 Nephi 2: 2-4
After eight years in the wilderness Lehi’s family finally settled in the Land Bountiful. They had tested their faith for more than eight years. Eight years of trial! I feel ashamed for my momentary periods of discomfort and self pity. For me, the moral of Lehi’s exodus story is answered in the Land Bountiful. When Lehi’s family arrived they found everything they had behind in Jerusalem and then some. The Lord had rewarded them in sustenance for what they offered in faith. In Bountiful we will find much fruit, honey, ore and all that the Lord has prepared for us. Maybe this is what God tries to teach us when he offers to “…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it..”
“And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us…” – 1 Nephi 16: 3
Tonight, as you kneel on your knees, will you openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in your life, both temporal and spiritual?
I promise you will have a spiritual experience.
Remember Lehi’s family: they left their gold, silver, tools, prized possessions and probably a few family photos and they did it because they had faith in revelation. There really is something to the scripture that says “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” One of life’s paradoxes is that a person who approaches everything with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude may acquire money, property, and land, but in the end will lose the fulfillment and the happiness that a person enjoys who shares his talents and gifts generously with others.
You and I have the shared responsibility of lifting and supporting our brothers and sisters. I know that I struggle being my brother’s keeper, however I am my brother’s brother. It doesn’t matter if its a same sex attraction, a struggle with our testimony or just a bad day: because I have been given much, I too must give; even 20 fold if necessary.