Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Lord Has Not Failed or Forsaken Me...only I can do that

I'm back! OK, so I never really went anywhere. I guess my "well of things to blog about" ran dry. In fact, my last entry was exactly two months ago, so for all you know I could have been wasting these last couple of months doing things like predicting the end of the world....but honestly, who would do a thing like that?! Moving into a more serious mode now, this past weekend was one of the more spiritual that I've had in a while. It's not to say that I've been up to no good or anything like that, but this weekend was special. It started on what was a pretty regular and routine Friday. I only have one class on Friday's, and it doesn't start until 2 p.m. What to do until then? Well, the aforementioned class was having an in-class test, so I needed to study for that. Likewise, I had another test that day for World Foundations in the dreaded Testing Center. (Side note: For you past and current Rexburgites, you know what I'm talking about. For those that don't, it's probably better that it stays that way.) I headed down to the Testing Center shortly after 10 a.m., feeling prepared and ready to get another test out of the way. Nothing special happened while I was there; however, the spiritual part of my weekend kicked off after the test was over. I hadn't gotten maybe 10 feet out of the building when I was suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of the Spirit. And when I say overwhelmed, think of all the water that would burst out of the Hoover Dam. That's how much the Lord flooded me with love and blessings. As is usual with many spiritual experiences, the Spirit caught me completely off-guard. The Lord had words of comfort for a guy who's worried about a few things since he finished his mission nine months ago.

From the time I left on my mission to the present, my family's financial situation, much like many others throughout the country, has not been what you'd call "promising." Thankfully, we've tried to the best of our ability to do what the Lord wants us to do, no matter what our circumstances may be. I have pretty much been supporting myself for these last two semesters because my family is not in a position to help me, as much as I know they want to. The Lord has blessed me with a good, steady job, even though the hours (4-7 a.m.) would probably conquer most people. However, I needed a job in order for me to even stay in school. In fact, one of my driving motivations in getting this job was to save money so that I can return to my mission this summer to see the people that have become a part of me. It's what I want to do more than anything else right now, but it will take focus and hard work for me to do it. I know that the Lord approves of this as well, and that keeps me motivated to reach that goal. It has also been somewhat depressing---even though I know it's necessary---to be given financial aid money by the school and then watch it immediately be handed over entirely to rent. There's also classes, of course, which demand much and often rob you of other things you'd like to do. I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, because I'm really not trying to; what I'm trying to show is what's been weighing on my mind since the beginning of January. There have been a few times, but not many, where I have felt something of what Joseph Smith must have when he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Joseph's words to the Lord on that occasion were, "How long shall thy hand be stayed?" Mine have been something like, "I feel like I'm doing everything you want me to do; when will things get better for me and my family?" Obviously, a very impatient and distrusting response from someone who's been raised to believe exactly the opposite. I don't know the mind and will of the Lord, but He saw fit to withhold a direct and powerful answer from me until this past Friday. The words that came were essentially the same used to respond to Joseph in the jail, only He used my name instead: "Isaac, my son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee....and they will not turn against thee." As these words were spoken, images of everyone that I've ever cared about (family, friends, leaders, teachers, coaches, mission presidents and companions, the people I taught, the members I met) flooded over my mind. I was overcome with emotion, something that doesn't usually happen to me. In fact, I was so overcome that I kept my head down during the entire walk back up the hill to my apartment because I didn't want anyone to think something was wrong. The tears that came were not ones that you associate with sadness, anger, depression, or similar emotions, but rather of gratitude, rejoicing, and love. I didn't feel deserving of such an experience, but the Lord knew what I needed and when I needed it.

As if I hadn't already been given enough evidence of the Lord's concern for me, that evening my best friend Ben and I attended a Paul Cardall concert. I won't go into details about his life story, but I would encourage you to look up his website and read about him. His life really is a miracle, and the Lord has blessed him with a gift to share with others. If you ever get a chance to hear him, please do yourself a favor and take advantage. During the entire two hour performance, I felt the warmth that can only be associated with the presence of the Spirit. When you have the Spirit, all your cares and other worries fly out the window. Yesterday, Ben and I went to the Rexburg Temple and did baptisms for the dead. It was the first time I had done them since I was in young men's, and so of course those memories were at the forefront of my mind as I sat and waited to do this very selfless work for the Lord's kingdom. I was grateful as I thought about how most of these people I was being baptized for have been waiting hundreds of years for this day to come, while I get impatient when my homework assignments aren't submitting properly on the Internet (another moment for you BYU-I students to relate to). Then today came, and I was privileged to have the opportunity of teaching in priesthood. My topic was Elder Ballard's and Sister Allred's most recent conference talks, both on the topic of service and how it is a mark of a true disciple of Christ. Given my recent moanings and groanings, I was sort of unqualified to teach about such a Christlike attribute. Thankfully, the Spirit was there to pick up the slack. I love getting the opportunity to teach! It's such a rewarding calling, and all of us can do it if we will commit ourselves to understanding the gospel and praying for the ability to teach with the Spirit. Missionaries are not the only ones given this gift; every member in the Church has access to it, but we first have to overcome our doubts and fears. OK, I'm getting into another gospel rant, but it's just so important to me that I often can't help it. So anyway, this pretty much sums up my weekend. It's one that I won't forget, as I feel that the rest of this semester and beyond will be much more rewarding and trouble-free. It probably could have been that way to being with if I just committed myself to it, but thank goodness for the tender mercies of the Lord and His desire to help us, even if we sometimes feel that we are not God's top priority. Let me clear that up right now: You are ALWAYS God's top priority, and that's not going to change. This is Ike, and I'm out!