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Monday, June 8, 2015

The Order of Things

I have been thinking a lot lately about a story Gordon B. Hinckley told about his discouraging first few months of being a missionary in England.  Many of my LDS readers have probably heard the story.  Things were not going well at all for the young elder.  Persecution was rampant and his self-esteem was low.  He felt guilty for "wasting" his family's meager wages on a mission which was proving to be unfruitful.  He was depressed, exhausted, and feeling pessimistic about his ability to do any good for the people.  He wrote home to his father, explaining his frustrations and expressed his concern that he was wasting his time and the family's money.  A few weeks later, he received a response from his father:  "This is my advice for you:  forget yourself and go to work."

I feel that way now.  I am sorry that I have to deal with this extraordinary trial of being obese, and with compulsive bad habits that lead to poor health.  Addiction is a beast, I'll tell you!  But, I know that I need to somehow turn my heart somewhere outside of my own struggles to be a better servant to others.  I need that ministry mindset to help myself heal.  It's hard to do, when my own struggles are always on my mind.  I think that while my desires to improve myself and my health are worthy desires, I also need to be aware of others who suffer more than I do.

The world gives a different message.  Most self-help books out there teach Maslowian principles of taking care of yourself, your own basic needs, your own comfort before ever reaching out to others.  This is a true principle of course, that you have to take care of yourself to be completely available to help others, but what the world doesn't really teach, is that by reaching out to others, even within our own extremities, we can find great levels of healing and self-discovery.  By losing ourselves in the service and concern for others, we truly are able to find ourselves.  I have found this in the past, and I feel the call to revisit that mentality as I try to get back on track.

Many times lately, I have heard the pithy saying that the word JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself, and that that is the proper order to follow with our priorities, but I have never completely agreed with that premise.  It's a half-truth because by loving others, we are simultaneously loving Jesus AND ourselves.  When the gospel is lived correctly, there is no need to even think about what order to follow.  We live for others, and by so doing, we show reverence and love for our Savior, and also find healing in our own lives.  It can be a beautiful thing.  I have been blessed to feel this a few times in my life, particularly when we were struggling financially right after Tyler lost His job.  To be able to serve others when our whole world seemed to be falling apart was the most therapeutic thing we could do, and I craved for opportunities to help others.  I had never felt so much humility and gratitude than I did when I was able to offer a mite of service during some of the hardest years of my life.

Still, it all starts with developing that fire of desire by way of a healthy, vibrant testimony of the gospel.  And as a healthier, lighter individual, perhaps I will be an even better servant and disciple.  Feeling good is definitely a motivator!

Anyway, my thoughts are all over the place today, and this post may not make any sense at all, but I would like to forget myself a little more in the next few days and focus on helping others for a bit.  I know that it will be a wonderful week of self-discovery and worship.