Further reflection has led me to some profound conclusions. And their profundity increases when applied to LDS singles life. What we love determines what we seek in life. What we seek reveals what we think and do. And what we think and do determines what we are and what we will become.
And so, if we become what we love, then we must love what we want to become. Put another way, we must love in order to become.
What we seek
It all starts with what we seek. What we love determines what we seek. What we love defines our “treasure.”
And that begs the question: What is your treasure? Most LDS singles would provide Sunday school answers like the gospel and the scriptures as well as expected responses such as romance and living a good life. But is that really all you want?
Get more detailed about what you want by examining how you spend your time. You can say you want a temple marriage, but if you spend all your free time playing video games and surfing social media, is a temple marriage really what you want? Spending vast amounts of time pursuing entertainment speaks volumes about what and who you really love.
If, after examining how you spend your time, you see a mismatch in your own life between what you believe you love and what you actually love, take the courage to change. You don’t have to change everything at once, and in fact, the most lasting changes don’t occur instantly. As we discussed last week, just focus on one thing you need to do to improve. As you conquer each day the one thing you need to do each day, eventually you’ll find yourself loving more what you should seek.
What we think and do
That’s important because what we seek reveals what we think and do. Returning to our previous example, what does spending all your free time pursuing entertainment reveal about what you think and do?
Now imagine if you replaced some of that entertainment with regular community service. What would that change say about what you think and do? It’s not rocket science, but most of us are so wrapped up in the habits we’ve adopted to navigate life that we don’t reflect on the effectiveness of those habits.
This is how many LDS singles adopt habits that keep them single. They’re so engaged in autopilot that they simply go through the motions of habits that keep them in stagnation rather than make conscious choices to adopt new habits that move them forward towards desired blessings. And those stagnation habits were built around what they love.
What we are and will become
So if what we love determines what we seek in life, and what we seek reveals what we think and do, then it naturally follows that what we think and do determines what we are and what we will become. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Results come from one thing and only one thing: action. And what we think always precedes what we do.
But here’s the kicker. Most of what we do is couched in habit. So what much of what we think, especially the underlying assumptions about life, is also couched in habit. It then follows that our habits have been built around what we love.
What do your habits say about what you love? If you aren’t becoming what you want to become, then take a look at what you love. Recognize how your habits center around what you really love and project that into the future. If you don’t like where those habits will take you, then take the courage to change. Replace your less effective habits with more effective ones. When you do, you’ll be on the road to your truly desired destination. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We’re all unique enough that my list of needed changes will be different from yours, because my truth about why I’m single is probably different than yours. We both need to face our own truth, but the actual steps we take to apply that shared principle may be quite different.
I can provide tools and teach you how to use them, but I can’t use them for you. You must build your life. And building your best life won’t happen until you own your life and accept that the change you need to make is not just one thing.
Examine your assumptions
The memory of that phone conversation has stuck with me. Maybe it’s because the question asked is a common one. "OK, so what's the one thing I need to do in order to . . . . ?" It seems like an intelligent question to ask, but I've got a serious problem with it.
You see, it's really not that intelligent at all.
Run with me for a moment. The question assumes you need to change only one thing in order to transport your world into a new and higher dimension of existence. Seriously, what sense does that make? I know that’s what we all want, but it’s just not realistic.
Here’s real: I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes and certainly more than most people. And the vast majority of people aren’t that far behind me. We all have many ways in which we can improve.
Ask a better question
Here’s a better question: What is everything I need to do to improve myself? With that answer, you take a more holistic approach towards making needed changes in yourself.
Of course, the answer to that question will likely overwhelm; we’re all so imperfect that the list of needed changes is quite long. I recall the experience I had taking notes during General Conference. The resulting list of changes I obtained overwhelmed me to the point that I didn’t want to take any action. Making any progress seemed hopeless.
That’s why you should ask yourself this best question: What one thing can I do today to improve myself? The answer to that question won’t overwhelm because it’s just one thing. At the same time, this question doesn’t assume you need to do only one thing to improve. The approach is well balanced.
Get to work
Of course, simply knowing what you must do won’t bring the results you seek in life. Results come from one thing and one thing only, and that is action. You must do.
When you take action, you can begin to understand yourself better. You can make better sense of the terrain of LDS singles life. You open yourself to receiving the tools you need. And action leads to a sense of progress that is truly liberating. You may have a lot to do, but conquering the one thing you need to do today will give you confidence from knowing you’re on your way. And that knowledge makes the journey so much more joyful.
Don’t wait to feel free. Don’t wait to feel better about yourself and your life. No matter how much you need to improve, we all need to practice what President Oakes has described as “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” We make the journey to eternal glory one step at a time.
Never assume your list of needed improvements has only one item. It’s not just one thing. But take that understanding with you as you tackle the one thing you need to do today. Doing so will help you walk by faith. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Now I find myself at another crossroads. My father has surgery tomorrow to remove his returned skin cancer. My brother might visit this weekend, which may be the last time we see each other for awhile since I’m preparing to begin a new job on the East Coast. And yet with all these changes about me, one thing remains unchanged. I’m still not a father.
Pondering on a prophet
I remember sitting in the stake center as a young man watching President Ezra Taft Benson address the single men of the Church in General Conference. As he declared that the time would come when those who ignored fatherhood would feel and know their loss, I remember thinking to myself, That won’t be me! I’m going to follow the prophet.
As time passed, however, that commitment challenged me. Sure, I could’ve married one of numerous desperate LDS women. But they interested themselves more in being a wife and mother than in being my companion because that was the only identity they could accept for themselves. My conscience couldn’t accept joining with someone who saw me as filler material, a means to their own end.
Now my mind ponders that prophetic counsel I heard so many years ago as a young man. Am I any closer to compliance? Or have I allowed other pursuits to lull me into a more comfortable place where I substitute the greater growth from fatherhood with the lesser growth of other pursuits?
Searching for balance
Clearly, we single LDS men must walk a fine line. Obsession with marriage will drive us increasingly crazy while driving away quality candidates. At the same time, we can’t become so absorbed in the activities we use to stay that obsession that we don’t progress towards a happy and healthy marriage. We need balance.
Note I said happy and healthy. We’re not interchangeable parts. Compatibility is important. At the same time, compatibility is not a litmus test. The success of any union depends more on the choices of the participants than on any intrinsic characteristics. Again, we need balance.
I think about that balance as I ponder my father’s surgery tomorrow. That surgery isn’t all that different from the previous one, which he survived just fine. Yet when he announced the return of his cancer, my father encouraged my siblings and I to consider what would be done to help Mother should he pass away soon. I find myself balancing his fear against my optimism that everything will work out for the best.
Declaring mighty faith
The faith inviting me to live in that realization encourages me onward with optimism. No, I’m not a father . . . yet. I don’t know how the Lord will bless me, but I know He loves me and will support me as He always has. That knowledge sustains me as I walk by faith through mortality.
I’m also not the same person now I once was. Sure, I’m just as single now as when I came home from my mission, but I’m not the same man that stepped off that plane bringing me home. In more ways than not, I’m a much better man. And as I strive to be phenomenal in every aspect of my life, I’ll become more and more irresistible to that woman with whom the Lord intends to bless me.
I’m still not a father. But that won’t be true forever. The Lord will not abandon me. Nor will He abandon any of you. So if Father’s Day has brought you to serious reflection, be the victor and not the victim. Partner with the Lord, and let Him lead you along. Your path ahead is glorious. When you see with eyes of faith, you’ll recognize the brightness of that light. You’ll capture the optimism born of hope in that bright future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Fortify it all
That statement, of course, begs the question: What are those right things? They’re the same right things I’ve used before to define happiness — giving your all to all the right things for you. That’s more than just keeping the standards. That means everything that’s right for you.
Of course, we need to build a fortress that provides spiritual safety. Any other victory in life would be hollow with spiritual vulnerability. It won’t matter in the end what else we’ve chosen if we haven’t chosen Christ.
That said, we need fortification for all other areas of life. What are we doing to fortify our most important relationships? What fortifications are we building to protect our minds? And how are we fortifying our physical bodies, our personal finances, and our careers?
Elder Rasband declared,
Do you think Satan highlights our disappointments only when those disappointments are spiritual? You’re awfully naive if you do.
Get the spiritual first
The key to fortifying every aspect of our lives lies with first fortifying the spiritual. As Elder Rasband taught, “For our safety, we must build a fortress of spirituality and protection for our very souls, a fortress that will not be penetrated by the evil one.” Once we have the spiritual fortifications in place, every other fortification can and will follow.
Partnering with the Lord is essential in constructing that bulwark. We’ve all heard the Prophet teach we won’t spiritually survive the coming days if we can’t receive revelation. Elder Rasband referenced that teaching in his own remarks. The Lord can show us what next steps we need to take.
Elder Rasband continued,
That’s a key concept — building faith in the Lord on the inside so you can build your fortress for protection on the outside.
Get good with you
All of this depends on you getting good with you. When you combine personal righteousness with clarity of identity and purpose, you attune yourself to the celestial frequency of revelation. Without that clarity, excessive internal static will override the revelatory signal you need to receive.
Once you get good with you, everything else will follow. You’ll know better how to protect your most important relationships. You’ll know better the messages you need to feed your mind. And you’ll know better how to protect your job, your finances, and your health. In the very least, partnering with the Lord can lead you to a resource you need to find answers.
For every part of your life, build your fortress. Partner with the Lord, get good with you, and get the revelation you need to prepare for what is to come. You’ll feel the peace and security that can come in no other way. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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