A few weeks ago my now ex-girlfriend Kimberly (not her real name) and I decided to hike to Table Rock, an elevated plateau behind downtown Boise. You can drive to the top (that’s how I “hiked” it my first time), but for the true hiking experience the trail head starts at the Old State Penitentiary. (I posted previously about my first visit to the Old State Pen.)
Neither of us was exactly fit. Kimberly talked about exercise but never translated talk into action. So a hike with a 900-foot elevation gain (modest by many hikers’ standards, BTW) was going to leave her breathless.
I do exercise, but have you met my companion Exercise-Induced Asthma? Walking a level grade I’m perfectly fine. But I’m huffing after climbing just one flight of stairs. I’ve made modest improvement with diligence to exercise, but my condition still limits what I can do. I get out of breath so easily. So a 900-foot-elevation-gain hike puts me in the same camp with Kimberly.
We took the first part of the trail rather easily. The real climb seemed to come about halfway along the trail. Our resting stops became more frequent and lasted longer. I accepted that, having learned long ago acceptance makes room for gains.
As the trail grade became more arduous, I saw Kimberly struggling to continue. Pointing to a small tree a little ways ahead, I suggested we go that far and then rest again. She agreed the distance was doable. Off we set. I kept encouraging her to keep going and not stop until she reached the marker.
While we rested after we reached that marker, we surveyed the trail a little bit ahead and selected a new marker. We repeated that all the way to the top.
Lots of people shared our idea of how to spend the day. Most on the trail simply passed us by. Towards the end of our ascent, two hikers noticed Kimberly having difficulty and asked if she was OK. She appreciated their offers, but her real appreciation was for the one who walked with her to the end.
The steepest part of the trail is right before the end. I reached out my hand, inviting Kimberly to take it and walk the last part of the journey together. Relieved to have finally made it, we sat, rested, and refueled before returning the way we came.
We’re all on a journey back to our heavenly home, but the trail is challenging. We do appreciate those few travelers who notice us, but most ignore us. Feeling a lack of support in our journey can tempt us to stop moving forward. The end just seems too difficult to reach alone. It requires more from us than we think we have.
But if we shift our focus from the top of the trail to the next marker just a little ways in front of us, we find we can reach that marker and then rest to gain strength to go a little bit farther.
Maybe that means improving ourselves in some seemingly small way. Working on replacing less effective habits with more effective ones is like going to the next marker on the trail. Any trail is tackled one piece at a time.
Yes, there will be times when the trail gets really steep and difficult to travel alone, times when we really need someone to reach out to us and say, “Take my hand, and let’s walk this part together.”
That’s why we need to view singles groups as networks of support and not dating forums or activity clubs. That’s why we need marrieds to walk with us. That’s why we need to work together to build Zion. After all, Zion won’t exist unless we all, marrieds and singles, embrace a true unity of the faith.
Want this to be real? You must start with you. Most singles want support networks, but they aren’t being that. Most marrieds, if they think about anyone at all, think about people like them. If you want that to change, then first you must change you. You must be the change you seek.
Like the trail to Table Rock, the way will get steep and difficult to climb. But you don’t make the ascent in a single step. You make it one piece at a time. Moving forward requires no more than small motions. You can always rest and begin again when you’re ready.
I invite all Latter-day Saints, single and married, to take my hand. Let’s embrace a true unity of the faith. Let’s walk together, singles and marrieds supporting one another amid the trials and adversities of mortality. Let’s change ourselves and come together. Only together can we truly be everything the Lord wants us to be.
Lately I’ve been posting about the value of adopting a personal ministry and our need to partner with the Lord both to implement that ministry and to live more joyfully. But that’ll be like water on a duck’s back if you don’t really believe such joyful living is within your reach.
I wasn’t always as positive as I am now. I used to be quite desperate for a way out of my singlehood. But no matter what I tried or how much I wanted it, it just never seemed to come to me.
Of course, ladies were available. But the ones who wanted me didn’t seem right for me. And I grew increasingly frustrated that the ladies who did seem right had no interest in me.
Yet gently and patiently, the Lord led me along in the right direction.
You gotta love you
Sadly, many singles don’t really love themselves. I confess I once didn’t. For one, I would look at myself in the mirror and cringe. And that doesn’t begin to consider all of my interactions with others. Many of them went quite poorly. Looking back on failure after failure, I felt justified in not loving who I was.
By not loving myself, I broadcast to the world how unloved I was by me. And since I knew myself better than anyone else, why should anyone not believe me? When it came to eternal companionship with me, many believed I knew something they didn’t.
It didn’t have to be that way. But I was just going through the motions of active Church membership. The true joy of gospel living wasn’t really sinking in as deep as it could have.
I’m doing what I should, I thought, so why isn’t this working out for me? Answers like “The timing just isn’t right” or “You just need to hold on a little longer” weren’t helping. And the more I focused on what wasn’t working, the more things didn’t work.
Eventually, I calmed myself to hear what the Lord was trying to tell me all along. And I started to see how my choices, mostly based in habit, were making me my own worst obstacle.
Fight for yourself
The Lord showed me how to turn the tide. You fight for yourself. You take actions that demonstrate you’re someone worth loving.
Last week I described how Elder Lawrence’s address from the last General Conference can help you know what your next step should be. I highly recommend starting there. In addition, here’s some other items for your consideration.
You need to watch your self-talk. This highly popular habit among singles keeps us living without our desired blessings. If you don’t love you, you probably have the bad habit of telling yourself you’re not loved and why you’re unworthy of being loved.
Nature hates a vacuum, so you can’t stop bad habits; you must replace them with better ones. You have to start feeding yourself positive messages. And you have to do it so well you believe them.
It’ll feel really weird at first. That’s because you aren’t used to hearing it and don’t really believe it. But keep feeding yourself positive messages. In time, you will start to believe you really are worth loving.
Don’t compromise on worthiness. In his brief tenure as the Prophet, President Howard W. Hunter urged us to make the temple recommend the great seal of our Church membership. Qualifying for and using a temple recommend as often as occasion will permit will send a message you’re worth loving. After all, it’s easier for the honest in heart to love what’s noble and uplifting. What could be more noble and uplifting than the House of the Lord?
Getting right with God helps you feel His love better. It’s that love from our Heavenly Father and not our next romantic interest that truly supports and sustains.
Start feeling the love
It didn’t happen for me overnight, but it did happen. As I learned how everything really works, I began to see how my choices guided by my less-effective habits had led me to the life I had. And focusing more on God’s pure love for me and His belief in me helped me to start really feeling love for myself as never before.
So if you aren’t feeling the love, don’t wait. Take action that says you’re worth loving, because you are. When you tell yourself well enough in thought, word, and deed you’re worth loving, in time you’ll believe it. And when you really believe you’re worth loving, so will every one else. After all, you are the expert on you.
This past Conference was no exception. Multiple addresses fit that bill. But in considering which one to adopt for the subject of my post today, I find myself drawn to Elder Larry R. Lawrence’s address entitled “What Lack I Yet?”
Why this one more than others? I don’t know everything, but I’m sure part of the reason lies in how well it matches what’s in my upcoming book and already on this blog.
A personal ministry provides vision
So many LDS singles are looking for “the answer” — that one solution that will solve all their problems and lead them blissfully to marriage. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wished for that myself. That is, until I learned how things really are.
Mortal life is part of a more eternal journey. Part of navigating that journey correctly means confronting and overcoming challenges. Many Latter-day Saints have the huge challenge of being single in a family-oriented culture.
It’s natural to want “the answer” that can quickly resolve our difficulties. But when we make looking for that “answer” a habit, we very easily find ourselves distracted from the higher vision that can guide us safely to our heavenly home.
That’s why I’ve been encouraging singles everywhere to adopt a personal ministry. A personal ministry can help us keep that vision we need in our mortal journey, especially when the trials and pains of LDS singles life become especially difficult to bear.
Partnering with the Lord reveals the next step
Part of successfully maintaining a personal ministry is partnering with the Lord, seeking His guidance and counsel for the steps in our journey. And that’s why I love Elder Lawrence’s address so much! He showed direct application of that principle in daily life.
I love this gem that appeared early in Elder Lawrence’s address:
The journey of discipleship is not an easy one. It has been called a "course of steady improvement." As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home.
This is the essence of partnering with the Lord. Practicing that improves the quality of life exponentially. And when you couple that practice with fulfilling a personal ministry, the result is simply amazing!
Elder Lawrence then references the interchange the Savior had with the rich man who asked “What lack I yet?” After that, he immediately provides examples of applying the act of partnering with the Lord to real life situations.
I knew a faithful mother who humbled herself and asked, "What is keeping me from progressing?" In her case, the response from the Spirit came immediately: "Stop complaining." This answer surprised her; she had never thought of herself as a complainer. However, the message from the Holy Ghost was very clear. In the days that followed, she became conscious of her habit of complaining. Grateful for the prompting to improve, she determined to count her blessings instead of her challenges. Within days, she felt the warm approval of the Spirit.
Am I the only one who noticed that of the five situations he shared four of them are about singles? That’s 80%, peeps. And not just singles struggling with life, but with marriage! Partnering with the Lord helps you progress towards eternal marriage.
Yes! Exactly what I say in my book and in posts all throughout this blog! Marriage and family are a part of God’s plan for all His children. You’re not single and stymied in your progression because God wants you to be. You’re single and stymied because you’re not making the right choices.
When you still yourself and sensitize your heart and mind to the voice of the Spirit, God will let you know what next step you need to take to progress in your eternal journey. By continually partnering with the Lord in your life, you will truly be able to sing the hymnal chorus:
The Lord is my light;
Let the Lord in
Elder Lawrence’s address was short — only 10 minutes long. But oh, how sweet! I don’t believe in one “answer” that can help singles everywhere confront the challenges of LDS singles life. But this is probably as close as any of us are going to get.
If we successfully discover and take the next step, we’re ready to do the same with the next step. By repeating that process for each step in our journey, we’ll one day arrive home. And then it won’t matter what trials we suffered to get there. In fact, I think many of us will look back at our afflictions and exclaim incredulously, “Was that really all I had to do to get here?”
If you’re not on this train by now, then quit hanging around the station. You’re not alone, so why do it alone? Let into your life He Who loves you so much He bleed from every pore and died for you. Partner with the Lord for your life. Adopt a personal ministry. Reach out to Him for your next step. He’ll take your hand and with the gentle promptings of the Spirit lead you along.
Today I got an excellent comment from my employer. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “You’re one of our best assets.”
I’m thankful I can be there to make a contribution. We started talking about my recent contributions, contributions which were not a part of my job description but which I embraced from a desire to improve how things are done and make life easier for everyone.
And since I’m an educator, we also talked about my students, some of whom have been making some great comments about me behind my back. That part in the Sermon on the Mount about going the extra mile really does work.
Things are going really well for me in my employment because I know how this game is played and I’m playing my part. It also helps that my associates working at my organizational level aren’t doing likewise. That just makes me appear even more fantastic.
How exactly is this game played? I constantly look for opportunities to add value and then do so without overtly seeking to advantage myself.
Do it for its own sake
The world of interpersonal relationships is no different. People tend to gravitate towards others who can add value to their lives. That means solving their problems and making their lives easier and more enjoyable.
That can take different forms. It can mean entertainment. It can mean wisdom. It can mean a smile and a friendly word to cheer. It can mean a hug and soothing thoughts to comfort. It can mean so many different things.
But here’s the catch. Just as I have been adding value to my employer without any obvious agenda to promote myself, you’ve got to do the same for others without any obvious agenda to promote yourself.
You’ve got to help for the sake of helping, not to get anything out of it for yourself.
After all, people don’t want to be used. They want to be respected and loved for who they are. So add value to the lives of others, yes, but for its own sake and not for yours.
Get out of your own way
I posted last week on the best way to add value to the lives of others. Your own personal ministry will likely be some means of contributing to others. That contribution represents value in their lives. And when you do it for their sake and not your own, they’ll love you all the more for it.
I never cared to associate with those who did obvious “helps” for people who interested them romantically. It was all too clear that they were really all about themselves. People who don’t seem very genuine generally don’t elicit your interest. They don’t leave you wanting to know more about them or to include them in your life.
The influence they exert actually works against them. They’re their own worst obstacle. If only they could get out of their way.
Actually, they can. But first, they need to wake up and realize what exactly they are doing. Then they need to stop doing what doesn’t work and start doing what does. And what does work? Adopting your own personal ministry.
The Savior had His ministry. He was all about serving others, not himself. He was all about His Father’s business, not His own. We can follow Christ’s example by adopting our own ministry, a means by which we add value to the lives of others.
Simplify your life
Everything gets so much easier when you embrace your own personal ministry. That’s because your personal ministry makes your life so much simpler.
Your personal ministry will serve as a prism through which you see how to use your time the best. When you stay true to that vision, whatever good things you could do that lie outside that personal ministry don’t seem all that important. They more easily fall out of your life. Filling your life with fewer yet more important action items simplifies both your to-do list and your life.
And that makes everything easier. Don’t get me wrong. Life will always have challenges. But a personal ministry gives you the structure you need to weather the storm, the stability to keep on keeping on in a worthy cause regardless of the choices others may make. And it helps you thrive during the long and hard years of waiting for eternal companionship blessings to come into your life.
So if you haven’t yet adopted a personal ministry, what are you waiting for? Embrace yours today. And if you have one but have slacked off, again, what are you waiting for? Recommit yourself and embrace yours today. You best add value to your own life by adding value to the lives of others.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly 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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